I've tried a lot of different methods to inspire my kids to pitch in around the house, with a minimum of resistance, including an allowance based on the assumption they would have to earn it. But nothing had provided the results I was striving for; a system which would encouraged the kids to contribute to the household while helping them learn the value of money and that things just don't fall in one's lap - things and privileges have to be earned!
Then one day the simplest of solutions came to mind and I just knew it would work. The idea grew from the frustration I would experience when the kids would ask for stuff, refer back to an allowance amount they knew was coming on Friday, so hey, could they just borrow against that for the item they wanted in the moment? And all the requests for activities: hosting sleepovers and my taking them and their friends on a whole range of outings without understanding or appreciating the effort, time and cost required to provide this convenient joy ride! It was becoming all too clear I was not creating the opportunity for them to learn a key lesson which will help them be successful in life; that you have to earn what you want, and it's best if you earn before you spend!
So here's our new plan, and several weeks in it's working like a charm. By doing chores and contributing around the house they earn a point, and when they want something it costs them a point. That's it. I told you, easy peasy!
Empty the dishwasher, put away groceries, walk or help groom the dog, clean their bedroom, their bathroom, fold the laundry and deliver the piles to the appropriate room, dust, help with yard work, take out the trash... and any other task I need help with throughout the day or week. For each accomplished job they earn a point, and it's their responsibility to mark it on the chalkboard in the kitchen.
Then when they want something, they have to spend a point. So you want a Jamba juice, wish to invite friends over for a sleepover or be taken to the mall? It costs a point. At first they resisted saying, "Hey, this is a big job, shouldn't this be more than one point?!" Or when they went to spend a point they argued, "A whole point for this?" From past experiences it's obvious we don't stick to any system that's complicated, so with the goal of keeping things simple for success I said no. "Pitch in and you earn a point, when you want something you spend a point." Simple, easy to understand, no complications or debates on what a particular job or reward is worth. And if they want something and they don't have a point to spend, well they have to figure out how to earn one quick or go without. Tough? I don't think so.
Yesterday a drink from Starbucks was the desired item and when I said "Sure, but it'll cost you a point," they declined after thinking about it. Now that truly is the whole point of this, and it delighted me to see it in action. They are learning that things cost and you have to have earned it, and occasionally they decide the price is too high and take a pass.
As an unexpected benefit, which is a huge, huge treat for me, I hear very little complaining these days when I ask them to clear the table after dinner and clean up! They get in and get the job done. This has definitely been a satisfying transformation of everyone pitching in to make our household run smoothly. I'm getting much appreciated help while they are learning that things cost (whether it be time, effort or money) and they must earn before they can spend.
And who knows, with the time all this help is freeing up perhaps I'll get to a DIY project or two, like this chalkboard I built for an HGTV tutorial that we now have such a great use for! See how to make one yourself here.
What system works in your house?