Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Eliminating the chore of chore charts

I'm the first to admit that the reason chore charts fail around here is because I let them. I am not disciplined enough to keep up with the chore of monitoring the chart, writing out new ones, getting the cash for pay day etc. We've started and stopped a variety of systems over the years and while the one we used in 2012 worked for the longest of all of them, by December it was limping along at best. I knew it was time for a change when:

1)I resorted to nagging about checking the chart to see if everything had been completed.
2) I hadn't actually payed the kids in a long time (I had only been tallying their earnings.)
3)The house was still in shambles even when chores were complete.

That last one was the deal breaker and was the final straw that pushed me to get over my concern for using 'bins' and just go for it. I figured it couldn't get any worse! Initially I was worried that if I collected their things and put them in bins for them to empty after school they would never learn to put their things away as soon as they were done. How would they ever learn to SEE the mess if I made it too easy for them? Enter the '5 star' reward. First let me back up and list out their other chores as it will be fun to look back on some day and see the progression of how they became more and more responsible.

At eight and six years old we felt it was time to add a few more household responsibilities. So besides brushing teeth, putting backpack away/emptying lunch box, devotional, homework, cleaning their rooms, cleaning the playroom, & putting their shoes away, and feeding the cats, I added a laundry task (each day they come to me to ask what their laundry job is that day - an added bonus is that it motivates me to stay on top of the laundry so there is something for them to help with every day like matching socks or delivering folded clothes to each bedroom). I also added the job of putting movies back in their proper cases. These things are all on the chart that I customize each week in a word document table and print out Sunday night.

I also print out a chart for PapaBear and I that includes my daily chores, weekly chores, & our menu template. The kids like to refer to this chart so they know what to expect for meals that day. I refer to it when I plan the specific menu because it isn't so overwhelming when we follow this simple template:

Monday - Pancakes
Tuesday - Oatmeal
Wednesday - Scrambled eggs
Thursday - Smoothie
Friday - Toast and Fruit
Saturday - cinnamon rolls or muffins (all depends on what I have time for)
Sunday - Smoothie

Monday - Pancake Sandwich
Tuesday - PB&J
Wednesday - Thermos
Thursday - Pizza
Friday - hot lunch
Saturday - left overs
Sunday - McDonalds

Monday - Italian
Tuesday - Mexican
Wednesday - Pizza (usually homemade)
Thursday - Chicken dish
Friday - Brinner (breakfast for dinner)
Saturday - Popcorn
Sunday - Crock Pot

We can keep our grocery budget around $70 a week using this system and when I sit down on Sunday nights to plan our meals it is much easier to search "chicken" recipes on Pinterest or than a million random recipes. Another plus is that there are fewer complaints about meals (oatmeal & smoothies for example) because they know that if actually admit to liking them it doesn't mean I will serve it day after day.

Now back to the most successful part of our chore chart: The 5 Star System

Our old chore chart required that the kids each pick up 15 things downstairs and return them to their proper place, but as I mentioned that wasn't making a dent and it certainly wasn't teaching them to put things back as soon as they were done with them. Besides, I had to trip over the junk all day long so they could pick it up when they got home from school. Yuck!

Our new chore chart requires that the kids each empty their bins every day after school. (I pick up after they leave for school or on the weekend I give them a fair warning that I'm going to be picking up soon.)

There is a line on their chart that reads: If your bin is empty you earn a star.  What this means is that if they come home from school and see a star that means I didn't have to pick up any of their things. Amazingly Sam picked up on this immediately and without my knowledge at the end of the first day we explained the new system he went around and made sure he had put away all of his toys before he went to bed.  The next day Julia was on board too and in only a week they had both earned their 5 star reward.

We thought long and hard about what that reward should be. Initially I thought that we'd pay them an extra dollar for every day the bin was empty, but we quickly realized we'd go broke and I wanted them to be motivated by more than money since even paying kids to do things that they should do to contribute to begin with is something I worry about. (We decided that it provides an opportunity to learn about managing money & consequences at a young age so we DO pay the kids 25 cents per day.)

In the end we decided that the best reward we could offer was a one on one date with a parent of their choice when they accumulate 5 stars. The date needs to be something that costs $5 or less and be focussed on quality time with the parent. So far Sam has cashed his stars in for open gym time with daddy (a trip to town that doesn't involve other errands counts towards the $5 - gas is expensive!!). Julia and I enjoyed an hour of reading library books & eating ice cream at a nearby coffee shop for her 5 star reward.

You know the chore of chore charts is worth it when the result is quality time with your kids! Having the household run smoothly is a nice bonus!

Final note: I'm a sucker for containers and these flexible bins from Target caught my eye right away. At $5.99 they aren't that expensive but to be sure I would actually USE them I only got one to start with and found very quickly that they are WONDERFUL! You can pull the handles together to carry them with one hand and they hold lots of stuff. Why the third bin? That's mine. I'm just as guilty as the kids of leaving stuff around downstairs so I collect my things and at the end of the day I bring it upstairs and put things away. Let's just say I'm not going to be getting any one on one time anytime soon and leave it at that.
Am I the only one who changes chore systems every few months?

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  1. Love the chore system! And I love the simplicity of your meal planning, that seems like a great idea and a lot less expensive when you really know what you're going to make and eat each day. Might have to think about doind this here!!

  2. Oh no no - you're not the only one who changes methods - you have to see what works for your family. That, and I think kids, just like adults, get bored with the same old same old. It's fun to switch things up - keep things fresh!! I like the bin idea....hmmm.....

    and I feel the same way about paying the kids for things that are, in reality, contributing to the family. But in the end, it's a good lesson in earning and saving and thinking of others.


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