Wednesday, May 29, 2013

To Chore or Not to Chore, That is the Question...

My children are motivated to make money. At ages four and six, they are planning on having a lemonade and cookie stand at our garage sale next well as selling off all of the toys they no longer play with. The Oldest One has started his own egg business called "Eggriffic" and is offering free tours until our six little hens start producing eggs this fall. Then, it's $3/dozen, baby.

The Oldest One's informational poster from his company's first open house.
The boys are also not afraid of pitching in and helping out around the house. They love to dust and vacuum. They ask to help unload the dishwasher and get excited when it is time to move the couch and dig out all of the treasures that have rolled underneath (my least favorite job...) At their age, cleaning up with Mom is still a fun bonding experience. For this I am grateful!

For the past year, we have designated Sundays as our house cleaning day. We throw on some Kids Bop music and boogie down as we fold laundry and make beds. For participating in this cleaning party, I give them each $1 for an allowance. Up until recently, it has seemed like enough. However as birthday and Christmas money has dwindled from their piggy banks and their desire for toys and games has continued, they have lamented on how they can make more than $4 a month to buy what they want. And, honestly, I can empathize with them.

On one hand, we are not a family that values consumerism. We don't have the latest clothes. (All of theirs is hand-me-downs from friends and most of mine and my husband's wardrobe is at least 10 years old.) We don't own an iPad or Kindle or videogames. (Although the boys...including my husband...are desperately trying to talk me into getting them a Nintendo 3DS.) We also value hard work and pitching in to help out around the house as a family. I can identify with those that think children should just help out without the incentive of getting paid.

On the other hand, my children are too young to go out and babysit, mow lawns, or bag groceries. They are basically powerless to make money in our society at their age. I can imagine how frustrated they feel when they see something they would like, but do not have the means to get it. Being authentic, I know that I do not want to buy every Imaginext Batman toy my son comes across for him. But if that is what he wants and he wants to work for it and save up to get it, what a beautiful lesson for him! I do not want them to feel the world is a place of scarcity, but I also don't want them to think their parents will get them their every wish just by asking.

So...we have now started a system that will allow the boys to earn enough money to actually purchase something about once a month and learn some useful skills by working side-by-side with us along the way. First, I looked up a few lists of age-appropriate chores to get more ideas on what they could help out with. Next, I wrote down 20+ options for them on craft sticks. Then I placed those in a bucket and had two buckets they could decorate for themselves next to it. The system is this... Each week, the boys can choose chores to help out with during the week. Once they complete the chore, they can put the stick in their individual buckets. I will pay them $1 for each chore, up to $5 per week. (If they do more, that is wonderful...but $5/week is my maximum per child.) When the week is done, I will pay them their money and put the chores sticks back in the main bucket to choose from the next week.

Simple system that seems to work for us so far...

A Note About Spending/Saving/Giving: When we first started giving our children allowances, we created Spend/Save/Give jars for them to divide their money into as they saw fit. Giving back to our community and to those who are less fortunate is important to our family. The boys have given to the Humane Society and the Food Bank from their Give jars, as well as forgone presents from their friends at their birthday parties in lieu of donations to their charities of choice. Since I am increasing the amount of money they are receiving, I thought it was appropriate to talk with them about using the jars more purposefully, rather than randomly putting money into which jars they felt like. We agreed that each week, they would put at least 10% (50 cents) into the Save and Give jar so that at the end of the year they would have at least $24 saved and $24 to give to a charity of their choice.

Our original Save, Give, Spend cups. I've moved them to mason jars since then with handwritten tags...just because I am a little obsessed with mason jars. :)

So far, both boys are very excited about the opportunity to try some new skills and to earn some extra cash. I feel good about providing a method for them to work hard and earn money for themselves, as well as teaching them about saving and giving back to others. We will see how this affects their motivation to help out with chores past the five-dollar-per-week mark, but their young ages, that is plenty and their main job is to be a kid and I am okay with that.

I have included our chore list below for those of you who would like some inspiration. How about you? Do you require or encourage chores in your house? Do you tie allowance to the jobs completed or give allowance at all? I'm curious to see how it works in others' families.

Thoughtfully Yours,

Chore Choices (ages 4 and 6):
  • Help sweep and mop floor (I sweep, they mop)
  • Help clean off kitchen counter and table
  • Help vacuum
  • Help switch laundry, fold clothes, and put away clothes
  • Help make a meal
  • Help bathe and/or brush the dog
  • Help unload and load the dishwasher
  • Water plants
  • Clean bathroom sink, toilet, light switch, and door handle
  • Dust
  • Clean glass on doors, mirrors, and fish tank
  • Help take out garbage and recycling on trash day
  • Help clean out/wipe down inside of refrigerator
  • Pick up toys in bedroom and make bed
  • Move toys and put toys back when Dad mows backyard
  • Help clean rabbit cage or fish tank
  • Help weed flower bed or garden
  • Clean all door handles and around refrigerator handles
  • Wipe down kitchen cabinets or dining room chairs
  • Take out compost
  • Wipe down inside and outside of microwave
Have any more to add? I'd love to hear about them in the comments section!

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