Category Archives: chore chart

Pay Day

I’ve finally done it. I’ve given my kids chores. I’ve put it off for a long time partly because I have a hard time sticking to parenting experiments that involve sticker charts, incentives, and rewards (i.e. I’m lazy) and mostly because I can do all of the work faster and better. Anyone who knows me well knows not to load my dishwasher because I will unload and reload it my way (i.e. the right way).

But it’s time. I’m sure of it because as often as I preach gratitude to my kids, I don’t often see it in action. I’m tired of their constant wants, and I’m sick of cleaning up the clutter of things (that I buy for no justifiable reason) that bring them instant and fleeting gratification but no long-lasting joy. I want to teach them that happiness doesn’t come from a plastic toy in a blind bag, that money has financial and moral value, and that the true reward for a job well done is in the earning rather than the spending of money. That, and I want to distract them from Minecraft and YouTube for a little while each day. Also, I’d like them to aim better when they pee, and I can’t think of a better way to do that than to make them clean the toilets.

So, here’s my system for now.

The Basics


It’s baby steps over here for my kids who have never lifted a finger in the house. I admit I’m using the chores as a way to get them to take responsibility for tasks that have nothing to do with cleaning, like brushing their teeth, reading, and playing with the dog, but once these “jobs” become ingrained in their routine and I no longer have to threaten that their teeth will rot by middle school, I’ll up the ante. Also, once school starts, I’ll add tasks related to backpack and homework organization.

The Chore Cup


After they finish the basics, they pick one chore stick from the chore cup. They actually love the chore cup (so far), because it feels like a game. In fact, they beg to pick their chore stick for the next day as soon as they finish their current one. I only have two rules with the chore cup: (1) you can’t keep picking sticks until you get a chore you want and (2) you don’t have to do the same chore twice in one week. The chores in the Chore Cup are basic age-appropriate tasks that range from cleaning bathroom surfaces to putting folded laundry away to sweeping floors.

The Supplies


I filled an easy to access cleaning bucket with everything they need to get the chores done, including multipurpose cleaners, paper towels, trash bags, and Swiffer dusters and sweepers, They also have access to the handheld vacuum and the Swiffer. Nothing is difficult to operate and everything is safe for their ages.

Overall, the boys are doing great. Watching them make their beds has been hilarious. Their bed-making styles match their personalities to a T! Riley is meticulous, but it takes him about an hour, and by the time he finishes, he’s sweaty and out of breath. Dylan, on the other hand, is pure chaos. In fact, his bed looks neater before he attempts to make it than when he’s done. Of course, I want to step in and reload the dishwasher, so to speak, but I’m practicing restraint because if I step in, I’ll end up doing it for him and that will defeat the purpose. Instead, I’ve stuck to brief tutorials and provided some useful tips, like that it’s easier to make a bed when you’re not jumping on it. Otherwise, they’re accountable for their work and their chores are inspected daily.

This week, Riley cleaned his room, put away his laundry, vacuumed the stairs (with assistance), took out the trash, and collected cups and dishes. Dylan had some tough assignments, too. He organized the shoe rack by the front door, which is an endless task in our house, cleared the clutter from and cleaned the kitchen table, which is another endless task in our house, dusted, and cleaned two toilets! Poor kid. He picked two separate bathroom sticks. Since the bathrooms are labeled #1 and #2, it didn’t count as a repeat chore.

Today is Pay Day and they’ve each earned their first $5. Of course, Riley wants to take his money straight to the toy store, but that’s okay…for now. Next up on my parenting to do list is to introduce the boys to the save/spend/donate ratio, but one step at a time, remember? It’s only been five days, and it’s quite possible that this “game” will get old, but so far we’re all reaping the benefits of their hard work. Not only are they brushing their teeth and reading (hallelujah!), but also they’re taking pride in their work, practicing fine motor skills, and building confidence. It might be wishful thinking on my part, but I think their aim has improved, too.

Do your kids do chores around the house?

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Filed under boys, chore chart, chores, parenting

I Quit…Sort Of

I went to Riley’s teacher conference at school today.  There’s a whole checklist of cognitive, physical, social/emotional, language and arts/music/movement items that they either check off or not.  Examples are: waits for turn, holds crayon age appropriately, walks up/down stairs appropriately, follows directions and communicates using words.   Unless there’s something going on with your two-year-old, it’s mostly an opportunity for the teacher to tell you how cute your kid is.

Riley pretty much aced his checklist, except for knowing his colors (I’m not worried), jumping (he tries so hard but just can’t get both feet off the ground at the same time!) and going to the bathroom by himself (this Mama is happy to hold off on potty training – and her sanity – for a while longer).  His teachers told me he’s wonderful, nice, sweet, caring…everything Mamas like to hear.  

She said if she absolutely had to critique Riley in any way, it would be that he doesn’t have the initiative to clean up after himself.  For example, after he finishes eating lunch, he says “I’m done” over and over again until she clears his trash or helps him do it.  I was immediately reminded of one of Dylan’s teacher conferences last year when his teacher said something eerily similar…that Dylan would sit in his seat after lunch and wait (while pouting) for someone to clear his mess.

This realization produced a big, huge ah-ha moment for me (or more accurately, an oh-crap moment).  I spoil my kids.  I’m not in denial.  They know the difference between right and wrong (almost) but they have no idea what to do with a Swiffer except play tug of war until I take it away.  Dylan is definitely learning independence (dressing himself, squeezing his own toothpaste and, God willing, washing his hands after going to the bathroom, etc.), but I don’t make the boys do anything around the house.  They make messes wherever they go, and I follow them with toy bins, laundry baskets, wipes and a dust buster.

Around Mother’s Day this year, Lisa Belkin published a piece on her Motherlode blog called “Why Moms Should Quit.”  The piece, with insight from syndicated radio host and author Mel Robbins, suggested that putting school-aged kids to work at home is good for them now and will make them better off in the long run.  Modern motherhood shouldn’t require mothers to bear the full burden of housework, and kids (and husbands, especially ones who always leave their dirty socks on the floor in the family room…just sayin’) could learn a lot from realizing how capable they are of doing all kinds of things around the house. 

I thought the piece was interesting when I read it, but I admit I also thought it was absolute crazy talk!  Who would know the difference between Dylan’s socks (little) and Riley’s socks (really little)?  Who would line up the milk and yogurt from oldest (front) to newest (back) in the refrigerator?  Who would load the mountains of BPA-free plastic just right on the top rack of the dishwasher?  There is no question my house would sink into the ground and I would end up at my own feelings doctor if I weren’t there to take care of (and complain about) every little chore.

Well, as of…right now…I’m changing my tune.   My boys are a little young to let loose with detergent in the laundry room or with a hot pan on the stove, but they’re not too young to put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket, bring their plates to the sink when they’re done eating and put their %$#&@ toys away before they go to sleep!  (Sorry, the toy thing is sensitive for me.)  And I could certainly benefit from letting go of the obsessive-compulsive ways I demand everything be done (see previous paragraph).  I’m a nut case!

I hereby declare I’m quitting…sort of.  I can’t relinquish all of the housework to the boys (and men).  They are young still, and child protective services (and possibly a divorce attorney) would knock on my door within a week.  I can start small, though, and give them some chores and, of course, a chore chart with stickers.   (Dylan has already happily requested construction truck stickers.  I don’t think he realizes yet what he’s so enthusiastically getting into).

Effective immediately (May 16, 2011), Dylan and Riley are responsible for the following daily chores:

·      Putting their dirty clothes in the laundry basket

·      Bringing their plates, cups and bowls to the kitchen sink/counter when meals are over

·      Putting ALL toys away before bedtime (Argh!)

I’ll post a picture of the new “chore chart” once the masterpiece is complete.  This is an excellent new art project for Obsessive Compulsive Mama!  By the time I have the boys’ teacher conferences in the fall, I hope to hear good things about their new cleaning-up skills.  Oh yeah, and all that other academic stuff, too. 

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Filed under aha moment, chore chart, education, Obsessive Compulsive Mama, school