For many reasons chore charts are a super rad teaching tool when raising socially conscious and self-aware humans, but they’re also pretty helpful in building the following qualities and ethics:
- Self Reflection
- Being Driven / Goal Oriented
- Contributing Members of the Family [and eventually, of Society]
- A Sense of Earning Potential / Recognizing Incentive
- Understanding the Value of a Dollar
We’re talking long-term life skills here, folks. But all in all it boils down to two majorly important factors:
Work Ethic [Mad Skills] and Understanding Money [Dolla Dolla Bills]
I started using chore charts for the kids as early as ages 3 and 4. Of course at these ages they didn’t have actual “chores” as much as they had specific expectations.
Some of the items we’d have on our daily list during that time were things like:
- Were you a good listener today
- Did you pick up your toys when you were finished playing with them
- Did you finish all your dinner
- Did you throw any tantrums or fight with your sibling
- Did you go to bed on time
Initially we worked with a sticker system and before bed each night we’d go through the categories. “Were you a good listener today?” I’d ask. And surprisingly, they always answered honestly. If the answer was yes, they got a sticker, if it was no, we’d talk about how we could improve in that area the following day. This goes back to accountability and self reflection; they decide if they get the sticker and it teaches them to be honest with themselves and reflect on their choices in order to decide what they need to improve on.
With this reward system of sorts, at the end of the week if they got most of their stickers or at least one full sticker day [one in each category], then they’d get to pick out a small toy or a treat from the store.
The kids love the chore chart. If I forget to update it or make a new one for the month, they always remind me. They love seeing their progress and earning surprises by just doing things that are expected of them.
The chore chart for little-littles would reflect small tasks that I felt served as a foundation for learning more significant skills later on. Because of this, from an early age they’ve known what’s expected of them– for example, that we have a one-toy-at-a-time policy. Once you’re done playing with a thing, you pack it up and put it away before pulling out something new. Sure, this idea was initially born from my frustration with following them around the house all day picking up a million messes. But now that they’re older, they just do it without being asked, even though it’s no longer a chore chart item.
They know that it is the expectation, of course, but I think they do it more out of habit now because it’s become second nature. They uphold this standard at other people’s houses too, and hopefully it will continue through into their adulthood, and they will naturally already have the skills to keep a tidy and well organized home.
Dolla Dolla Bills:
I don’t usually carry cash on me and love to rack up frequently flier miles, so my general payment method is my credit card, and then I just pay off the balance every month. So one day my son and I ran to the grocery store for a few things. For whatever reason I had cash in my wallet that day and used it to pay for my items. With my boy in the cart, we made our way toward the parking lot. Suddenly, his face got worried and he shouted, “Mommy! They didn’t give you your money back!” I was so confused. “For what?” I asked him. “For the food!”
Oooooh man. That was the first time I realized that my kids had literally no concept of how money works. And why would they?
He and his sister have fake paper money and sometimes we set up our kitchen to be a restaurant or a grocery store and the kids will “buy” stuff or order food that I’ll make for them and then “pay” for their meal. At the end of the game I always hand back the money, because the game is over, because it’s time to pick up. So Rohan really believed that day at the grocery store that the cashier straight robbed me of my cash. I explained that it was an exchange– we get to keep the food and they get to keep the money, but it took several conversations for them to fully grasp this idea.
Now that they’re older, our chore chart works with an actual allowance earning system. But still with stickers, because they make for a good visual aid.
Each sticker is worth 0.25 cents, and with six categories or goals per day, that’s potentially $1.50 to be earned – $10.50 per week – plus the option of earning bonus dollars for doing extra chores on Sundays [our house cleaning day], things like vacuuming the carpets or windexing the windows. Bonus chores go for a buck a pop, so they have the opportunity to make some serious cash every week.
At ages 6 and 7, their chore chart includes items like these:
- Make your bed each morning
- Do your homework and bonus reading without compliant
- Pick up after yourself/keep your room clean
- Be a good listener [which is specific to how many times I ask something of them before it gets done- i.e. only 1 or 2 times versus the usual 1,000 asks to put on their shoes as we’re trying to leave the house]
- Eat all your dinner and within a reasonable timeframe [one of them has been known to take over an hour to finish dinner!]
- Go to bed on time [and for my littlest– in your own bed]
Your chore chart should reflect the values and standards that you wish to uphold in your home, but it should also include areas that your kids struggle in – this will serve as an added incentive for them to work on that thing, to improve in that area, and to see his progress through the chart system. It worked wonders for my little dude to start falling asleep in his own bed. I didn’t push the issue and if he didn’t do it one night he was never “in trouble” for it, but he absolutely loved getting that sticker in his column when he would accomplish that small hurdle.
I started giving my kids an allowance at a pretty young age. Not a lot of money, but a lot of money to them, because my kids truly had no concept of how much things cost or how real money transactions even worked.
Another telling example of this was the time my daughter asked for a $300 toy from Target while buying toiletries and laundry detergent. I said, “no honey, that toy costs a lot of money.”
She twisted up her face and said, “well, just go to the bank and get the money you need!”
Oh how I wish it worked that way. Just an endless supply of dollars at my disposal.
It’s important to me that my kids are not spoiled, and in some ways they absolutely are, but they went through a phase where every time we went into Target, into anywhere really, they expected to get something. I knew I had to change that mentality, and quickly, because even if they are [a little bit] spoiled, they needed to learn to graciously accept that sometimes the answer is no, and be grateful for the times that the answer was yes.
Now they get paid every week, according to how many stickers they’ve earned [at 0.25 cents a piece], and on the days they want to go, I’ll take them to spend their allowance.
They’ll point and ask, “can I get this?”
Hmmm, “how much is that?”
“Twenty-five dollars,” they’ll say.
“How much do you have?” I’ll ask.
“Twelve dollars,” they’ll respond.
I can’t tell you how fast they started to understand how much things actually cost, and that sometimes it’s better to save up for something you really want, rather than to spend your money just to spend it.
They really do love the whole chore chart experience and it has built in them a sense of motivation, accountability, a healthy competitiveness, routine and expectation, and they appreciate that structure as much as I do. Like everything in life, whether it be in school, college, or eventually in the workplace, there are consequences for slacking off, for mouthing off, for not pulling your weight [even if those consequences are small, like losing a quarter]– but why shouldn’t those morals also be applied in the home? Why shouldn’t building those values start with their family? In my humble opinion, it should.
Give it a go – you may be surprised by the results. We like making our own chore charts out of butcher or craft paper, but here’s a good dry erase one for $14.99 to get you going. Another one I like is the Melissa and Doug Responsibility Chart for $17.90.
Leave a comment about this! I’d love to hear about how charts like these have either helped or hindered you and your family values.