If you have kids, I can almost guarantee you’ve tried chore charts in some form or another. But finding effective, age-appropriate chore charts have not been easy for our family over the years. In fact, I’ll admit I sometimes forget the part about making my kids do chores because I get so wrapped up in the process of the chore chart itself!
I’ve tried magnetic chore charts, wooden chore charts, printable chore charts and in recent years, I’ve even tried chore chart Apps! But no method seemed to really work for our family until I read the MoneySmart Family System by Steve & Annette Economides. You see, we always struggled with paying our kids for doing their chores; we felt it’s just a part of what they need to do as a contributing member of our family (although I did decide early on they would have to pay ME if they didn’t complete their chores!). But I also didn’t want my kids depending on me for their money all the time. After all, how would my kids ever learn the value of a dollar if they were always asking me for a dollar here and a dollar there every time we went out?!
There are certain chores I’ve always involved the kids in from a young age, like sorting laundry and setting the table. But as they’ve grown, it’s been difficult to separate their responsibilities, not to mention reward them as individuals. That’s why I appreciated the insights I learned from the MoneySmart Family System. Check out just a few of the guidelines the Economides layout when it comes to chores:
1. “When we talk about chores, we mean tasks that go beyond personal care (brushing teeth and washing up) and personal space (their bedrooms)—we’re talking about duties that benefit the entire household. No matter the age or ability of your children, there are things they can do, however small, to assist the family. We know that most kids may initially bristle at the idea of chores; however, learning to do productive work with and for people they love will set your children on a path toward stable and successful living.”
2. “While working under your supervision, your kids will learn what it takes to run a household, a critical component of becoming financially independent. Later in life, rather than spending a large portion of their income purchasing services for running and maintaining their homes, they’ll be able to use that money for living life, investing, or helping others.”
3. “They’ll learn from doing chores that they’re a part of something bigger— a family, a team. And being part of a larger entity requires each member to contribute time, effort, and sometimes money to support the whole. If we don’t teach our kids this critical lesson, they may learn that being a consumer, an observer, or a taker rather than a contributor is acceptable.”
4. “We know that the first time we ask our kids to do a task, it will take twice as long as it would for us to do it. Forget about speed, and focus on training your kids to complete the assigned task: as instructed, in a timely manner, and with a good attitude. These three concepts are critical to becoming an adult who will become a conscientious homeowner and a valued employee.”
Through trial and error, and the great advice of virtual mentors like the Economides, we’ve implemented a daily chore system with a time-card like a spreadsheet that gets displayed & filled out on our fridge each week. They have a certain amount of points they can earn each week and have the chance to earn more through extra ‘jobs’ that help lighten our load as parents. Likewise, if they don’t complete a job or do it poorly (or with a sour attitude), they not only won’t get paid, but they run the risk of losing all points for that day. Here’s an example of the Economides’ chore list for each child by age:
At the end of each week, we have a payday and reconcile their accounts. We’ve instituted a policy that 10% goes to a ‘Give’ bank and 20% goes into their ‘Save’ bank. The remaining 70% can be allocated as they choose. We also have a policy that our children cannot purchase something, even with their ‘Spend’ funds, unless they first clear it with us. Not only does this keep our communication about spending open, but it eliminates impulse purchases (which are the ones that most often end up in the garage sale pile anyway).
I’ve never wanted my kids to grow up assuming life just happens or worse yet, that all they have to do is wake up and show up for anything. Life is fun, but it’s also work. What I want them to realize most is that when we work together as a team, work can be fun!