I still remember those days when my oldest son was a toddler and he was following me around the house, asking me to let him help with all the household tasks.
He had his own list of chores that he could do and he was so glad to help!
It was so cute to see him want to cook dinner with me, bringing food from the fridge with his little hands and climbing on his step stool to put them on the table! I felt so proud of him!
I knew that teaching responsibility and getting kids involved in household tasks from an early age is important and things seemed to be on the right track.
But as the toddlerhood years went by, his interest in these tasks seemed to decrease. He was still glad to help me but the tasks were no longer new and interesting.
So I started to look for ways to motivate him to keep helping around the house. I was familiar with many popular chore systems that were available online, but nothing really resonates with me.
I didn’t want to use rewards or punishments because I didn’t think that would work in the long run. And here is why.
Why some of the popular chore charts and systems are not working
Research shows that when parents use chores as punishments or they offer rewards for completing them, they are not sending kids the right message about them.
Why offering rewards for chores doesn’t work
The bad thing about offering rewards to kids is that they act as external motivators and don’t develop the child’s intrinsic motivation. If kids only do chores because of the rewards, then probably they won’t do them without the reward.
So instead of teaching them responsibility and motivate them to be helpful for the right reasons, we just “buy” their cooperation.
In the long run, when the rewards are no longer attractive, the kids will be less likely to still help around the house.
Why using chores as punishments doesn’t work
When we use chores as a punishment, the message that we are sending to the kids is that chores are unpleasant. Otherwise, why would we use them as punishments?
If the kids see chores as something unpleasant, they will oppose them a lot more.
Also, they will be less likely to help around the house when they are not forced to. This will bring more frustration for the parents, more power struggles, more fights that can be avoided.
The better alternative for teaching kids to be responsible and independent
It took me a while to find an approach that was both effective and playful. But luckily we found something that works great for us!
1. Replace “chores” with “contributions”
Contributions are household tasks shared by all the members of the family. They include all the tasks that make the household run well.
Every member of the family is encouraged to participate in these tasks in accordance with their skills and abilities.
The big difference between chore charts and contributions is the way the family perceives them.
Chores are usually perceived as boring tasks that no one really wants to do. Also, the parents are the ones setting the chores and demanding the kids to do them.
On the other hand, contributions are things that the family does together, by sharing the responsibilities. Each member of the family is involved in this and the focus shifts from “control” to “cooperation”.
Unlike chores, contributions foster teamwork and family bonding. Also, the fact that the parents are involved in these activities offers a great example for the kids to follow.
2. Focus on the outcome and encourage hard work
Instead of focusing on using rewards to motivate kids or punishments to force them to do certain household tasks, it’s a lot more effective to focus on the positive outcome.
Here are some examples of positive outcomes to highlight to the kids:
cleaning up toys: “The house looks a lot better when it’s clean and organized and we get to enjoy it more!”
helping with laundry: “We will have clean clothes to wear and this will help us feel good about how we look!”
cleaning up the table after dinner: “Cleaning up the table will keep our house healthy and help us enjoy many more happy dinners together!”
A great way to motivate kids without using rewards is praising their efforts. Let them know that you notice how much they help and tell them that their efforts are appreciated!
3. Get the child involved in setting the contributions and following up on them
The easiest way to do this is by using a contribution chart (or contribution cards for younger kids). You’ll find all the details about how to do this below.
How to implement contribution charts in an easy and playful way
Here are the 3 steps that I took for implementing contribution charts in our family.
I used a playful approach because I knew that this will gain my son’s heart easily and make this process run smoothly for all of us.
1. Create a contribution system for your family.
You can either use contribution charts or contribution cards (for young kids). You can find all the contribution charts and cards in this printable kit.
Write down a list of all the household tasks that need to be shared between the members of the family.
2. Plan a family meeting to talk about this
I love family meetings because they are a great way to encourage communication and get kids involved in family decisions.
I started by telling my son why contributions are important and how they can help our family. Then we showed him the cards and the charts and told him that they can help him contribute to our family.
We told him that each of us will contribute to the family and that this teamwork will help us run the house smoothly and have more time for fun.
We let him choose between the charts and the cards and agreed on all the tasks that he could do to help around the house.
3. Implement the new system
The next day we started using the new system and we all participated in this!
Each family member had tasks to take care of and we all worked as a team!
The chart allowed us to easily keep track of the individual contributions. It also brought a playful note to the whole process because we got to check the tasks that we completed and see how much we contributed.
The benefits of using contribution charts instead of chores
For us, using this approach was an instant win.
I started to see cooperation instead of refusals and complaints. My son was glad to contribute and we all felt more connected!
In fact, this is one of the things that I love most about implementing contribution charts: They bring more cooperation and connection and put an end to power struggles and unnecessary negotiations.
We feel like we are a team and we are working together to keep our house a nice and happy place!
I try to encourage my son every day by telling him that his efforts are a big help for us and praising his efforts. We don’t use any punishments or rewards and this system turned out to be a positive and effective approach!
When my son refuses to do one of his contributions we talk about it and find a solution together. This usually means either postponing the task to a later time that we both agree on or replacing it with something else (if this is possible).
The fact that I never force him to do a task or threaten him makes him more cooperative and willing to help so we usually don’t have major problems with sticking to the list of tasks.
Download the contribution charts and cards for kids
If you want to implement this idea with your kids, below you can find a list of age-appropriate chore ideas to use as inspiration.
I also created a printable kit including the contribution charts and cards we use. Inside you will find all you need to start using this approach in your home.
I was so happy to find this approach and see the results in our home and I’m pretty sure that you’ll love it too!
⭐ Download the contribution charts and cards (the complete printable set)
Article courtesy of PlayfulNote.com
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