Over the years I have shared various chore systems that I use with my kids. We all want more help, right? We also want our kids to learn basic living skills, and to learn how to work hard.
It’s not always fun. I am not Mary Poppins.
Then there’s the balance of figuring out allowances and money. As parents, we have to decide if we want our kids to learn how to manage money, and does that go with learning how to earn money? Should you do an allowance, or should you pay for jobs? If you pay for jobs, do you have to pay for all jobs?
The thing we are all trying to avoid is that situation where you ask your child to pick up their toys and they say, “How much will you pay me?” Ugh. Nope.
For the past couple of years, we have started just tacking on chores to meals. After every meal, every school-aged kid (1st grade on up) gets a 20 minute chore. Granted, they sometimes take an hour to do this 20 minute chore. It is often dependent on their attitude, am I right? This has worked well to keep us afloat. I’ve learned that I can’t really get anything done during those times, as I go from child to child and keep them motivated, show how to do it right, and make sure they’re actually on task.
We also do a big chunk of chores every Saturday morning as a family. I write out a list of things that we absolutely must get done, and everyone works on the list until it is completed. Then they get their screen time for the week when we are done. We blast music as we clean as a family, and try to make it as fun as possible. If we have something we have to do on Saturday morning, it messes up my whole next week, because I literally have no other time to clean.
What I struggled to figure out is how to do is my chores. Those chores that don’t work well in the normal rotation of chores, or if they’re just part of the deep cleaning of the house, and not the regular after-lunch variety.
Since my life is becoming increasingly busy as my kids’ chauffeur, teacher, mother, and writer and tutor on the side, I need more help at home. Also, as the kids are getting busier and are out of the house more, we are losing more and more Saturday mornings.
It’s getting hard to stay on top of the house cleaning.
My schedule is at the point where I would love to hire someone to come and just go over my house and make it sane again. I live in a rural location, where cleaning help is tough to come by, and it’s tough having a stranger come into my home. I have enough side jobs at my kids’ things to justify it financially. But it just never works.
This last winter, when I was over at a friend’s house, she had a “Commissions” list on her wall, and pointed me to it as I asked how she kept her home clean with so many kids. I went through the normal questions: “Do they stop doing regular chores then?” or “What if they don’t do a very good job?” She may have gotten this from financial guru, Dave Ramsey. I don’t know. (My oldest is going through Ramsey’s homeschool curriculum this summer for fun, so I’ll let you know! She’s frantically working on building an emergency fund right now.)
But let me tell you, this system has been a great addition to our regular chore system.
Here are my rules, that are clearly stated and written so my kids can see:
1) Commissions don’t take the place of regular after-meal chores. I will not pay you for being apart of our family, and I will not pay you to pick up your toys. These wages are for above-and-beyond chores.
2) I will not nag the kids to do commissions. They have to take the initiative. If I ask them to do a chore, they can assume that they won’t get paid, and you step up and help your mom when she asks for help. If there is no initiative, there is no payment.
3) Commissions can only be done during free time, and you have to ask before you do them. No cleaning the bathroom during what should be your spelling lesson and expect a pat on the back. I have a stack of laminated notecards that I have written out each of the commissions that can be done in the house. I keep them in a little gift bag on the counter. Each day, I take out the cards that could be done that day. (Wiping down the kitchen cupboards, changing sheets, and detailing the van aren’t daily jobs.) I will routinely see a child standing at the counter, and looking through the commission options for that day.
4) Each commission card has the name and price for payment on the front. On the back is the inspection list. If a child says they will do a commission, the expectation is that they know how to do everything on the checklist. I offer 2 AND ONLY 2 inspections. I can’t spend time standing over their shoulders making sure they’re doing a good job. I will train the kids for free, during their chore times. If they want to be paid, they must ALREADY know how to do the chore, and get it done fully. If they forget, they can look at the checklist. They get 1 inspection where I will point out things that they have missed, or haven’t done up to standard. If they fail the 2nd inspection, they simply don’t get paid, and I offer to show them how to do the chore during our regular chore times when I have
time to do that. “Kids learn for free. Professionals get paid.” That’s my motto.
5) Payday is Saturday morning, before our regular Saturday family chore day. Here’s the kicker. Our Saturday cleaning list is all the commissions that are urgent that we didn’t get done during the week. Only now they don’t get paid for them. So either way, by the end of the week, my house gets clean-ish. But IF they do our list before Saturday, they get paid, and we can spend the day doing something else.
So really, what it amounts to is the kids are asking me to train them to do more chores, they are fighting me less, and meeting my high standards, and we have more free time on the weekend.
The catch? I’m paying them actual money. No more $0.25 chores. They get paid bills. It’s not uncommon for one of them to rake in $20 from the week. I have raised the price of jobs that never get picked, and I have lowered the price of jobs they fight over. That’s a basic economic lesson in there too! Sometimes they’ll go a few weeks with no commissions, and then clean $30 worth for a concert or something. Either way, it’s way cheaper than hiring someone.
The other catch? I have told them that if they’re old enough to get commissions, they’re old enough to pay for their own extra things, like birthday parties, toys, etc. The same standards of toys for our house applies, so no going out and buying stuff that we can’t sustain in our house “because I spent my own money.” I can’t stand loud, messy toys, and so those rules stay unchanged. They can’t buy an iPod touch just because they have the money. Technology is a chore for a parent to stay on top of, and they need more than just money to get some things.
So the kids want to buy sports gear and Bible camp stuff with their money. (2 things we previously just bought for them…so we really aren’t out any extra money. Shhhhhh…) But they value it so much more when they spend THEIR OWN MONEY!
For those who would love to see what’s on our commission cards, here are a peek at some of them:
If you would like a free printable of the commission rules we use to post in your home, and a list of your own, click here, and I’ll send it right to your inbox!