Not many other things can make both kids and parents wince. Introducing kids to contributing around the house can be a lesson in patience and self control, for both child and grown-up. I've spent the past several years trying to find that magical chart that, once I tape it to the wall, the kids read it and get to work with all skill and know-how. The thing is, there's no such chart. I did, however, devour Dave Ramsey's book, Smart Money, Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money, and his simple, logical method of setting up chores and handling money with kids. It just made... cents. Teehee. Because this is such a comprehensive subject, I decided to talk about it on YouTube. Please forgive the amateurish delivery of this info. I'm still getting the knack of this vlogging thing. Because of such humble beginnings, I'm still learning how to avoid bunny trails and losing my train of thought when a housefly keeps trying to steel the show (welcome to the real, organic country, y'all).
I want to add a few more notes to what the video covered. I also highly recommend reading Dave Ramesy's book for more information and inspiration.
Why Ten Dollars?
We pay our children $10 a week if they get all their work done at a level they are capable of reaching for their age and skill level. Maybe it sounds like a lot, but this isn't just free money. We don't cover every luxury for them. To give them the opportunity of managing their money well, they are responsible for buying their friends birthday gifts. If they are invited to go to the movies with friends, they pay for their ticket and any snacks (if it's a family event, we like to treat them to the movies, and now that they know how much those tickets cost and all the work it takes to cover the tickets, they are far more grateful for that treat). If we go to a family fun center, vacation, or amusement park, we might cover a small amount of spending money, but if they want more, they have to come up with it. The goal is to never be a free-money machine for our kids. We provide for all their basic needs and a lot of fun things, but they need to think ahead and save accordingly so that when they're invited to do an activity with friends that costs money, they have worked and saved enough to be able to afford it. It also gives an opportunity for them to understand that money doesn't grow out of parents' hands. Ten dollars is also easily divided in percentages. Paying at least 10% in tithe is an easily-calculated $1. However, we encourage putting more than that into their "give" envelopes so they have the freedom to be generous to charities or when a collection is being made for a family or group of people in need.
Resist the Urge to Take Over
I've been guilty of this too many times. When I just want a job done right, and quickly, it's so easy to take over and do all the cleaning myself. This is destructive in many ways. First, I watch a wave of defeat wash over the child's face. Second, it teaches them that if they take long enough and do a consistently slow, sloppy job, I will end up taking over and they don't have to do the work. Third, I become a grumbling, seething, not fun parent who doesn't allow their child to hone their skill of feel the joy of completion. However, when children are still mastering a task, I do have to clean up after their job. I try to do this stealthily so they don't feel incompetent. They thrive off of praise and encouragement after doing their best, even when, on the inside, I might be moaning because I still have to re-do it and it would've been so much faster had I done it myself. But that's short-term thinking. Keep in mind that one day your children will be skilled cleaners who you really can count on, even when guests are coming, and someday they will save you time because you won't always have to clean the area they just "cleaned."
The Balance of Expecting Excellence and Knowing Their Skill Level
We want our children to always do their best. However, our expectation of each child should never be higher than what they are capable of doing for their age and however long they've been working on mastering a certain job. A couple of our children were overwhelmed by the thought of making their beds every morning. Granted, when you're on the top bunk, it's hard making that thing. I remember. I start with asking them to just flatten out their sheet and blankets as best as they can, and the more they practice, the better their bed will look. I also can't expect my six-year-old to wash the windows as well as my twelve-year-old. First of all, even with a stool, the little one can only reach so high. Secondly, she just isn't as strong as our tween. Their skill set will grow along with them. Our standards can develop with the children, but set the starting bar low enough to where they can feel proud of completing a job they did their best on, and that it's not completely and hopelessly out of reach for them to do. As parents, if our heart truly is to see the children thrive and grow, this will come naturally.
Practicalities to Set Children Up for Chore Success
- Invest in a step stool or two. I bought two of them so our younger ones can use them at the same time when needed, which often happens. Little people can do so much more when they are able to reach things. Stools also give them better leverage when scrubbing countertops and washing dishes.
- Use non-toxic cleaners only. This is something that benefits us all, and we don't want our children exposed to fumes that can hurt them. It also keeps babies and toddlers safe if they end up getting ahold of the cleaners when the kids forget to put them away.
- Cleaning accessories can be fun. Some kids could care less, but when it feels like you're suiting up for a job, things can seem more official and important. Buying a pair of cleaning gloves (these are our favorite) for each child with their names written on them can help children attain a sense of ownership and importance, and that their work is the real deal; because it is!
- Laminate the chore charts and use a wet-erase marker to check off the tasks. It cost me $12 to laminate eight charts at Office Max. I felt it was a worthy investment. I used strips of packing tape as a kind of home-laminating technique on our first set of chores, but the ink easily bled through and our toddler found it fun to rip them. Laminated charts easily wipe off and are virtually indestructible. I like having the children use wet-erase markers because it holds up against smudging or erasing that can happen with a dry-earase marker when a hand rubs up against it as they check off another box or accidentally brush by the chart.
As promised in the video, here's what our two lists look like (feel free to use and tweak them to fit your family if you want).