Photo by: Shutterstock

Chore Sticks

by Kirsty of "Momedy"
Photo by: Shutterstock

First, I must give credit where it is due. I got this idea from the To Do List Jars on a blog site called “Everything Nice.” Here is my adaptation:

First, I put each child’s name on a glass jar. I then got coloured craft sticks (’cos they are prettier) and painted the tip of one end white. Each kid is assigned their own colour. That makes it easier when you add in the allowance earning sticks (which you will learn about later – patience, Grasshopper).

With a felt tip pen, we wrote everything I nag them about on a daily basis onto a separate stick. For my four year-old, I drew a little picture, too.

I used red sticks in the older boys’ jars for things which are not daily requirements; voluntary things that they wanted regular reminders on – like writing in their journal or updating their cute little blog.

Before we go out each day to do something fun, all the sticks must be white-side up (within reason). I no longer have to tell people to do their hair, brush their teeth, make their beds, do their chore of the day or practice their instrument.

It is all neatly encompassed under one cheerful and easily spoken nag, “Have you done your sticks yet?” It has really made the kids a lot more self-sufficient, and has the added blessing of everyone experiencing less exposure to my lecturey voice

And then there is the ever debated, agonized over allowance issue. Okay, here are my basic stipulations regarding allowance:

1. I want it to be a reasonable facsimile of how real life works. You do work, you get paid. You don’t do work, you do not get paid. You choose. If you do a lot of work, you get paid more (in a perfect world eh?), if you do a little work, not so much.

2. I do not want to pay my children for things that they need to do for the privilege of living in this house. Being part of a family means you don’t get paid for making your bed. Fah gosh sakes.

3. I want the work=money connection to be easily apparent to them.

4. I want to pay them for stuff that we actually need done. I want their work to truly be of value.

So this is what we’ve come up with. We have a stick jar (and stick colour) devoted entirely to money-earning type jobs. It is creatively named: $ Job Jar $.

On each stick, there is a job description and a monetary value attached to the job.

They can select the job they want to do (or don’t want to as the case may be, but hey, money talks). Once the job is done, they take the stick and put it white-side up in their individual jar.

When we take the sticks out of their jar, we replace them with payment. The job stick then goes back into the job jar. We keep a stick white-side up if the job is not required (don’t want two people sweeping the deck within minutes of each other) and turn it white-side down once we need that particular job done again.

I also love that I don’t have to come up with a job on the spot when they decide they need some cash to support their Webkinz habit. I can also add jobs as I see the need for them, which fulfills that whole “work of value” requirement.

Our kids take the money deposited in their jars and put it into their money banks (which have separate boxes for tithing, savings, spending, etc.). It’s really theirs to handle from there on out.

I have a friend who keeps her kids’ money separated in jars, so they can see it grow and how it is distributed. I think it is a nice incentive – nothing like seeing your nest egg grow!

One thing my accountant dad did when I was growing up, which I thought was quite brilliant, was to give each kid a little ledger book. We had to account for every penny of our pocket money each month – keeping a running balance – before we got paid again. Ultimately, we could spend it how we liked, we just had to be able to account for it.
It was rather stressful for the ‘math impaired,’ but it was a very valuable exercise. My two older boys are now old enough for us to institute this, I think. I love using the ledger as a teaching tool, because the number one rule of successful money management is to know where your money is going. (Or so all the books tell me.)

Over my near decade of parenting, I have come to the conclusion that nothing works forever, no matter how brilliantly it may at first. You really do have to switch things up fairly regularly, it seems. Really, the stick concept it just a graduation from the storyboard concept we were using before.

The sticks are working for us right now. They are an easy way to keep track of things, and require no stickers, star charts or things to check off.

Hope this helps someone. What works for you?

Kirsty Sayer was born and raised in South Africa and now lives with her husband, five children and one long-suffering dog in super-exotic Ohio. Her kids range in age from 14 years to 17 months, and it is slowly dawning on her how much trouble she is in. VIsit her blog "Momedy" to learn more.

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