I don’t know about you, but in our home, my husband and I are always keen to get all the help we can with the enormous task of keeping this place up and running and making sure everyone is washed, dressed and fed, from those who share it with us (always a bonus!) As much as they would like to believe they are living in a hotel with 24/7 maid service, I feel it is my duty to educate my children to the fact that team-work is the best way to get things done around here and I am not above using begging and bribery to entice the kiddo’s to help me!!
Now, that’s the theory! In reality, I sometimes feel that I am fighting a never ending battle! Our little angels are 10 and 7 and over the years, we have used every trick in the book to keep them on the straight and narrow, from reward charts to ‘the naughty step,’ to ‘time out,’ to promises of treats at the weekend but by far the longest-running and most successful system for us has been ‘counter rewards.’ This idea was actually suggested by the children after they read one of the ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ books. In the book, the Mother decides that her boys can be rewarded with ‘Mom bucks’ every time they do something good which could be exchanged for real cash. So, at the children’s suggestion, I ordered some counters to be given out for their help around the house and good behaviour.
We introduced this system at the beginning of last year and after seeing this list of age-appropriate chores, we agreed which tasks would be both helpful and do-able. These include; cleaning their rooms, loading the dishwasher, hanging up their clothes, sweeping or mopping the floors, wiping down the table and/or worktops, dusting etc. They also get counters for things like doing their homework, getting up and ready to leave for school on time, putting their coats, shoes and bags away when they come into the house, putting toys or games away when they have finished using them, achieving something great at school or being especially kind or helpful to someone else. Some tasks are worth more than others so they are rewarded with several counters for the tasks that involve the most effort. I should probably point out that I am not running a sweat-shop here! If the children don’t want to do the work, they don’t get the rewards, and that’s fine. As it turns out, they are always keen to reap the rewards so, everyone’s a winner!
I, of course, felt the need to have something ‘friendly to the eye’ to contain all these counters which had to be ultra easy to access and kept in our kitchen as I knew I would forget to use it if it was kept out of eye-sight. I had bought these plant pots from IKEA (I seriously feel like I should be receiving some kind of commission from IKEA for all the mentions they are getting on here!) Laughably, I imagined I would be able to grow herbs in these pots in my kitchen window. As yet, I have still to prove that I can keep a plant alive for more than a couple of weeks so they didn’t serve their original purpose for long and have since proved to be very useful for holding our counters. The kiddo’s have one pot each and the other is where all the counters start out the week before being awarded for good behaviour.
On a Saturday, we count out the counters each child has earned. Every counter is worth 10p in our house (though I try not to draw attention to this since the promise of a counter seems to be endlessly more appealing to our little monkeys than a 10p would. Actually, I think if I offered 10p for sweeping or mopping the floors they would probably suggest that I was having a laugh!!) The children are given the amount of money equal to the number of counters they have earned and then all the counters are returned to the third pot ready to start all over again. My children don’t get any other kind of allowance and in my opinion, I feel like the money is a fair trade-off for their help. I would much rather they appreciated the value of their money having earned it through helping out around the home than give them a lesser amount of ‘pocket money’ just because it’s Saturday.
I know other Mums that use a similar system involving a jar filled with marbles which children earn for good behaviour and marbles are then taken away if the child behaves badly. I don’t take the counters away once they have been earned. I have discovered that the threat (or reality!) of 24hrs without TV or electronic devices is far more effective!!
Having said all that, we do still have days around here when I am pulling my hair out in despair at the sheer effort involved in getting the little darlings away from their gadgets and actually doing something useful! I’m sure there are a million tactics being used by parents everywhere which are working well for them. This is just one thing that has worked well for us. I would love to hear any other ideas you may have to encourage children to engage in the work involved in running a home. I really do believe that it’s important for them to realise that the more help they give, the more we are all able to enjoy family time together doing the things we love. What do you think? Are you horrified by the idea of my children mopping the floors? Or do you agree that everyone in the family should do their bit to help out? I would love to hear from you.
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