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How I Got My Kids off Their Butts

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Momlogic's Julie: It cost less than five dollars ... but the results have been priceless.

responsibility chart

A few weeks ago, my husband and I had reached a breaking point: The house was in chaos, the kids were neither helping or listening, and things just felt out of control. With school starting, jobs intensifying, and paperwork multiplying, we were losing a handle on things ... fast. What were we going to do?

We sat down and talked it out. Things needed to change. We couldn't get a handle on the cleaning anymore, but we couldn't afford to hire someone. After weighing all our options, it was obvious what needed to be done: The kids were going to have to pitch in more -- period.

But that was a whole other challenge. My 7-year-old and 4-year-old barely lifted a finger. I know that was definitely our fault, but frankly it just felt easier to do things ourselves rather than tell them 500 times to do something. But us doing everything for them wasn't doing them any favors either, and we knew that.

I spent a few hours on a Sunday making a responsibility chart. Each child would have 23 responsibilities that ranged from getting dressed and brushing teeth (without being told) to making their beds and putting away their dishes. We threw in a few "wish list" items like "no fighting" and "no whining or tattling," too. Each time my son or daughter completed a task, they put a star on the chart. At the end of the day, my husband and I would assess if they earned the behavioral stickers. They would earn a dollar a day -- 7 dollars a week -- if the chart was maintained, and would lose money when they did not do their share.

We are in week 3 now -- and the change in our house has been astronomical. The kids are excited to earn their stickers and are doing more than they ever have before. We yell at them so much less. They feel more "grown-up" and are acting more mature, and we have more to be proud of them for. The load on me and my husband is so much lighter now.

Now the pressure's on us to keep up the momentum. The chart is starting to become less exciting and more routine, which means the kids are not quite as gung-ho about it as they were in week one. It's all too easy to slip into old habits, but now that we have seen how much the chart benefits our family, we have a reason to keep it going.

Am I the only one who's felt like an unpaid slave to my kids?

next: I Told My Husband to Get a "Happy Ending"
11 comments so far | Post a comment now
April October 13, 2008, 4:33 PM

great idea … I am going to try this. NOTHING keeps my kids motivated. I am their unpaid slave!

Anonymous October 13, 2008, 4:46 PM

Great job, Julie! You’re an excellent mom.

Wendi October 13, 2008, 5:24 PM

I think that is great, I have done it too. Money is a great motivator for kids. I do not think it is making them a slave at all. They help make messes, they should help clean them. Long ago, this was expected of kids and they did not get money for it. I talk to my kids alot about being responsible and taking care of the house. They need to know that they will be doing it for their own house someday and they will need to know how as well. I wish there were more moms like you out there these days. If there were, kids would not feel so “entitled” to everything.

Anonymous October 14, 2008, 12:09 AM

I think it’s sick that you make your kids do chores. They are not little servants, they’re kids!

Wendi October 14, 2008, 1:11 AM

How is it sick to make kids do chores?? They know how to make the mess, how else will they know how to clean it up and take care of their house when they grow up? Ir also teaches them responibility, which by the way more kids need these days. I think it is very sad that you feel that way and it is that type of thinking that has got us to the point where kids think it is okay to steal, cheat, and be down right irresponsible for any and all of their actions.

cara October 14, 2008, 1:16 AM

My kids do a ton of chores. They help do laundry, sweep the floors, do the dishes, wyndex the bathroom, fix the living room cushions multiple times a day, and their favorite,opening and closing the curtains throught the house. They are 7,11 & 12 and it has made them aware of themselves. Certain things must become habits. (i.e: you use a dish or glass, you wash it, you get out of a chair, you push it in, you make a sandwich, you wipe up the counters)

What do I do? I bleach bathrooms, mop, dust, mow…& do the major once weekly cleaning. (My kids don’t get money for this…they get a happier, more at ease mommy….and that is a reward in itself!)

michele October 14, 2008, 7:13 AM

you go wendi and cara! kids do need to do chores, paid or not. They get things all of the time, be it snacks or toys or money. I have a 14 year old step-son that thinks that he should have everything handed to him and that he should not have to do a thning and ever since i have been in the picture, boy has his life been turned around as well as his dad’s.

cynthia October 14, 2008, 7:22 AM

ugh yah my 11 year old thinks the world should be handed to her and she shouldnt have to do a thing..Ive tried everything with her to taking away things giving her things yelling being calm everything I can think of and nothing works….-sighs…

NUNU89 October 14, 2008, 8:07 AM

We have a similar chart, the Idea actually came from our 10 y.o. daughter.
BUT, instead of MONEY$$$, we add up the points & at the end of week we tally all 7 days and we let THEM decide what they want for those points. IT IS ALL AGE APPROPRIATE ALSO!
EX: FOR our OLDER Daughter: 75 points she gets to go outside for 1 hour w/ her 4 1/2 y.o. sister. 100 points she gets a magazine she likes, 125, she gets to have a friend sleepover, 150 a mani/pedi. OR a Day out w/ Mom or Dad only (her Choice) etc.
Where as for our YOUNGER Daughter….8 points is time w/ either mom or dad only, 10 points gets her ice cream from the ice cream truck, 20 points which is the highest for her is she gets to fall asleep in mom/dad bed.(She Hasnt gotten to that yet…lol)
Every Monday they start a new week & CANNOT rollover points.
This Teaches them NOT to EXPECT $ MONEY every week & Keeps it exciting b/c they never get the same amount of points so every week they get a NEW Surprise !

Pam October 14, 2008, 12:05 PM

Hi Julie,

Thought you’d like to know a famous research scientist found childhood chores, “to be quite an astonishing predictor of adult success …” You are really on the right track.

It’s great to pay for some chores but some should not be paid for. Children need to learn everyone has a responsibility to contribute to family well-being. If you pay for everything, children can get the idea they shouldn’t do anything unless they are paid.

Congratulations on the wonderful change you’ve created in your home.

For more ideas on how to keep it going go to

Best to you.
Pam Golden

Kate October 14, 2008, 1:46 PM

Wendi, right on again! If more parents were like you, this world would definitely be a better place. I think that way too many parents are lazy and apathetic about their responsibilities as a parent. As a result, a generation of lazy, selfish teenagers is out there. I am determined to raise my daughter in a home where things aren’t just handed to her every time she wants them.

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