The word that strikes fear into children and can bring up painful memories for adults…but it doesn’t need to be that way. As my wife and I became parents we talked about chores, our memories of them and that we didn’t want our children to have memories like that – but we still wanted them to be a productive part of the family.
Our goal is to raise self sufficient children so their younger years is the time to learn how to take care of themselves. Certain tasks come simply from being part of the family: picking up your clothes, helping to keep the house clean, and putting your dishes in the sink (to name a few). Other tasks lend themselves to being assigned to individuals (my oldest takes out the trash, I load the dishwasher).
This is the most difficult part for me. I’m not a big fan of allowances in that chores are simply part of being a family and taking care of one another and our things. However, there are some tasks that, rather than hire, I can see paying the children for…but our kids aren’t old enough yet.
The second part of this is the idea of being punished by rewards. According to Kohn studies show that “do this and get that” results in temporary obedience and inferior work; ultimately this method fails and it can bring lasting harm (do you have fond memories of childhood chores?). Ultimately, these incentives have the opposite affect; they demotivate a child that was intrinsically motivated and for the externally motivated the reward must get bigger and bigger to active the same results.
Where to go from here…
I’m a systems person so I’ve kept an eye out for products or systems that would help our children do their chores while not demotivating though rewards – I’ve yet to find any.
However, there are two items that have caught my attention: Accountable Kids and ChoreMonster.
Accountable Kids is a product that our friends are using and enjoying the results. Children have a list of chores that are kept on cards – as they are accomplished the chores are moved from the todo peg to the done peg. The children are then given tickets which they can use to purchase rewards (Wii time, etc.) or stickers that fill a card to earn a bigger reward (date with mom).
They are two months in and getting good results. I like the idea of the todo list, but wonder if the system teaches accountability or builds a desire for rewards. Though, perhaps that is an unfair critique since I haven’t used the product.
ChoreMonster is a new website that is still in Beta. (If you would like an invite leave a comment asking for one). Parents list the chores and assign points for completed tasks. Children then log in, check off what they have done. Children earn monsters as their points accumulate and parents can enter rewards that can be bought with the points.
Next week I’ll share more about our adventure with ChoreMonster, but I have to wonder the same thing…is it a simple todo list or will the points untimely lead to demotivation.
What systems do you have for accomplishing chores in your home?