Not long before the Christmas holiday, my husband and I were at a meeting with a special needs counsellor who had spent a few months evaluating our three-year-old son at his preschool. Ever since he was born, he’s been an incredibly high-energy kid who was often known to get us kicked out of Circle Time because he wouldn’t sit still. As he transitioned into preschool, he showed great strength in many areas, but he struggled emotionally and socially. We have been incredibly fortunate to have numerous resources helping him, and we’ve seen some amazing improvements with his behaviour. During our meeting with the special needs counsellor, one of the things she suggested to us for our son was to introduce him to a responsibility chart, because he is the kind of kid who thrives on routine.
As fate would have it, within one week of this meeting, we received a responsibility chart as a gift at a Christmas party! It seemed only logical that we order a second chart for our five-year-old daughter, so that she too could learn from it. We found the same Melissa & Doug Magnetic Responsibility Chart on Amazon for our daughter as our son received for Christmas. We started off with simple, age-appropriate tasks that both kids were familiar with (getting dressed, brushing teeth, etc) as well as a few new tasks that they weren’t already doing (making their beds, feeding the dog, etc). Every couple of weeks or so, we switch up the tasks a little for variety and to challenge them to do new things. We decided that each successfully executed responsibility would be worth a magnetic sticker and 25 cents to each kid, so effectively, the responsibility charts have also introduced the concept of a monetary allowance into our house. Here are five things we’ve observed since introducing the responsibility charts:
1. Introducing New Tasks Is Easier Than I Thought. Originally, I thought that introducing new responsibilities to our kids would take a lot of effort. The responsibility chart has been a great reminder that kids actually *love* learning new things, and coupled with the motivation to receive a sticker and a quarter, their enthusiasm for new tasks is quite clear. Almost every day, my daughter now feeds our dog, lets her outside to do her business, and wipes her paws when she comes back in the house. My son often trails behind her to help. Our German Shepherd is admittedly confused by her new pint-sized masters, but watching the kids excitedly take care of their pet makes me beam with pride.
2. Delegating Household Tasks To My Kids Is A Good Lesson For My Type-A Personality. I have always been one of those “if you want something done right, you better do it yourself” kind of people. Part of this is rooted in my constant quest for efficiency – if it takes me longer to delegate something, or to teach someone how to do something than it does for me to actually do it myself, then why not just do it myself? While this logic has served me well for most of my life, I have to remember that I’m not serving my kids well if I’m not teaching them how to do things for themselves. My son spends a good 5-10 minutes in the morning making his bed, which would take me 60 seconds to make. When he makes his bed, it comes out wrinkly, lopsided and still messy, but I let him do it anyway, because the smile on his face and the sense of achievement is far more rewarding than a perfectly made bed. (And besides, I can always smooth out the bed later)!
3. It’s Not A Bad Thing To Motivate Your Kids With Money. I sat on the fence about introducing a monetary reward with the responsibility chart, simply because shouldn’t kids be doing household chores to contribute to helping the family because that’s what “good kids do?” However, the special needs consultant encouraged us to consider us some sort of token system as a reward. My husband and I decided that we were okay with a small monetary token in exchange for a household task, because we’d also like for our kids to learn responsibility and ownership with money. When we go to work for a living as adults, no matter how high our ideals are, and now matter how much we may or may not love our jobs, at the end of the day, we work to earn a paycheque, and there’s nothing wrong with our kids learning the same concept.
4. Our Kids Take Pride In Paying For Things With The Money They’ve Earned. Each kid now has a wallet filled with quarters and dollar coins that they’ve earned. One week after we introduced the responsibility charts, it was time for us to pay for my daughter’s school pizza day. My daughter decided proudly that she wanted to pay the $4.00 for the slice of pizza herself. At first, my parental guilt kicked in with thoughts like “wait a minute – that’s her food – shouldn’t we as parents be paying for that?” But the next day, seeing my daughter bring her wallet to school and proudly hand the $4.00 to her teacher for her own pizza, let me realize she feels an immense sense of achievement in earning money and paying for things herself. Sometimes when we’re reading a bedtime story, my kids will ask if they can have a new book – and guess what – they are thrilled that they can both choose a book *and* pay for it. Once a week, before my kids go to hockey school, my husband allows the kids the opportunity to buy a treat like popcorn or candy with their money, which they really look forward to. Furthermore, as more time has passed and their earnings have grown, the kids have started to grasp the concept of saving.
5. Kids Are Human, Just Like Us. Sometimes They Don’t Feel Like Doing The Work. By and large, the responsibility chart has been a great addition into our house: We have help with the household chores, our kids are learning about earning and accomplishment, and it’s slightly easier to make it out the door on time each day. However, no responsibility chart in the world is going to motivate either of my kids when they’re in that Picking-Flowers-In-A-Soccer-Field kind of a mood. Sometimes either one of the kids are just not feeling it that day, and they now understand and accept the fact that if they don’t complete a task, they don’t get the reward. I generally don’t push the issue, because it doesn’t seem to happen too often, and more importantly, they both understand that not doing a task means no reward.
Introducing responsibility charts has been a great thing in our house, and in all honesty, I’m kind of regretting not doing it sooner. I believe any family can benefit from a responsibility system, and the beauty of it is, that every family can design a reward system best suited to their needs.