Giving My Kids Responsibility for Their Stuff

One of the best choices I’ve made in parenting!

#ds302 - Trail of Tears

I was so tired of asking my kids to clean their rooms.

It gets old, doesn’t it? The fact that my 6-year-old would still throw a giant tantrum any time I asked her didn’t help. Maybe it was because by that time, I was so frustrated I was about to burst. This had been going on for years. Instead of cleaning, she would whine, complain, cry, and then often fall asleep in avoidance of the task at hand.

We don’t have a ton of toys for our kids, either. But we live in an apartment, a small-ish place, no playroom, and the toys seem to overrun it nonetheless.

One day I decided I was just DONE. I talked it over with my husband. What do we do well that the kids respond to?

Bedtime. We do bedtime right. Every night, the kids (6, 4, and 2) know exactly what to expect. We read a Bible story, share what we are thankful for, and sing a song. Then they brush teeth, get tucked in with essential oil diffusers on, and are expected to go to sleep. My sons (the 4 and 2 year old) share a room, and often giggle and chat until it gets dark. But they know to go to sleep. They don’t come out and ask for a million things. It’s BEDTIME.

So I thought about how we could transfer that kind of consistency to cleaning up. After thought (especially reflecting on some of Kevin Leman’s books, like Make Children Mind Without Losing Yours), I posted a few new rules on a chalkboard in the kitchen the next morning.

Rule #1: The kids would be expected to have clean rooms by 7 p.m. on Sunday evening. If they did, they would receive an age-appropriate allowance. Rule #2: Any toys left in the living room after bedtime might not be there in the morning.

Simple, right? But it was enough to make it click for my 6-year-old, at least.

The first week, my 4-year-old’s room wasn’t clean at 7 p.m. And he didn’t get the allowance. You better believe it was clean the second Sunday night!

There’s more to it, of course, a few more rules we created to help consistency around here. But just putting it in writing has made a huge difference in our household. And the best part is my own freedom: I might remind them that if they pick up during the week, it will make Sunday easier. But it puts all the responsibility on them, not me. And amazingly enough, the rooms have stayed much cleaner the rest of the time, too.

Do you have any great go-to tips for getting kids to pick up and do chores?

Photo used with permission of Flickr Creative Common from user Sharon Drummond. This post added to Works for Me Wednesday at Giving Up on Perfect

Optional Paid Jobs for Happy Workers by Amber Peacock

Amber Peacock wrote the article “Solving the Allowance Dilemma” in our October issue. You’ll have to pick up a print issue to see what she said there; but here, she writes about getting kids to do her household chores!

When I'm cleaning windows...
source: horrigans

I’ve got a secret. I rarely do the dishes, never vacuum, and have not cleaned the upstairs bathroom in years. My children do it—willingly and without being asked!

It started with a simple chart, “Optional Paid Jobs for Happy Workers.” I wanted to instill a healthy work ethic, encourage responsibility, and teach my children how to earn and manage money. I also wanted more help around the house. I made a list of specific household chores that I had been doing, but that I would be willing to pay the children to do. Signing up for a paid job was entirely optional, so I made sure not to list chores that I expected the children to do on their own, such as picking up their toys and putting their dirty clothes in the hamper.

Tips for Success

  1. Start small with jobs you know your children can handle.
  2. Invest time in on-the-job training. It’s amazing what kids can accomplish with specific instruction.
  3. Stay positive. These jobs are optional, so there’s no need to nag. Children will buy into the system when they need money for something important to them.
  4. Start fresh each week. Pay weekly and let your children choose new jobs for the week ahead.
  5. Talk about money management strategies with your child—giving, saving, and planned spending.

Do your kids help with chores around the house? Paid or unpaid?

Amber Peacock, M.S., M.Ed, developed an “Optional Paid Jobs for Happy Workers” chart as an experiment five years ago when her children were 5, 8, and 10. She’s tweaked the job list and pay scale over time, but the system is the same. Her kids love getting to choose their own chores and having control over how much money they earn each week. She loves having help around the house, but says the best part is that her children never ask for money. They’ve learned how to earn and manage their own.