The lowdown and dirty on chores
By Cara Achterberg
My husband and I were working outside tearing off an old deck while our older two children huddled inside trying to figure out how to get beyond the list of chores that had accumulated all week, leaving them with no computer time until they were accomplished.
When my husband ducked inside to grab a tool, he overheard my son say to my daughter, “We can’t do that! She’s mean, but she’s not stupid!”
When I shared the exchange with a friend she said, “That’s awful that they think you’re mean.”
I’m fine with my kids thinking I’m mean as long as they respect me. Compared to many of their friends, my kids live the good life when it comes to my attitude about chores, their appearance, the cleanliness of their rooms, their homework and the number of pets I allow them to bring home.
There are a few things I expect from my children simply because they live here: Bring in their own belongings from the car; clean up their belongings around the house; clean their rooms; do their homework; take their dirty clothes to the laundry; change their sheets; and fix their own breakfasts.
There is no financial gain associated with these tasks. If they don’t follow through, they reap the natural consequences.
But there are other chores our children can do to earn “Mom Bucks.”
Mom Bucks are worth 25 cents each or can be doubled to 50 cents if the money is used to buy books, placed in savings, or given to charity.
All three kids—ages 7, 10 and 12—are expected to help with dinner chores.
They earn a mom-buck for each job. If they fail to do their job, their mom-buck can be earned by another sibling who takes over the job. If I have to do it, they pay me a mom-buck. They can be excused without penalty if they have practice, too much homework or another commitment.
The three jobs are simple:
1 Set the table.
2 Clear the table.
3 Dishes. Place all the dishes in the dishwasher and everything that needs to be washed by hand in the sink.
We keep track of everyone’s mom-bucks, chore assignments and activities on a chalkboard. Mom Bucks can also be earned at my discretion.
If I catch them doing something nice for a sibling, I’ll award a Mom Buck. I always keep a list of chores they can choose to do if they’d like to earn some more Mom Bucks, such as clean a bathroom, vacuum a room, straighten up the playroom, sweep the porch, etc. The harder the job, the more Mom Bucks they earn.
They can also lose Mom Bucks for using the words “stupid, hate, dummy” or any other truly disrespectful word.
That’s our system. It has evolved over many years and seems to work for us. If you haven’t done it already, develop your own list of expectations and clearly communicate them to your kids. Their future spouse or roommate will thank you for it.
It is a bit of a battle to get kids to accept responsibilities around the house, but it’s worth the effort. Someday, they’ll appreciate me. At least I hope they will.
Cara Achterberg is a York County mother of three who strives to live life organically and blogs about it at www.kidfriendlyorganiclife.blogspot.com.