In my Parents Guide to Pocket Money I mentioned that it’s not always a good idea to attach pocket money to chores. It’s just too easy for kids to refuse to do chores because they either don’t yet value money, or don’t have an immediate need for it – leaving you frustrated and with more things to do!
You’ll still need a way of incentivising the kids to do what needs to be done. If it’s not going to be with money, then the best idea is to create a second form of currency which can be earned.
Here’s some ideas on how – and why – to do this.
Use the things your kids value the most
Figuring out what incentives to offer in return for doing chores is easy – just find the things your kids value the most. In our house that would be access to technology, but it could just as easily be treats, play dates, sleepovers, or all of the above or anything else you think will work.
Whatever it is, it needs to be something they want, and can do frequently so they don’t have to earn so many points they’ll lose interest. It also needs to be something they can only get access to this way (ie. no giving them sneaky access to technology when they have no points because it’s the easy thing to do).
Once you’ve worked out what the incentive will be, you’ll need to create a currency.
Creating your ‘Rewards Currency’
In our house we give out Technology Points which can each be redeemed for 10 minutes of play time on the iPad or computer (as opposed to the access they need to do homework).
The value you give each point will depend on how many points it’s possible for them to earn each day. For example, if you want to limit technology to 30 minutes a day, then make it easy to earn those points, but more challenging to earn more.
The next step is to set the rules.
Setting the rules
Make the difference between an incentivised ‘chore’ and something you simply expect them to do really clear. For example: making a bed might be something you simply expect your child to do without being rewarded, whereas emptying the dishwasher or hanging out the laundry might be something you incentivise.
As the system becomes more embedded, the kids get older and expectations change you can revise the rules. For example – at first you might want to reward the kids for getting themselves ready for school on time – but once this becomes something they do as a matter of course you can take this off the list and replace with some other behaviour that needs changing.
If you like to run a democracy, you can even sit the kids down from time to time and review/debate/negotiate what’s on the list and how many ‘points’ each chore is worth. It’s also a great opportunity to reiterate expectations and agree on new chores to be added to the list.
Keeping track of rewards
You’ll be constantly adding points as they are earned and taking them away when they’re redeemed so whatever system you use – marbles in a jar, marks on a chalkboard or a fancy app – make sure it’s easy and manageable.
Rewards should be paid out once chores are completed (to your satisfaction), but you can also take them away if chores aren’t completed on time.
When setting the rules for your house, consider what the penalty is for chores that aren’t done. Depending on the personality of your child/ren it may need to be harsher than simply not earning that point
For example: Miss 8 refuses to set the table even though it’s her night to do so. Not only does she not earn a point, she also gets one taken away. During one particularly stubborn streak we even had a child on negative points which meant a ban on all privileges. Let me just say, there’s nothing like only two out of three kids being allowed a bun from the bakery to get an errant 8 year old back on track with their chores.
Read more about why linking chores with pocket money isn’t a good idea in my Parents Guide to Pocket Money.