Dealing with Unknowns – PART 3 – Do Chore Charts Really Work?


I remember excitedly posting a colorful chore chart I had created for my four kids, with monetary amounts attached to each chore. I was sure that they would hungrily look at the money they could earn and get busy! Was I ever wrong! Here is what really happened. The one or two kids who needed the money would do a few of the chores-until they earned what they needed, and the rest of the jobs just sat there on the chart, mocking me.

I knew that I still wanted to have my kids involved in the day-to-day upkeep of our home, I wanted them to have daily routines, AND I did not want to be doing everything for my kids.

So, I created a plan that kind of LOOKED like a chore chart, but it was back-loaded with PURPOSE and with INCENTIVES. The purpose came from family values that my husband and I agreed upon (Read Part 2) and started building meaningful tasks around. And then the INCENTIVES came in attaching rewards that we KNEW they would work for (Come back for Part 4 next week – I am going to give you the “secret sauce” of the plan).

Each kid had a daily plan we custom fit to be age-appropriate, and to include tasks that would teach and provide structure and healthy routine. The plans were designed to allow THEM to be successful on a daily basis, while working toward a goal that they chose. This had started out as an experiment, but when we realized it was WORKING, it just became part of our family DNA.

I always included MAKING YOUR BED (and the expectation was to do it first thing in the morning) as one of the plan items because I wanted them to feel some instant accomplishment in their day. It was something easy and productive. It was the first step to a cleaned-up room, too!

Another item in their plan would be to build in some kind of daily physical activity. Being healthy was one of our family values, so this was an easy tie-in. We fit this to each kid. One might be on a soccer team, so 100 touches with the soccer ball was a daily item. Another of our kids loved to read to the exclusion of being physically active, so we made it a daily task for that kid to go for a bike ride, walk the dog, or play outside with siblings.

For our family we added a personal quiet time that was intended for them to read from the Bible or a devotional book because another family target was to grow in their faith in God.

It was really fun when our kids got older and we allowed them to have input in creating their own daily plans. By that time they understood what our family values/goals were and they amazed us by what they came up with for building their plan. One kid set a daily goal of running to better their timed-test for their sports team try-out. Another who didn’t love reading added the task of daily reading to finish a summer book list for school. And one kid set a daily practice time to memorize a piece for an upcoming Sonatina Festival performance.

It’s amazing how the initial idea of a chore chart was able to be turned from a “fail” to a “win” in our home. If you are interested in learning more about how we did it, check out my book All Done Day: How to Win at Everyday Parenting.

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Ann Lahm

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