Monday, November 14, 2011

Chores for kids become chores for parents?

As a parent I see the great value of chores for kids.

  • Anyone can learn the satisfication of completing a task, improving self confidence.  
  • Young children can improve self care competence such as with bathing and dental hygiene. 
  • Older kids can learn money appreciation and management if they are paid and expected to save some and share some of their well-earned money.  Learning to save for a large ticket-item and not spend frivolously is a great life lesson many adults missed.
  • Older kids can establish a great attitude about work and learn real-world skills such as laundry, cooking, and cleaning.  
  • Kids might even gain self esteem by the positive intrinsic reward of a job well done.  
  • They learn responsibility.


The downside?

Chores for the kids often make work on the parents harder.  (Who said parenting is easy?)

Parents must decide what tasks are able to be done by children at various stages of maturity.  There are on-line resources available to help guide parents.  This is one place I disagree with the WebMD list because they say a 10 year old can mow the lawn--not recommended by the AAP until 12 years!

Some good lists: Workingmom.com, Focus on the Family, Chores-Help-Kids

Parents must make sure the chores are completed or set a means of monitoring what is done. Ideally chores would be accomplished without fighting and whining, but how?  Verbal praise and acknowledgment is always a winner.  If parents choose to reward chores with stickers, gifts, or money, there must be a way to track when a task is complete.
Consistency is key in any form of discipline, and this includes the tracking of chores.  The biggest reason chores fail in my house is we (the parents) forget to check the lists to be sure the kids did them.  Having a consequence for not doing the expected chores versus getting a reward for doing the list... behavior experts disagree on these points.

Many behavior experts recommend to not remind kids to do chores.  They feel that the negative consequences of not doing the chores will teach the lesson better than the constant nagging to do the chores.  I have found that without reminders the chores are simply not done, but this does not mean I must always directly remind.  Praising the initiation ("I'm glad you are getting your homework done early tonight!"  "I see you remembered to sort your laundry, that's the hardest part!") is often an effective way to get kids to complete the task.  There is a fine line between nagging the kids to do the expected things and letting the chores slip by without being completed.

Over the years we have had many means of keeping track of chores in my family.

  • When the kids were young, we first tried a dry erase board, but that got erased too easily.
  • We then found a simple paper chart each week that had lists that could earn stickers. I liked the format because it separated tasks into the general categories below, but we often forgot to mark things off at the end of a busy day, so there was little reinforcement for the kids to do the chores.  The categories of chores:
  • Self: included things such as brush teeth, bathe, get dressed 
  • Home: included things such as pick up toys in living room
  • Room: included things such as pick up room, make bed
  • School: included things such as help a friend, homework, pack backpack
  • One of my favorites was a system called 10-20-30Go! that friends developed.  It was wonderful because it is based on the kids taking full responsibility for marking down what they did. It is simple and includes a strong family and faith base.  It was one of the longest running systems that worked for us, but as all systems, it also faded in follow through.   A big reason was that we often had activities that interfered with the family meeting night, no matter what night of the week we tried to do it.  (Family meeting nights are still a great thing, but difficult in a busy house!)  We also found that the kids didn't look forward to their allowance, so it was little reinforcement to do the tasks.  They might have been too young at the time.
  • Another favorite system of mine due to ease of use, cost (free), and kid -centered responsibility is MyJobChart.  It works well for kids who can use the internet fairly independently.  My kids can log in to their account and mark the chores as they do them, or once a day.  They earn points, which they can choose to share (with pre-determined charities), spend (on items I help pick), or save (for the future!)  I like many features of this system, but it still has periods that my kids forget about it for weeks, then periods that we all remember again.  They still do their chores (or they have no clean clothes the following week... or whatever natural consequence follows the forgotten chore) but they don't always mark them down for credit.
What do you find helps to keep your kids up to date on their chore list?