Commission-based Chores for Your Kids

Feb 27

My kids are just reaching the¬†stage where they are capable of helping out around the house.¬†¬†The oldest of my kids (now in grade three) can make his bed without much difficulty, brush his own teeth (if you don’t mind a little yellow), understand the difference between cleaning his room and stuffing everything under the bed, and can clear a plate without spilling its contents all over the kitchen floor (which sadly, is usually¬†still dirty from the night before.)¬† The younger two, while not quite as capable, are old enough to follow his lead and willing to work for anything that¬†promises¬†a reward.¬†

Allowances simply faded away, chore charts ripped down, treats eaten and then long forgotten.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve tried in vain to enforce regular duties for them.¬†¬†Rewards have ranged from¬†a weekly allowance to food bribery to sticker charts.¬† In the end, however, nothing ever stuck.¬† I’m as much to blame as my kids for our inability to stick it out.¬† My efforts too often fizzled after a couple of weeks when I would tire of my begging them to keep up the effort.¬† Allowances simply faded away, chore charts ripped down, treats eaten and then long forgotten.¬† Every once in a while, when my son was feeling the need to buy¬†himself a little something special, he would lament the disappearance of his allowance and ask what happened to it.¬†¬†I would reply with a sigh, what happened to making your bed?¬† We’d both shrug our shoulders and return to whatever we were doing.¬†

Many parents are against the whole allowance concept.¬† They claim that¬†it teaches children entitlement, rather than encourages them to appreciate¬†their¬†contribution as a natural part of the household community.¬† I understand that thinking, but I don’t buy it.¬† Maybe that’s because I hate to clean almost as much as my kids do.¬†¬†I wonder,¬†what’s wrong with motivating a child to do something that nobody enjoys doing?¬† They’re still learning the importance of doing their duty, and doing it well.¬† My main problem with allowance in our¬†house is¬†the degree to which they are actually earning their keep.¬† I have trouble doling out a few bucks every Sunday when I see little evidence that they did anything the preceding six days of the week.¬† Or worse, if I had to constantly remind them¬†to clean their rooms, clear their dishes, empty the recycle bin¬†- in ever increasing decibels.

I’ve finally created a chore schedule that works for our family – it really works.¬† With it, my kids earn an allowance based on what they’ve done throughout the week.¬† And, because cash in the hands of young’uns is consumed like chocolate on Halloween (they don’t remember how it went so fast, and are soon asking for more), they¬†pick an item that they’d like buy and its price becomes their earnings goal.¬† Once they’ve earned enough dollars, we go to the store.¬† Our latest purchase was a PC video game controller.¬† It took them about four weeks to earn it.

Here’s how it works.¬† One chart indicates exactly what chores are expected of each child and on what days of the week.¬† This is essential, as it prevents fighting over who did it yesterday or three days ago – everyone knows who has to do what, when.¬† So, Monday to Sunday are lined across the top and the chores are listed down the first column.¬† My oldest child’s name is in the most boxes because he is the most capable, next my middle child, and my youngest has only a few boxes.¬† Naturally, the eldest has the potential to earn the most money since he has the most duties to fulfill.¬† Here’s a pdf that you can look at to get an idea of how it works. I recommend creating your own in excel or word, but feel free to use this one, if you wish.¬† helpschedule

In addition, each child gets his or her own¬†Points Chart.¬† This will be printed off at the beginning of every week and keeps track of how many points each child earns.¬† Parents need not chase their child around the house to enforce the bedmaking rule.¬† If the bed’s not made, Julie gets no point (I use signatures in these boxes so that the most impish of my kids can’t fake a point.)¬† At the end of every week, the points are talllied and added onto the next week’s chart.¬† You need to determine how many stars equal a dollar.¬† In our household, they earn one dollar for every eight “signatures” earned.¬† No one’s getting rich, but it’s enough to keep a young boy motivated.¬† Here’s a pdf that shows how this chart will look for each child.¬† Again – I recommend creating your own chart, as each family has different chores depending on the age of children and just how much work is expected by the parents.¬†¬†pointschart¬†

I hang the charts up on a kitchen cupboard for them all to see.

I still nag my kids – if I could eliminate that with an easy-to-follow system, I’d sell it!¬†¬†After all, I can’t put every little thing they do on a chore chart (putting on your boots to go outside is a necessity, not a chance to earn money), and that inevitably leads to the nag cycle.¬† However, when I remind them that they won’t earn a signature if they don’t set the table that night, they’re quite willing to do what they have to do.¬† They often count their points to see how far along they’ve come toward attaining their financial goals (read: earn enough money to buy a new DS game.)¬† Just¬†don’t try to talk them into putting their hard-earned money into a savings account¬†- that’s a motivation killer.


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One comment

  1. Kevin /

    Excellent article. I think with kids not understanding the value of money, it is easy to convert money into points, which may correspond to an exact dollar figure(1 pt = .10). It makes sense to do this. I hope I remember when y kids are old enough to do chores.

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