My Chore System in Detail
I mentioned in this post that the keys to managing the household in a super-sized family is to have the entire family working as a team and to train the children to do their part as early as possible.
I know we all have a different system that works for us, even among different “large” families. And I know that some are still trying to find a system that works. It is my hope that through reading about my system, you can at the very least glean some ideas if you are one of the ones struggling. I have re-vamped our chore system several times over the years and have finally come up with something that works for us!
- printer paper (& printer)
- laminating sheets (& laminating machine)
- binder rings
- hole punch
We all need accountability. If we were to be employed outside the home, we would expect performance reviews from time to time. Our raises, and possibly even our job security would be based on these reviews. If we did our best every day, doing everything decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40), we would expect some praise, a pat on the back, and, if possible, a raise. If we were slackers, on the other hand, doing poor or sloppy work, or were lazy, we should expect to be reprimanded, disciplined, or even fired. In training our children in character (Proverbs 22:6), why should we expect less than their best efforts? And why shouldn’t we give rewards or demerits based on the quality of their work?
This is where I implement my points and demerits system.
The first step is to make very detailed chore lists so the children *know* exactly what the job entails. No guessing – everything is outlined for them. The second step is to assign a point value to every task. Mine are divided into zones, then broken down into tasks. For instance, one of my kitchen zones (kitchen is a BIG job, so it is divided into four individual zones) looks like this:
Zone 1c: KITCHEN
Wash dishes (5)
Put away clean dishes (5)
Scrub sink well, and counter behind sink AND faucet (make faucet shine) (2)
Make sure dishwasher is clean/scrubbed on the outside (2)
Notice how each task is worth a certain number of points and the zone as a whole is worth the total of those? When the chores are checked, the children in charge of that zone are given either demerits or points valued at the number in parentheses based on whether the job is done or not. (And obviously, we have had an issue with dishes not being loaded into the dishwasher properly, thus coming out dirty — so I had to add a little detail so there would be no questions. :) )
Why zones? I know the whole concept of zones makes things sound a little more complicated, but for someone like me, who tends to get overwhelmed easily, zones are very valuable. I see them as “bites”. Each group of children (we have “teams”) is in charge of 4-5 zones each. When they go through their lists/cards, each detailing a separate zone, they can flip to the next page after each particular zone is accomplished. They have “bitten off” a chunk of the work, and are able to have that sense of satisfaction before tackling the next zone. It helps to keep from feeling overwhelmed and boosts morale to some degree.
My zones are as follows (I know this will be a matter of personal preference, and every family will be inclined to divide their zones up differently):
- Zone 1a – Kitchen (organization & floors)
- Zone 1b – Kitchen (surfaces & appliances)
- Zone 1c – Kitchen (dishes)
- Zone 1d – Kitchen (eating area)
- Zone 2a – Boys’ Suite (linen closet, hallway)
- Zone 2b – Boys’ Suite (bedroom)
- Zone 2c – Boys’ Suite (bathroom)
- Zone 3 – Family Room
- Zone 4a – Girls’ Suite (bedroom)
- Zone 4b – Girls’ Suite (bathroom)
- Zone 5a – Laundry Room
- Zone 5b – Laundry (washing/drying)
- Zone 5c – Laundry (folding)
- Zone 6a – Pool Area
- Zone 6b – Garage & Outdoors
- Pets – Cats
- Pets – Turtle & Fish
- Pets – Bearded Dragon
- Pets – Dog
The Buddy System:
This mainly only applies to large families, obviously, but from the time we had more than a few children we have implemented the buddy system. Each older child is assigned a younger buddy. This is useful for so many reasons! The older buddy helps keep an eye on the younger when we are out. He gets shoes for the younger buddy when we are leaving, helps get the younger ready to go, and makes sure the younger is properly buckled in the car seat. He helps serve the younger buddy at meal time. The two develop a bond, while leaving the older buddy with a feeling of responsibility and the younger with a mentor. This system carries over into chores.
Now, I don’t expect the younger of the team to be able to do all of the hard work that the older does, but they must stay by the older’s side, being encouraged and trained. And the older buddies *want* to encourage and train, knowing if he does so, the younger will soon be pulling more weight!
The Chore Cards
I know some have chore sheets posted somewhere, while others have charts, pockets, or cards. We are card people. The way we do it requires card stock, a printer, and a laminating machine.
First we print a name card. I do this on gray cardstock, printing onto a full-sized sheet, then cutting in half and laminating afterward. This includes the names of those on an individual buddy team.
Then I print the cards themselves, which look like the example given above. These are printed onto blue cardstock, then cut in half and laminated, just as the name cards are.
Once laminated, I punch two holes in each card, and hold each team’s current set of cards together with two binder rings. This keeps the cards together so they are not lost, and enables us to easily take them apart and reassemble when chores are traded.
Implementing the System:
Now that each team has its own set of cards, they don’t have to be told what to do. The cards take that job away from me. :) They must simply keep their chores done in a timely fashion, as detailed on the cards, and wait for the chore check!
The chore check MUST be done in order for this system to work. That’s *our* job. I have noticed that when I have let a couple days slide without checking, the children do begin to slack off and get lazy. Why? It comes back to that first step — accountability. By their own human nature they don’t WANT to do work. So in their minds, if no one is going to notice; if they will neither get rewards nor discipline for their work (or lack thereof), why bother?
This is an area where I wanted my husband to hold them accountable. With him being gone all day long, the children tend to take him for granted; see him as a “pushover”. I’ve even heard them say things like, “Dad won’t care if it’s done right.” So…I gave the job to Dad and have asked him to check chores by my standards. It is finally starting to get the children’s attention! (And Rob is beginning to pay more attention to detail in the process).
As mentioned in an earlier post, I keep a household organizational binder, appropriately titled “Janne’s Little Attempt at Sanity”. This binder, in addition to many other things, contains a weekly chore/demerit sheet. When it is time to check chores, Rob simply uses the children’s card sets to see what has and hasn’t been done, and to see how many points or demerits they have gotten, then he records them onto this sheet. At the end of the week he then transfers the total onto a spreadsheet so we can keep a running total!
Cashing In! – The Rewards
The floating chores are reassigned every Friday night before bed. It is this time that the children can decide to spend or bank their current points. We have a reward chart listing items and activities that points can be traded for, and we have a prize basket containing all kinds of little goodies that they can choose from. They can also trade in their points for cash, if they choose, in $1 increments.
In awarding points, the older children’s points are worth twice what the younger children’s are (since they do more work), so the point values are approximately 50 points = $1.00 for the older kids and 50 points = $.50 for the youngers.
Here is an example of our reward chart (the points shown in parentheses reflect first the number of points it costs the olders, then the number of points it costs the youngers):
Candy bar or canned soft drink – (Points: 25/50)
One hour of computer time – (Points: 25/50)
Trip to clubhouse with Mom and/or Dad to workout, play tennis, swim, hot tub, play pool, etc. – (Points: 40/80)
Something from “Dollar Spot” or Dollar Store – (Points: 50/100)
One hour of tv time – (Points: 75/150)
“Date Night” w/ Mom and Dad (free place + drink) – Points: 100/200)
Movie Rental + 2 hours tv time to watch it – (Points: 250/500)
“Date Night” w/ Mom and Dad (Fast food) – (Points: 600/1200)
“Date Night” w/ Mom OR Dad (Movie) – (Points: 700/1400)
“Date Night” w/ Mom OR Dad (Restaurant) – (Points: 1000/2000)
Reward from Prize basket – point value listed
For those who may be wondering about what kinds of things I put into the prize basket, I try to keep everyone in mind while shopping, picking up such things as tennis balls, marbles, and yo-yos for the older kids, and play food and matchbox cars for the younger ones. The dollar section of Target is a great place to find prizes. If you check back often, you will see that they often clearance out their dollar items to make room for new ones. These clearances are sometimes 75% off, so I have been able to find lots of things — stickers, lip gloss, notepads — for 25 cents each. Another good place to look is Big Lots. I found a couple of Liberty’s Kids DVDs there recently for $1 each. Another “hit” with the kids is bags of seasonal candy that I pick up after holidays. We rarely eat sweets and snacks here, so they love it when they can cash in points for candy or snack-sized bags of treats, or tic-tacs.
Please Share! — I decided to blog about my chore system after the discussion came up on a message board I visit. It is intriguing to me to see how other people do it. So please feel free to share what your method is, either on your blog or in a comment here so I can check it out. :)