Mark and I have been talking this summer about beginning an allowance for Lorelei and Gryffin when school starts. There are so many ideas out there about how this should be done: Do kids work for their money, or just get a set amount? What jobs should we reward, if any, and will those rewards interfere with intrinsic motivation or a sense of family duty? I'm not sure I'll ever know what the correct method is, but what we decided works best for our family is this:
1. The kids are expected to help out and take care of their responsibilities, regardless of allowance. They already do many of these tasks (putting things away, clearing the table, making the bed), often entirely unpromted, because it's consistently built into our family culture.
2. Kids desire to feel needed and thrive on having meaningful roles and expectations--we need a framework that sets specific, clear directions for what they are responsible for at what times.
3. We want to tap into our kids' intrinsic motivation so that we don't have to nag nag nag them on incessantly. We want them to want to work. We expect that they will grow up knowing the value of honest work.
Laying out these parameters, the word that keeps floating to the surface is "expectations." Not desires. Not hopes. Not goals, even (and you know my heart goes pitter-patter over that word). Put simply, we expect our kids to contribute. We expectthem to tell us when their jobs have been completed. And we want them to have an allowance, but not one that's just handed to them as if they are entitled to it, because I don't care what some parenting books say about the pitfalls of working for an allowance, I think there can be a right way to go about it, and a wrong way. I'm hoping we're doing this the right way, but as with anything, time will tell.
We want our kids to know the joy of work and contribution, and that rewards (intrinsic and extrinsic) flow out of it. I came upon a fun system for doing just this in the book, Teaching Your Children Responsibility, by Linda and Richard Eyre. They use a pegboard system and a family bank to do the trick, and I've modified it to fit our family camp theme using tokens and badges, but it's generally the same concept.
Let me introduce our Camp Connelly Chore & More Charts, upon which Lorelei and Gryffin perform their own daily "cabin inspections," placing "badges" (magnetic bottle caps) over each segment of their chart as they complete it. There are four main segments--Morning Routine, Practice, Daily Jobs, Bedtime Routine--and a final "Four for the Gold" box, where they earn one extra badge if they've done all their jobs well and take PRIDE in their work. One note on practice, because I do think this is important: Lorelei must practice her violin each day, no matter what--she gets a badge only when she makes it a priority and does it first thing in the morning. We're rewarding the priority over the practice itself (the practice is required, the priority is up to her--see the difference?), hoping to establish a good habit.
At the end of each day, a token is rewarded in a jar for each badge on the chart (up to five), and then the chart is cleared for the next day (except that the bedtime routine badge is earned the night before, since Sunday's bedtime routine would count for Monday, and so on).
Now the artsy-fartsy part: To create our badges, we gathered up bottle caps (spray painted red), Elmer's glue, scrapbooking paper, a circle punch and stickers.
Lorelei and her cousin, Meaghan, got to work punching circles from the scrapbooking paper, and deciding which stickers to use (Gryffy was supposed to make his badges too, but he pooped out on us and took a nap).
I thought their designs were very whimsical.
Lorelei loves bunnies--she wanted to keep the sticker, but Grammy promised to buy her another pack of stickers if she used this on her badge. (Spoiled by Glam-Ma? Just a bit.) I like how she added the flowers to the ears of every creature.
Next, the kids glued the scrapbook paper (with stickers already affixed) to the bottlecap, then sealed in the top with another layer of glue. I had to promise them it would dry clear since they were so worried about ruining their beautiful little badges.
The chart goes on the fridge just beneath my Sq"WEEK"y Clean Schedule, so that the kids can see that Mommy has jobs to do, too. Before bed each night, they get their tokens (up to five) and plunk them in their individuals jars. Then they clear their charts for the next day, save for the Bedtime Routine badge, which they would have just earned.
On Saturdays, Lorelei and Meg are going to call each other to hold one another accountable and see how many tokens they've earned for the week. Saturday is when the "Banker" (Daddy in a pair of silly $ sign glasses from the party store) and kids count the number of tokens (up to 25, for the five days) they've earned that week in their jars. Each token is worth 20 cents, so they can earn up to $5. We'll record the amount they have in their own personal checkbooks and initial it (I love that we don't always have to have cash on hand). If they want to spend money, they just see how much is in their checkbooks, and when we're out shopping, Mommy and Daddy can just pay for it, and deduct it in their checkbooks when we get home. After the bank meeting, all the tokens go back to the tokens jar, and we gear up for the next week's jobs.
We'll also keep track of a tithe to teach them about giving, and help them write a check to bring to church each month.
When the kids are a bit older, we'll start encouraging them to put 20% into savings, and the "Banker" will pay some major quarterly interest to teach them the value of saving money. But for now, it's baby steps towards implementing the system in its most basic form. I'll let you know how it goes.
I am such a sucker for systems like this. I still remember making my own sticker and chore charts growing up because some of my friends had them and, gee darn it, I thought I should have one too.
If you want to create a chore & more chart for your kids, let me know and I'll send you a Word document.
From our camp, to yours.