Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Chores, Allowances, Cooperation, Motivation

I said there was more to tell about the younger set....

So we've instituted a new chore system here at the Henhouse.

We've gone through so many evolutions of chore charts, sticker charts, points, and monetary incentives in the past thirteen years that I've been homeschooling.  They've all worked great for awhile, and then inevitably, they become cumbersome, or life gets too busy, or the kids realize that it's still the same old chores (and I'm sure this one will be no different).  We've also gone through long periods of time in "git 'er done" mode, where we just gave out jobs to be done--or else.  That's where we've been since we moved.

But I sensed that it was time to start incentivizing and rewarding the younger three, now that they are all old enough to really be helpful.  And I kept thinking about a good system we had used with the older three when they were all in elementary school.  In fact, it's something I bought (and you can too, if you wish, right here).

It's a pegboard with little plastic circles that you hang on the pegs, and it's a great system.  I recommend the instructional materials that come with it, as a way to think about building character as well as responsibility.  But it can be a little complicated to keep up with the whole system, and in this house, I didn't have a good place to mount the pegboard.  (Mine is the jumbo size.)
So I'm just using the plastic circles, and a hanging shoebag.  (Not really like the one pictured, but ours has our kids' names all over it, so I didn't want to post a picture of it.)  My shoe bag is navy fabric, with mesh for the pockets, and it's much smaller than this--maybe it's for kids' shoes.  Or maybe because I got it at the dollar store--Dollar General, perhaps?  Anyway, it's longer and narrower, with 4 rows of two pockets, and it fits on a narrow wall by the kitchen pantry that faces the bathroom.  Out of sight, basically, but conveniently located for the whole family.

Their chores are written on cards.  When they do a chore, they move the card from the To Do pocket, to the Done pocket, and they put a green circle in in the Done pocket.  Each morning, they move the cards back to the To Do pocket (but if they forget, it's no big deal, because they remember when they go to put in their green circle after a chore is done).  When they get ten green circles in their Done pocket, they get a dollar.  They can earn extra green circles if they do an extra job that Mom thinks of, or if they do someone else's job, so I've found them very willing to pitch in when needed (vs. saying "That's not my job!").

There are bonus green circles they can earn, too, like "Finished my school before lunch."  (Sadly, I've paid out only once so far!)  They can also lose a green circle for disobedience, complaining, fighting, etc. This has been nice for me to have a non-emotional, objective consequence to give them.  And they can earn bonus yellow circles for good choices.  These aren't for money, but they praise good choices like, "Obeying quickly,"  "Didn't argue or complain," "Cheerful heart," "Good listening" and "Great attitude." They have colorful stickers on them and it reminds me to reward the attitude as well as compliance.

It's been working so well that we added the two teens that are still home.  We didn't have enough pockets, but with them, their cards are in a pocket, and if they complete the chore, it gets attached to the front of the pocket with a colored paperclip.  When all ten of their cards are under the paperclip--with the idea that these are spread over a week, as they have to help with dishes and meals multiple times--they get ten dollars. 

That's on top of what we normally fork out for lunch money and occasional spending money.  We've never really given a flat allowance.  We pay for things that come up, and we've paid for jobs that require lots of time, like lawn mowing and snow clearing.  We've occasionally had monetary incentives for chores, but we've had difficulties with nitpicking about how much a job was worth, or whether they should get paid for doing only some of their chores.

This system eliminates the timing element that sometimes became awkward, like what to do when we are gone all day?  Or the all-or-nothing approach I tried once, where they only got paid for the day if ALL their daily chores were done.  With this new plan, they earn more or less depending on how hard they work, and it rewards those who remember their responsibilities and do them.  The burden's on them, not me.  And they end up reminding each other.

I'm wondering why I've spent so much time on this post.  I guess I'm hopeful that it will inspire somebody else!  Teaching kids responsibility and helpfulness can be one of the most tedious parts of parenting, but it is so important. 

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."  
Galatians 6:9 


MomCO3 said...

I'm always wondering if there's a better way to motivate for chores, so thanks for your ideas! (Maybe the answer is, anything consistently done is better than something inconsistent!

At A Hen's Pace said...

Annie, good answer! ;)


Anonymous said...

I liked the A, B, and C jobs method that we used when you were in early teens, remember? B and C were harder, and you used to work it out together who did what, according to which job was liked or disliked by each of you, and the youngest got the A jobs. Since we did give allowances, we didn't pay for routine jobs that we expected all of you to pitch in and help with, to benefit our family. Your new method sounds good, though--anything to get the burden of daily motivation off you! Mom