This post is third in a series on chores for kids . . . see also here and here.
Ah . . . chore charts. Those rectangular reminders of what we meant our lives to look like. The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but the waiting room of chaos is wallpapered with well-begun chore charts.
Our approach is: Chore charts are great for setting new habits or reaching short-term goals. But in my experience they are unlikely to be manageable in the long-term.
For example, when we first began extracurriculars like music, foreign language, and organized sports the kids rarely remembered to practice and I was tired of constantly reminding them (or forgetting to remind them). So, we set up a chore chart with a spot for each practice and daily chore, and if they had checked all the boxes before dinner time, they could earn half-an-hour of screen time.
I liked it, because it really was motivating and it was easy for me to see who had done what. It was a success in helping them establish the habit of practicing every day. But then . . .
So, it wasn't useful in the long term. AND I didn't like that it created a sense of entitlement in the kids. They had EARNED that screen time by completing their chores and practices, so they were OWED that screen time no matter what.
But this world view doesn't reflect the truth of their position in this family. My children must do chores because someone has to do them and once we got past three kids it wasn't physically possible for me to accomplish everything that needed to get done in this house. If they have a problem with that they need to take it up with God, because He's the one who sent them to this particular family.
Anytime we are doing chores, we constantly ask them, "What are you doing to help this family?"
And as for music and sports practice, I want my kids to feel grateful that some of our family's money is going to pay for these lessons for them. The lessons ARE a reward. I know it doesn't feel like that come practice time, but that's how they OUGHT to feel. And long-term chore charts that give them rewards are contrary to that goal. (This wouldn't apply to keeping records of practices or even chores, just to rewarding practices and chores.)
We have had repeated yearly success with good deed/chore/practice jars during defined periods like Advent or Lent. It helps keep us mindful enough that we don't forget we're doing it. And the end is always in sight.
A chore chart can also be effective as a way to rejuvenate things if chores have been getting lax, using as an incentive a particular family treat like the movies or a theme park (if you happen to be made of money) just to re-establish the good habits.
But around here, kids do chores for the same reason that I do, out of love for God and the other people in this family. Or maybe it's to keep from getting grounded from the Wii. Either way they're getting done.
So, if chore charts aren't the solution, what is? Shall we just give up and string rope bridges across the house, to transport us over the clutter?
Well, don't do that quite yet. Today I told you what doesn't work for us. Tomorrow I'll tell you how we DO accomplish chores.
Thanks to my friend Coco at Vida Coco for submitting the question! Try her Chilaquiles Casserole, yum.