An Alternative to Incentives with Chore Charts

When it comes to getting the chores done, it seems a no-brainer to first resort to the chore charts. It gets our children to get the jobs done with a sticker as an incentive. But are they really effective? Or are they only working only because of the gold star? Why do we seem to rely on extrinsic motivators with our children without question? 

Taken from the book, Punished by Rewards. Author, Alfie Kohn writes:

For starters, we tend to fall back on whatever will produce compliance. It is more convenient for us to get the garbage taken out, to get a child into bed at night (or out the door in the morning), to head off an imminent tantrum or squabble between siblings in the grocery store-regardless of how our tactics for doing this may affect the child's long-term development. Time constraints are very real, of course, and our own emotional needs, or even convenience, also count for something. But we need to be aware of the costs of these quick fixes: rather than rationalizing them as being in the child's best interest, we ought to face the fact that behavioral manipulation is ultimately detrimental. 

Let us be honest when we reward or punish by asking ourselves for whom we are doing it (them or us?) and for what (the development of good values or mere obedience?). 

This book has been one of the best, all-time reads, for me. This book actually confirmed a lot on how I naturally felt about my children and the negative affects of behavior manipulation, and to truly keep their best interest at heart when raising them, and that included getting chores done in the home, without the use of chore charts. 

One of the biggest, red flags I noticed with incentives was with my daughter, Bella, and one of our church programs. Children are to memorize scripture for rubies and patches; seems not only harmless but a worthwhile program to memorize God's word in their hearts. Right? But instead of memorizing scripture, it was filled with anxiety and stress to get it memorized. She didn't care what the bible verses meant as much as getting it done to get the prize. When I  asked her why she was so upset while trying to cram in a bunch of verses in her head, she would say it was because of the fear of not receiving her prize! 

This truly gave me a window into the carrot-stick method to get children to learn, no matter what you were trying to teach them. What about memorizing verses because it keeps God's word in our hearts  and not because of a prize. And what about being apart of keeping the home clean because of the satisfaction of it just being clean, instead of only doing a task, a good deed, etc...only if we are acknowledged for the good behavior? 

Well, I wanted to share how I've done it for years and how it's worked for my family. I have tried chore charts, I've tried writing all jobs needing to be done on a continual basis and handing the sheets to each of my children, I've tried just about everything it seems...and throw in the fact that I have a large number of children (seven) and it creates a tougher element because it's over-whelming! 

Planner Perfect works, dare I even say it?...Perfectly. I found with everyone's different, and ever-changing, schedules, jobs wouldn't never get done; here's what I've been doing for years, and if you've been looking for a chore method...try this out. It works!

Write on a piece of paper all the daily regiments for each child to be done, such as teeth brushing, getting dressed, feed the cat, etc...I limit this to a few chores and that only applies to morning routines. These daily chores can be pinned to a bulletin board or up on the fridge without any need for incentives. It is just there as a reminder for everyone and are simple and easy enough to be done daily no matter what schedule anyone has. 

In my planner, in the daily pages, it's simple to just jot down as a plan to get those "daily chores" done.

Other, more deep cleaning chores can be now be added within your week in your daily pages in your planner according to each child's schedule (and yours) by writing it on the day(s) best to accomplish it. Such as bathrooms, vacuuming, feather-dusting and such. Try planning deep cleaning on your home days, where you know you aren't going anywhere. This way you can be a domestic goddess and get some baking done, like homemade bread, and/or making it a laundry day, too. Get detailed on all you'd like to accomplish on those day or days in your planner with your cleaning and whom has been chosen in the family to do which task. For example you could write: me deep clean master bathroom, bedroom and vacuum. Maddy featherdust all family room furniture, John wash down all wood in the get the idea. 

PP Tip: Older children usually have much busier schedules that are hard to keep up with. I like to give them a couple staple chores that need to get done each week and give them the freedom to chose within the week when best to get it done.

You'll have a clean home, fresh bread and laundry done all in one day or spread it out amongst choose! Whatever fits you and your family best. Click on the deep cleaning chores, link above, for tips and a schedule for planning and getting certain deep cleaning jobs, done.  Your Planner Perfect, planner, harness these plans, beautifully.
One important element to getting jobs done in the home, is to include your children in the chore recruiting process. They do take more ownership with it when they are given the opportunity to be apart of what they can do to help out and helps aid in less whining. Everyone likes to be apart of decision making and this is a great way to get children involved, especially since it involves, them.

So how can we get them to do it without complaining and without a star as a reward? Well, there is no guarentee and I am capable of complaining myself. It's normal! But for the most part, children will do it because they have been apart of the chore assigning. And besides, if the cat doesn't get fed, they cat will be hungry, teeth left unclean risk cavities (must wash all the food off!)  and the like. When you tell them why these jobs need to be done, they understand. Who wants to go to the dentist and have a starving cat in their face? Everyone in the family will be more willing to get things done not because of a star but because they are working together to take care of the home.

Each week will vary as do our lives, so having these gems of cleaning musts, custom written in your planner, is one of the aspects that makes this planner, perfect. It is customized to your life, not a *one schedule fits all* with prescripted chore charts printed on your pages. Those extra chores you've speckled in some of your daily pages in the week, creates organization for your week(s), keeps your home clean and organized, and enables you to keep the house running, smoothly. 

Now I know there are a lot of mama's out there that are believers in chore charts and gold stars as incentives, but I wanted to show you, friends, a different alternative. An alternative that not only keeps you organized with a plan for a clean home, but more of a chore-cleaning democracy where all gets a say and get to decide what they can do to help keep the home running smoothly. This in-turn is their incentive, to feel good about being apart of the decision making process that keeps the home running like a well-oiled machine. 

I highly recommend, Alfie Kohn's book, Punished by Rewards. It will challenge traditional thinking... I know it did for me. 

Here's to throwing away our chore charts, friends! 

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