It’s a new year! Time to set lofty goals, unrealistic resolutions, and try new routines that are completely uncharacteristic of our style and personality! Or is that just me?
Let’s be honest, as parents, sometimes we just need to shake things up a bit to figure out what works best for our families. And what better time than the start of a new year?
For us, it was time to figure out a way that our two older boys, ages 8 and 6, could become more productive members of the family while getting them to try new things. I also was sick of paying for all their junk…I mean, toys. I needed a method for them to earn a small allowance so they could start learning to save up for things and spend ‘their own’ money. We implemented our ‘something new’ a few months ago, but here it is, a new year, and it’s still going strong: the chore chart!
I heard about this chore chart phenomenon from the Lazy Genius podcast episode #117: “How to Lazy Genius Kid Chores.” Here are the basics of the chart they discuss in the podcast:
- A white board with the names of the week at the top
- Under each day, daily chores are written (we do three a day, per child)
- At the bottom are magnets for each child that get moved for bad behavior
- Our boys don’t get any screen-time until they’ve finished their three chores
- At the end of the day, if their chores are complete AND they still have at least 1 magnet left, they earn a star for that day
- At the end of the week if they have all their stars, they earn $2 allowance each
- At the end of the month, if they earned their allowance each week, they get a bonus $2
This chore chart has been a game changer for our family! And I wouldn’t be raving about it unless it has really worked for us. I admit, I was skeptical at first. I spent a lot of time brainstorming how this was going to work. Here were a few things that I was concerned about:
1. I didn’t want our boys doing things that are normally expected of them as ‘chores’
For instance, if I randomly asked them to walk the dog, or help clean-up from dinner, they started asking if that was something on their chore chart. But now they know the difference between a ‘chore chart’ task and just being a ‘helpful member of this family’ task.
2. I didn’t want to waste my time thinking up chores for each day
I remedied this by doing a quick Pinterest search on chores appropriate for my kids’ ages. I got at least 40 ideas right from that! I made a list on my phone that I look at each evening before writing the next day’s chores on their chat. I added some things that were specific to our family, such as ‘pack the snack bag’ for Sunday mornings before church, or ‘bring recycling bin back’ on Friday afternoons on our way home from school.
The podcast recommended adding something fun or silly as a chore if the other chores were extremely time-consuming or intense. For instance, cleaning up an entire room, which takes a while. I started having my oldest son clean the bathrooms, including the toilets and sinks. I gave him a thorough lesson on how to do the cleaning, and now he does a great job! But it can take him a good hour to do all three bathrooms. So, on those days the other ‘chore’ may be something fun like ‘sing Mom a silly song’, or ‘give Dad a surprise hug’.
3. I wanted these chores to build their confidence, creativity & kindness
For this, I sometimes make one of the three daily chores something they will have to do at school. It’s something that stretches them outside their comfort zone. Yet, is so rewarding when accomplished. So far, we’ve tried chores like ‘do a random act of kindness’, ‘talk to someone new at recess’, ‘eat something new at lunch’, ‘encourage a classmate’, ‘be patient with someone’, and many more. To encourage creativity, I may have a chore be ‘draw a picture of something you did today’, or ‘write a poem about your favorite place’. These chores are actually great ways for them to decompress right when they get home from school, so they aren’t just dropping their book bags and immediately turning on the TV.
4. Would this chore chart be sustainable?
For us, it has been. Sure, there have been nights when I forget to write the next day’s chores down, and surprisingly, it’s not the end of the world. Sometimes I just tell the kids “your chores today will be doing three things that I ask of you without complaining or arguing with your brother”. Or sometimes my husband will see the blank white board the next morning and he’ll write three goofy things on there before he heads to work. Our boys get a kick out of that!
The magnets for behavior have been the greatest challenge with this chart, yet also one of the best ways of discipline that we’ve found so far. When one of our boys behaves badly, I can calmly tell him what he did wrong and request he go move a magnet. It takes a lot of the anger out of the discipline for me, and the actual moving of the magnet seems to make an impact on the kids. It has taught them a lot about consequences for their actions, especially if they lose all their magnets and thus don’t earn their allowance that week. But I do like that each day is a fresh start, and I usually have them move their magnets back so they can see the ‘clean slate’, so to speak. And each new week is another opportunity for success!
Now if only someone would make me a chore chart and give me stars each day! But only if I can exchange them for Starbucks stars.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, has two sons, and baby daughter. Click here to read more of her Mommy Daze blogs.