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Monday, 2 September 2013

Routines and Household Jobs for Children

This post is longer than my usual, but it didn't seem easy to divide into parts.  I hope you find it helpful.   

  With the start of school, families with children may welcome the return of routines.  It seems like an appropriate time to share how my children contribute at home in order to earn a weekly allowance pay cheque.  I need to give credit to Sheila Wray Gregoire who led me in this direction through her book To Love, Honor and Vacuum.  I’ve stated before that I grew up on a farm, and that naturally led to us children pitching in and doing jobs for the benefit of the family.  Living in an urban setting is different, of course, but there are still plenty of ways to teach children important life skills through doing jobs and managing the money they earn from that.
   When our youngest was 5 years old, we started our current system of jobs and allowances.  The number of weekly jobs was equal to the age of the child.  The allowance was $1 per job, with half of that being directly deposited into the child’s savings account every month.  The remainder was given into the child’s hand to spend on school pizza days, church offerings, and as they got older clothing, birthday gifts for friends, and any non-essentials they wanted to save up for.
   Now that my children are 15, 13 and 11 (later this week) some may be wondering how to come up with that many jobs for each child.  Some suggestions follow:
·        Jobs for younger children (5 to 11 years old)
1.    help with cooking supper (tear lettuce for salad, arrange a cracker plate, make dream whip, put muffin papers in the pan and scoop in the batter, etc.) one assigned day per week
2.    sort dirty laundry into lights/darks/towels
3.    water plants outdoors
4.    sort silverware into the drawer after it has been washed and dried
5.    wash or dry dishes one day a week; or empty dishwasher once per week on an assigned day
6.    organize a kitchen drawer or pantry shelf each week
7.    set the table for one meal (breakfast or supper) every day
8.    clear the table after a meal (supper) every day
9.    put away fridge items after every meal, every day
10.  tidy bathroom vanities and restock toilet tissue
11.  fold clean towels as needed
12.  straighten shoes at front entrance as needed
13.  light dusting with a cloth (designated area) once per week
14.  clean own bedroom once a week (make bed, clear and sweep floor)
15.  sort recycling into paper and containers
·        Jobs for older children (age 12 and up)
1.    trim grass at edge of lawn and around trees with hand-held clipper
2.    cut lawn/shovel snow/rake leaves as needed during the appropriate season
3.    mix up frozen juice as needed
4.    help with cooking supper (grate cheese, peel potatoes, fry meat, chop vegetables, etc) one assigned day per week.
5.    change bed sheets of self and siblings, in rotation, once a week
6.    take clean clothes off the clothesline or out of the dryer as needed
7.    bake once a week for the family
8.    clean own bedroom to a higher standard
9.    practice piano or other instrument for which the child receives lessons
10.  sweep or dustbuster under the dining room table, daily
11.  fold clean laundry
12.  put out garbage or recycling to the curb
13.  make own lunch for school each day
14.  water house plants
   You may notice that “dirty jobs” are deliberately left off the list.  Cleaning toilets or emptying the compost will have to be learned and done eventually, but I don’t want the children to feel like slaves.

   A few questions I could anticipate:

What if the child does not do the assigned jobs?
In our family we have an all-or-nothing approach.  Allowance is not paid unless all the jobs are done by Saturday at suppertime.  Extensions are granted if the child has been away for all of Saturday (birthday party or excursion).  In fact, since there is an automatic deposit into the child’s savings account, we actually impose an equivalent fine for not doing their jobs that week.  In the past two years I cannot remember having this problem.
Doesn’t paying your child to be helpful around the house create a sense of entitlement?
Not in my experience.  Since my children now earn a sizable allowance, along with their paper route earnings, they pay for almost all of their own clothing and save up for bigger items.  Entitlement is more likely to result when a parent is lax about enforcing chores and yet continues to be “moneybags” whenever the child wants the latest electronic device or “needs” a whole new wardrobe for back-to-school.
Have you found any disadvantages to this system?
Sometimes my children become discouraged at how much time it takes to save up for items they want when they see their peers do not have to do the same.

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