Healthy In Candy Land

Caring for our health & our planet one meal at a time

   Oct 29 2012

Chores, Charts and Children

I was recently asked about our family’s current chore chart system and how it works, and when there was a bribe offer involved to get me to write a post on it, I thought it might be something others might like to hear about as well. (No bribe necessary!)

Like so many things with raising kids, our reward system has evolved as our needs have changed over the years. When my boys (now ages 9 and 6) were younger, we were working very hard on teaching them basic life skills and especially good behavior. While we don’t necessarily believe in rewarding our kids for completing basic life skill tasks, I did need help in the behavior department. They seemed to go through phases of mostly good behavior, and then phases of what seemed like mostly bad behavior. During the bad behavior times I felt overwhelmed and frustrated. We needed something that would focus on positive reinforcement instead of always harping on the (seemingly plentiful) negative behavior. We needed consequences for negative behavior as our old favorite technique, the time out, had been outgrown. It is exhausting and not much fun sounding like a broken record repeatedly telling one kid or the other to stop doing this or that or the other thing.

In my desperate search for something–anything that would help, I stumbled upon the Behavior Bucks system online. There are many different kinds, and you can even purchase an entire system that explains in detail how to use it to it’s full potential. I simply printed out some ‘behavior bucks’ from a template at on two different colors of paper, letting my kids choose their color.

I decorated a recycled glass jar to hold the earned ‘bucks’ and kept it on the kitchen counter where they would be able to see their progress (or lack thereof as the case may have been) as often as possible.

Back then our focus was on behavior. I listed out exactly which behaviors would earn ‘bucks’  and which behaviors would cost them and posted them on the refrigerator at their eye level so they could refer to it often.

And they did.

I included a large range of redemption values so that they could have a more immediate payoff if they so desired, or they could save up and work towards something bigger and better.

I have to say–this system worked very well. It was so much less stressful for us parents! I spent more time noticing the positives and got to reward for them, and I could tell them to refer to the chart when they committed a negative offense for which they would have to remove a ‘buck’ from the jar themself. They were much more motivated to do something positive and the negative behavior eventually became less and less frequent.

Fast forward almost two years and we seem to be (mostly) past the behavior issues. (Thank goodness!) Our needs for this system had changed, so we changed the system accordingly.

Now, our focus is on self-motivation, independence and responsibility.

We still use the behavior bucks as payment, but the earning requirements look much different.

On our refrigerator is a chore chart for each kid:

I created them as a Word document, printed them out and put them in a plastic sheet protector. The boys use a dry-erase marker to check off their chores as they do them each day.

For each column that is completely filled with check marks they earn one behavior buck, for a possible seven ‘bucks’ each week. I pay up on Sunday evenings and they put their bucks in the same jar.

Just as the system has changed, so have the rewards. These rewards are all things they came up with on their own:

Now that they are older, the rewards don’t have to be quite as immediate, and they enjoy saving up for ‘big’ rewards. We have tried to focus on rewarding with fun experiences instead of “stuff” as my kids aren’t very motivated by material objects.

This new system is working out very well too, and we have had some fun times from them cashing in their ‘bucks’.

They are also rewarded for any extra chores they do around the house, and exceptional behavior and/or thoughtfulness is also handsomely rewarded. Just yesterday Cameron earned two extra bucks for volunteering to help us get ready for a party at our house. He vacuumed, helped in the kitchen, and cleaned up the play room, without being asked to do so! Yes!

There have been days when not all the check marks were earned, but for the most part, I don’t even have to ask them to do their chores anymore. We still take away ‘bucks’ for severe negative behavior, but it rarely happens.

One thing I was asked about and I was all,”well, uh, hmmm,” was, what if a child refuses to do a chore because they don’t feel like it, and willingly accepts the fact that they won’t earn their checkmark, or whatever other designated reward they usually earn?  It has never happened to us (quick, someone knock on some wood or something!), and frankly I’d never thought about the possibility before. While I sit here scratching my head, does anyone else have an idea? I guess you could take away previously earned ‘bucks’ for refusal to do set chores? Or something?

So then, what about real money? We’ve never given an allowance to our kids, but whenever they had a desire to earn money we set up opportunities for them to do so (like a specific job around the house, at Erik’s office, etc.), but since they are not very motivated by material things, they aren’t all that interested in earning money either. I would like them to learn money management though so I am thinking eventually we will introduce the idea, and maybe use real money instead of behavior bucks. But for now, things are working well as is, and the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” comes to mind.

How do you feel about rewarding kids? If you have kids, do you have a reward system in place? Do you have another system that works? What do you think about allowances? What age is the best time to start? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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  1. You’re so brilliant! My parents gave us a chore chart, but it was near this creative and they never lasted past the first couple of days of implementation. I still don’t put make my bed. LOL!

  2. Jeanette says:

    This brilliant and works for you! And the boys!

  3. Laurie says:

    Here at Chez Yoko the kids have jobs because we all need to help taking care of our home. They have “just because you are part of the family jobs” and then there are “you can earn some money jobs”. As Ben has gotten older and started to forget to unload the dishwaser from time to time, I implemented a “mom unloaded the dishwasher fee”. It is a heafty 20 bucks but it has reduced his forgetfulness :0)

    • Candy says:

      I like the fee penalty idea! I bet that would reduce any forgetfulness rather quickly! I totally agree with you that kids should have jobs just for being members of the family. (I wish I got a reward for all the jobs I have to do!)

  4. Laura says:

    Wow, this is so helpful. I’m not there yet, but we are definitely entering a new phase with more challenging behavior, and I’m brainstorming all the ways to handle this. I think I need to print this out for future reference… I love it! So encouraging to hear that you’re through some of the worst of the behavior too. It’s nice to know that end does come, eventually. :)

    • Candy says:

      I wouldn’t say we’re totally at the end just yet, but it is definitely SO much better as they get older. Good luck–just keep in mind during the worst of times that yes, it does get better. :)

  5. What a fantastic way to focus and direct children towards positive behaviour. I love it! I’ll pass on your post to some friends that are struggling with behavioural issues. I’m sure they’ll find it really useful :)
    I’ve been thinking that it’s about time we gave Lil’ L some chores to do (beyond cleaning his room). I think he’ll actually enjoy helping out, especially if the chores involve squirting liquids. Maybe I could give him that window cleaning job that desperately needs doing ;)

    • Candy says:

      Thanks for passing on my post! I hope Lil’ L responds well to having more chores. I honestly think my kids like having the reponsibility. It makes them feel important. :)

  6. Send me your chocolate request! Thank you so much for putting this post together. We are on week 3 of the chore chart. I have a list that are non-negotiable ‘jobs you do because you are part of the family’ that must be done every day before they can play outside/have screentime/do something fun and another list for earning extra money.

    We also started an allowance, but I’m not tying it to chores. I think I see the two (chores and allowances) as two separate opportunities to teach life skills. My girl is a bit materialistic, so money is an attractive incentive (she’s currently saving for another American Girl doll which, at $105, is going to take a LONG TIME). My boy would be much more on board with the experiences, so I need to think of a way to join the two.

    I know I always say this, but you are seriously such a great mom. Your boys are lucky to have you!

    • Candy says:

      I was glad to do it, no chocolate is necessary, really. (No, like, *really*–I had my fair share of Halloween candy and am now on a 6-week clean-up. :) ) You have inspired me to start the allowance thing–I think money management is a necessary life skill. So, thank YOU. :)

  7. Love this! I found it on Pinterest. I need something for our 5 and 3 year olds as time outs aren’t effective for the 5 YO anymore.

    Also wanted to comment as to advice on the cash management. In high school, my parents gave us $20 each Sunday night for lunch money, but if we made our lunch ourselves, we got to keep the money to spend on movies or clothes or eating out with friends on the weekend. I think it was a good system – it helped me be responsible (making my lunch) and learn to budget (is it worth spending $5 on a movie ticket with friends on Friday night, or should I save it for shopping at the mall with my sister on Saturday?) and patience (I didn’t get the money until Sunday night, so I had to hold onto the cash all week to get to the fun stuff the next weekend.). I’m going to do this with our kids when they’re a little older – probably 8 or 9 – and start with only $10/week. But I’m going to incorporate two new rules: #1 they have to put 10% in savings and tithe 10%. They won’t miss $2 of their $10, but the concept of living on 80% will be ingrained at an early age. (I hope!)

    • Candy says:

      I really like that money management idea–thank you for sharing it! I think we will try something like that starting in January. So many good lessons to learn with it–especially patience!

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