One day, I posted a question to parents: “What makes you unhappy as a parent?”
I got answers like:
“I hate it when I have to repeat myself again and again.”
“I’m constantly yelling at my kids about their ‘forgotten’ chores.”
“My kids don’t do what I ask. They make excuses and argue with me about things they’re supposed to do every day.”
Sounds familiar right? Me too. My husband James and I were harping on the kids constantly: “Hang your backpack in the closet.” “Put your dish in the sink.” “Please help set the table.”
He began to brainstorm a solution. He didn’t want to resort to yelling or ugly tones. He was looking for a non-emotional, reality based discipline that would get the kids’ attention. One afternoon, he called a family meeting and announced a new rule in the Pellicane household:
If I have to ask you to do something around the house that’s expected like setting the table, unloading the dishwasher, putting your plate away, or putting your shoes in the closet, you will owe me one dollar. These are reasonable tasks that I should not have to remind you about. If your brother or sister does a task for you because you were lazy, you will owe him or her a dollar. The wages of sin at the Pellicane house is a dollar.
It works both ways. As you do things over and above – maybe you offer to clean up all the dishes after a meal or help your sibling with homework without being asked – you will get a dollar.
About an hour later, it was dinnertime. No one came to help me set the table. One backpack was still in the hallway. There were clean dishes on the countertop that needed to be put away. James called the kids downstairs.
“Okay, you all owe me a dollar.”
You should have heard the weeping and gnashing of teeth that followed. “We didn’t know it already started! That’s not fair!” they whined. One of them burst into tears.
I was still trying to determine if my husband was a genius or a madman. It was rough start to be sure, but do you know what happened in the days following? I stopped lecturing for the umpteenth time about where the backpacks went. I just said calmly, “Go get me a dollar.” As the dollars started draining from their piggy banks, the older kids wised up quickly.
They started automatically unloading the dishwasher. They set the table without being asked. They hung up their backpacks and put away their shoes.
Did my kids change their behavior because they are angelic, kind, responsible children? No, they did it because they didn’t want to be flat broke. It’s much more fun to earn money than to lose it. We have a desk drawer filled with one dollar bills. The kids know to put their dollar in when there’s an infraction and to take a dollar out when there’s a reward. These circulating dollars are working magic for the work ethic in our home.
Whether it’s a magic dollar, quarter, sticker, or check mark…you too can find creative ways to help your children contribute to household tasks!
What are “magic” methods that have worked well for you?