Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Checks and Chore Dollars

When there are many bodies in constant motion, it is easy to fly under the radar. A while back, I decided it was time to re-introduce CHORES to my children as we'd mostly gotten our feet back underneath us after moving. Anyway, I'd assign a job and get a lot of "But I did that yesterday!" or "How come I ALWAYS have to do this?!? or in some cases nothing said... and nothing done - you know, the 'make-yourself-scarce-and-hope-you're-forgotten' kind of thing. As a result, I came up with an Accountability Chart. I wanted the helpful kids to see that their efforts were noticed and I wanted the not so helpful kids to see their own lack of effort as well.

It just so happened when we moved in, that there was a giant white board already hanging on the wall of the barn. It was exactly the thing I needed so I moved it to the dining room, and the rest kindof worked itself out as I went.

I started by putting the weekly memory verse across the top of the board. Having it in the dining room makes a huge difference when it comes to remembering to practice the verse. Then I made a simple chart (list of chores on the left, days of the week across the top). The plan was simple. If you did a chore (assigned or not), you got a mark in the box for that chore on that day's column.

After more than two months, I HAD to fix the lines. They were starting to dive me crazy.

And since I had a rainbow assortment of white board markers, I assigned a different color to each kid so I could avoid having to use initials (that doesn't work very well at our house). Plus making a check mark is faster than writing most letters of the alphabet anyway. This idea has worked brilliantly, and to keep it from getting old, I switch up the colors every week.

Next, I divided the house up into 10 zones. And assigned a pair of zones to each child. All they had to do was tidy the zone. If they could get the top layer cleared, it would make the actual cleaning part a lot easier for me. Over time, I've assigned different levels of 'tidying'. For example, it's OK if Ricka just picks everything up off of the floor and makes a pile in the corner of the room. For the other kids, that's not an option - everything must be put away. When Butler gets a bathroom zone, I don't expect him to sweep the floor or scrub the toilet and tub, but I do ask that of Dolly or PC, and I expect Emma to sweep the floor and wipe the counters even if she doesn't have to scrub the toilet.

Some zones are fun or very easy - how messy can a hallway get? And who doesn't love playing with the in-house vacuum? And some zones are NOT easy or fun in the least bit - the playroom?!? But I DIDN'T make that mess! Cleaning toilets? Gross. But this variety is good too, because I can adjust the workloads weekly and give incentives for good attitudes and disciplined effort. If you shirk your zone all week, you may end up being assigned to it again or even be given a harder zone. On the other hand, if you work hard even though you had a more unpleasant zone, you may be rewarded with a fun or easy zone the next week.

The problem with all of the above was almost immediately obvious. What was to be done about the 'So? I don't care if I get a check mark. I don't want to do the work' responses? The solution was that we had to create an incentive program based on the number of check marks earned during the week. For every 2 check marks, I would pay a 'chore dollar', which is pretty much homemade monopoly money from $1 to $10 bills. Each chore dollar has a real value of 10 cents and can be exchanged for real money. This was special because we don't pay allowances, and it made a way for the children to earn their own spending money. But chore dollars can be exchanged for other privileges too. Computer time, candy, or even a one-on-one date with Mommy.

To encourage effort, I award 'bonus' checks. Bonus checks are different from regular checks in that they cannot be revoked for bad behaviour. For example, there are certain chores that are not an option, like brushing teeth, or setting out clothes for the next day. If those things have to be done for you, you get a negative check mark which means instead of earning a point, you lose one. Say, the entryway is ignored and it gets bad enough, that it's nearly dangerous to navigate through the room. If Mama has to tidy it to make it safe to travel, the kid who was assigned that zone would get a negative check mark.

But a bonus check mark is a guaranteed point that cannot be revoked. I award them for things like making the effort to be ready to leave so that we do not arrive at our destination late, for getting up and ready to go when the alarms go off - thus reducing the amount of Mama nagging/dragging/scolding kids out of bed in the mornings, going to bed on time and STAYING in bed at bedtime, for performing over and above expectations in a particular thing, and for making the greatest effort during the week, thus getting the highest number of check marks earned. I may start assigning bonus checks for a personal record too... we'll see.

The best part is that this system is really working for us. The kids are learning responsibility, discipline, thoroughness, initiative, and flexibility. The house is staying much tidier and I'm not constantly frustrated and exhausted from doing everything myself. And I love the busywork that makes it function... adjusting the daily totals, writing up new chore money, calculating weekly payrolls. It makes the general mundane normals... Fun.


  1. I love all of this! Such good ideas! We're been debating chore charts/allowances/incentives recently and haven't quite figured it all out yet so it was great to see what you guys do.

  2. That is great to have a system that works! I've been wanting to tweak our system a bit, so it's great seeing someone else's ideas.

  3. Thanks for sharing this idea! We do sticker charts that turn into money at the end of each month, and the kids have chores but the two are not always connected. The stickers are only awarded for excellence, attitude+ helpfulness or other jobs done well/ taking initiative on a job etc. ~SJo