This post has been a longtime coming. Several months ago I began to see the need for more structure in our days. Not necessarily a strict schedule, but more consistency and predictability of what we expect from the kids. We have always been a believer in chores (as you can see in this post on responsibilities for three year olds… baby Hailey! However, our lack of consistency with expectations led us down a rocky road where sometimes asking them to do the simplest thing (can you go put your coat up please?) was met with a huff and a whine.
As my frustration with the resistance to my requests increased, I realized more and more that this wasn’t on the kids, but this was on us. I’m a believer that children will rise to the bar set for them as long as the expectation is expressed clearly and enforced consistently. Consistency was what we were lacking.
It felt that at times we were raising the most generous and loving humans alive and other times I freaked out thinking that we are spoiling them rotten and ruining them forever. More than once I found myself whispering “if you only knew how good you have it.”
So between that and the girls’ constant fascination with how to earn money (thank you to our neighbors for buying multiple homemade crafts for a quarter each), led us to commit to making a change in how we do things. In short, we were ready to start exploring the idea of allowance or paid chores, but I wanted to be really careful with how we did it.
My main hesitancy with introducing a paid chore option was fostering a “will only work for pay” attitude. I wanted to be sure it was clear that we do certain things simply because we are all contributing parts of a family unit. I decided to label these and other self-hygiene-related tasks responsibilities. Responsibilities are daily and are always a must-do. Non negotiable.
However, once their daily responsibilities are completed, they have the option to pick a paid chore (max of one paid chore per day). Each paid chore option is worth $1, (though they could vary by dollar amount as well). I just wanted to keep things simple to start. I have to sign off on the chore upon completion, then they may cross it out on their chart that we keep on the fridge. Pay day is on Sunday, but in order to be paid, they must have completed their responsibilities every day. Then payment must be split between the spend/save/give jars, but they may begin with the spend jar, meaning if they do the max chores available, they could have $2 is spend, $2 in save, and $1 in give.
It sounds a little complex at first, but after a lot of searching, I found the perfect customizable ressonsibility chart layout for only $4. There are a lot of designs to choose from, but I wanted one that would print legibly in black and white. I thought about laminating it and letting them use dry erase markers, but I want the chart to be altered easily as we go through a few months of refining the responsibilities and chores of each child.
Daily Responsibilities for Age 8 and Age 5
Since we chose to do the same personal responsibilities to start, I tried my best to choose expectations that could be met for both a 5 year old and an 8 year old.
- Eat breakfast, clear dishes, and brush and floss teeth
- Get dressed, put away my pajamas and brush hair
- Unload the top drawer (or the bottom drawer) of the dishwasher
- Complete morning work (which is one math page and one copy work or short writing assignment)
- Ask Mom what else you can do to help (my favorite item and awesome catch-all)
Paid Chore Options for Age 8
- Wash, dry, fold and put away laundry
- Wipe down counters and toilet in bathroom
- Straighten up, dust and vacuum bedroom
- Clean tables on the back porch and straighten tables and pillows
- Sweep the kitchen and the living room
Paid Chore Options for Age 5
- Wash, dry, fold and put away laundry (I help with folding)
- Wipe down all the doorknobs and light switches in the house
- Straighten up, dust and vacuum bedroom
- Clean the windows in the kitchen and living room
- Straighten up the living room, put away blankets, and wipe down the remote controls
Challenges of a Responsibility Chart and Paid Chores
We have been doing this for several weeks now and I’ve noticed a few challenges pop up along the way. The first challenge is when we have busy days. They are easy to get through on our homeschool days, but on co-op days with soccer practice I find they usually don’t get a chance to complete a paid chore. Also, at times they have not wanted to do all the required responsibilities. That, though, gets shut down real fast because I just explain to them gently (or forcefully if need), that that’s non-negotiable.
I also think this system works beautifully for Hailey (age 8) but Kaitlyn needs encouragement/gentle nudging to stay focused. For example, she’ll take two forks out while she’s emptying the dishwasher, then start playing into an elaborate scene where one fork marries the other. We’re sticking to it because I like to have them both on the same system, but I think age 4 and 5 does better with the clothes pin responsibility/chore chart.
Positive Changes from Implementing a Responsibility Chart and Paid Chores
Like I said, we are only a few weeks in, but even as quickly as after our first week I began to notice positive changes.
- This system has made my mornings more relaxed. The girls know what is expected of them and it allows me time to get things done and myself ready without having to direct their actions every step of the way. Also, since it is expected, there is no whining or bargaining.
- This system has decreased whining from Hailey a million times over. She thrives on knowing what to expect and checking off a list (like her mama).
- They are no longer asking incessantly for ways to make money. I can now point to a way they can earn money if they choose.
How to Make a Responsibility Chart and Paid Chores Work for You
- Make responsibilities quick and simple enough (according to age). It’s the habit that is the important thing to create, so start simple then up the responsibilities as their age and abilities allow.
- Wake them up in time to complete their morning responsibilities. I have to get mine up about 10 minutes earlier on our busy mornings to allow them to knock it all out.
- Make it understood that responsibilities are non negotiable and will result in loss of payment. If that isn’t a strong enough consequence, we would go into loss of a privilege or a punishment.
- It’s important to find out what drives their motivation. Hailey seems adequately motivated by money, but Kaitlyn really loves “fancy things” so I’m considering having her earn a trip to the Target kid jewelry section after a certain level of plan adherence.
- Encourage spending the “spend” money. Hailey is a saver by nature, but I want her to experience the joy from being able to buy the things she wants with the money she has worked hard to earn.
So that’s the latest system around here! I still hope to laminate the sheets at some point, but feel like we are still figuring out what works best for chores. David, for example, thinks laundry shouldn’t be a paid chore, but just an expected responsibility, but I feel like having it as a paid chore gives them the extra motivation they need to follow it all the way through with minimum whining.
I’m always fascinated with how families handles chores and/or money.
Do you give out allowance? Do you have a responsibility chart for your kids? How does it work in your house? Tell me in the comments!