Naturally, I love my kids to death but they’re all growing up so fast, which has gradually resulted in an ever-expanding list of house chores. All three of them are taking up a whole lot more living space and you can just tell when someone’s been in the kitchen to make a snack, taken a bath or even had some friends over. The novelty of new-mother extreme tolerance starts to wear off when one realises their children are old enough to at least start cleaning up after themselves, but I’ve had to resort to some creative ways to try and get them to consistently share the load of household chores.
My eldest son who’s just turned sixteen seems to have realised that his legal driving days are not too far off, so although his motives for regularly washing the car are so that he can drive it (up and down the driveway and in and out of the garage only though), the incentive involved with doing the chore sparked my idea to incentivise household tasks. I had to find a way to turn favours and privileges into commodities that can be bought with household chores as our little domestic currency. It took a while to get the balance right however, since I really didn’t want to find myself stuck with a situation in which the kids weigh- up their effort against the reward, causing them to pass on doing some chores which otherwise really need to get done. I mean the ultimate goal is to teach them to take responsibility and help out around the house, out of necessity.
Anyway, all that said; I first set up an extra pocket-money roster which is tied to house chores that need to be completed consistently throughout the entire month. Everybody gets extra pocket money if all the chores are sorted out and shared among them. That wasn’t without its problems however because I noticed my youngest (six-year old daughter) was kind of getting tricked into doing more than her fair share, so I stepped in and still monitor the roster very closely. Even she could be a little manipulative at times however, so the key is not to over-complicate the chores-versus-rewards system.
My biggest break-through came when I realised getting them to do house chores was largely a psychological challenge, after I’d had a look at the latest vacuum reviews and spotted some rather cool-looking vacuum cleaners that look more like hi-tech toys than anything you’d do house work with. A combination of high-tech devices and incentives continues to do the trick and the incentives don’t always have to be monetary, as it turns out. For example, before any friends can come over, the house must be clean and sometimes even just special privileges and permission to stay out later, stay up later, or getting on-the-spot pocket money for something specific can be exchanged for chores.
The monthly extra pocket-money incentive works just fine however, when there are no special requests to be had during the quieter months. The rewards system constantly has to be re-worked and updated though, because the value the kids place on proposed rewards are dynamic. My middle child (10-year-old girl) for instance doesn’t take pleasure out of getting to choose the Saturday night movie anymore, but she’ll gladly complete a chore to increase her long-haul trip window-seat quota.