With the start of the school year, it is time to get back on track with family routines. You know how the experts recommend consistency and schedules for younger children? AJ needs that TIMES 10. I also recognize that to succeed with my new habits, I will need supporting systems that make it easier to do the “right thing”. That includes getting AJ setup with a new chore chart and reward system.
The evolution of his chore charts would be a long post on its own, so here is the brief summary. We started AJ on star charts when he was about four years old. From the beginning, our charts have had an allowance, because we want AJ to have an ingrained sense of money management. There has also been a behavior element for the last several years. We’ve withheld stars for whining about chores and also tried a “3 strikes” system of warnings. The charts evolve as he grows more capable and responsible.
That said, I didn’t like where we ended up last year. It was messy and clunky by the end of the year. Mostly it was messy, and I wanted something clean and new.
We ditched the white board at the end of school, and AJ just did his chores from memory through the summer.
Last spring, a friend posted her version of the family chore chart. While they have a different chore philosophy, I got some great ideas. I loved the idea of a simple list of chores made from the magnet paper. Before drafting our new chart, I explored several parenting sites and Pinterest. I kept seeing the magnet boards setup with “To do” and “Done” columns. It was clean and simple.
On the flip side, the ToDo/Done lists require a parent to reset the board every day. AJ has been maintaining his chore list for over a year and knows what needs to be done on each day. Plus, we need the weekly record for his allowance accounting. I like that he owns this process and didn’t want to revert, but we have started to add bigger household jobs that only needed to be done weekly. These chores took up too much space on a weekly chart.
We also decided it was time to add a rewards system separate his allowance. This is mostly to address behavior choices and short circuit the whining cycle. We all needed a new paradigm as the simple “3 strikes” were no longer working.
Okay, so I need a board that covers daily and weekly chores. It has to be easy for AJ to maintain. It needs to stay clean. It needs to have a reward system. It needs to be easy to change so it can evolve as he grows.
Right, this took a while to sort out, but here is the finished product:
I used the magnets to label the board, and I used striping tape to lay it out. I don’t want a dry erase marker to ever come near this board! The magnets and tape still allow me to modify the whole system without having to buy a new board and start over.
The left side is for AJ’s chores. The right side is for ours. I saw this idea somewhere during my research, and really liked the idea of communicating shared family responsibilities. AJ maintains the chart by himself, and it is located in the kitchen near his chair, so it serves as a reminder.
At the bottom are reward cups where AJ earns points (pennies) that tally up each week and month. The numbered cups correspond to weeks in the month. His points accrue to earn weekly and monthly reward tickets. AJ and I worked together on the new rewards system, and he’s pretty excited about this.
It’s pretty amazing that simply shifting the perspective on how we give him treats works so well. None of the rewards are particularly expensive, mostly they are activities we do anyway. It was just a matter of framing them as goals instead of random treats.
I put the reward tickets out where he can explore them and hopefully get excited. I got a lot of kisses and hugs when we first developed the list, and I’ve found him checking the cards out a few times.
Overall, the system is probably more complex than most family systems, but it works for us. Since it evolved gradually, AJ has adjusted and adopted the changes. The complexity gives us a little more flexibility, and while it’s more work, it’s in line with our goals.
I was initially doubtful about a rewards system, but we’ve had the new board up for a few days, and it’s working great! Remember that bedtime whining habit? Well this is the answer to my goal to “Have the responses and warnings clearly written for reference”. His choices are to get a point for good “bedtime manners” (no whining, no stalling, bath/brush teeth, to bed, etc.) or to have tomorrow’s bedtime moved up in 10 minute chunks.
I’m hopeful that the progress will continue, but I will just adjust the system if he loses interest.
Do you have a working chore chart or reward system? I’d love to hear about it because, if history holds up, we’ll be evolving this to Version 4.2 in about six months.