Saturday, September 13, 2014

Our chore system

Our current chore system has been in use for about two years now, in various adapted and improved forms, and it is going exceptionally well. By that, I mean the kids do their work reliably, with minimal nagging reminders on my part, and they actually find the system helpful and motivating. This also helps the older ones with keeping tabs on their younger siblings, or "charges."

There is a debate whether children should be given a regular allowance, or whether all money should be earned. Benefits of a regular allowance: parents pay reliably each week, making it possible for kids to learn how to manage finances and make good purchasing decisions. Downside: this could possibly lead to an entitlement attitude, akin to some welfare recipients. Benefits of earned income only: You only get paid for work. No work, no pay (which later in life means no food and no place to live). Downside: keeping track of monies earned. Mom gets busy, kids don't get paid, and the system falls apart.

In the past, our approach was to give each of the kids a standard allowance each week that was half their age in dollars, i.e. a 12-year old gets $6/week. In exchange, they were expected to help with their clearly defined and assigned daily chores. This is a good system, and it served us well when the kids were little and I had no time to spend an hour each week playing accountant. Our older kids are all very mature with their finances (compared to how I was at their age), so it must have worked. 

However, as the kids got older, I wanted them to keep tabs on their own work (as opposed to me having to check up on them, remind them, etc.), and also get a more accurate feel of "work = pay", and "more work = more pay". But keeping tabs on 6 kids that get paid is still quite a handful, so I was looking for a system that paid based on performance, but with minimal accounting required on my part. 

I came across the idea of "docket" based pay on another large family site (though I cannot remember which one, please forgive me if this is your idea and I cannot give you credit for it). Basically, each day is divided into "dockets", each of which earns a certain amount of money. If a job within that docket is missed, that docket will not be paid. This cuts down on the nickel-and-diming for every little job that you want to get done.

In our home, the day is broken into 5 dockets, plus there is a bonus docket for being ready with the morning chores by 9 a.m. in case we need to go somewhere, have someone stop by unexpectedly, and also because that's when we normally start school work. Older kids who have more work get paid more. With this system, Solomon and Isaac could each earn a maximum of $8.40/week, which is not bad considering this is all just their "mad money". I pay extra for certain big jobs they can volunteer for, such as cleaning out a closet, doing yard work, cleaning a bathroom, mopping, etc.

The kids each have separate, more detailed charts to check off each day for their school work. The subjects on here are just the ones they must work on daily if they want to get paid.


The boxes each get filled with a check mark if completed, a dash if it didn't need to be done that day, or an X if the job went undone. Any docket on any day that contains an X will not get paid.

 Miriam actually recently got promoted to $.125/docket because she is becoming such an asset to me

You will notice that mealtimes and even "silent time" are listed here, though they could not really be considered "work." However, I have included them so that if a child is unruly during mealtime, takes forever to eat and puts us all behind, or ruins silent time, they can be punished by getting an "X" in that particular box, and thereby losing that docket. 

There is an additional "capitalist" aspect: if a certain child is going slow and falling behind, I may reassign their chores from a given docket to a sibling that is working fast and getting ahead. Pay, accordingly, is then transferred to the early bird that got the worm. This is done only by special permission from me, so that it doesn't become too much of a cut-throat mentality, and my kids leap out of bed by 5 a.m. to beat their siblings to their chores.

These lists are mounted on the front of the kitchen fridge. My older boys all know how to print a new list on Sunday mornings if I get too busy to do so on Saturday night, and they also help the little kids (Becky and Anna) get through their chores and get marked off accordingly. On Saturday nights, they tally up the wages for each child, pay them accordingly, and put the completed charts in each child's respective school binders.

Yes, having older kids to help is pretty awesome!

Speaking of older kids pitching in and helping with their younger siblings - this is something a lot of large families get flak for. I find that simply ridiculous. Anyone who births, raises, and trains a worker for half their childhood should be entitled to reap the benefits of such training for the remainder of their living at home. I am thankful that as a child, my brothers and I were expected to help around the house, so I didn't enter adulthood completely clueless as to how to run a household. Laziness is a terrible attribute in anyone, and no child of mine will ever grow up to be a lazy jerk, so help me God. Rest assured, us parents still work more, harder, and longer than any of the kids.

Of course, this particular system with these particular chores will not work for anyone but our family. But I do hope you will be able to take away an idea or two to help you streamline your days and keep your kids on track.


  1. Hi ma'am.
    I commend you for being so detail-oriented in your chore charts. I normally just write a few things on a sheet of paper.
    Anyway, my question is this. Your son is bathing his sisters? Where is the modesty? Why can't you bathe them until they are old enough to do that themselves? I understand you have several kids, but there's something immodest about having an 11 year old boy bathing his sisters who do not look like toddlers.

    Also your post on the ear drops. Antibiotics are used more for a reason. My daughter had the same issue as your Solomon, but without antibiotics and modern medicine, she would have lost her hearing,

    1. I am surprised you allow the boys to bathe their sisters, also. I don't care how well you've raised them, that just isn't right. You should be doing that until the girls are old enough.

      Also, just a friendly word of advice - watch those "my child will never" statements. Yes, they will at sometime just because you said the wouldn't.

    2. You ladies are both crazy, and quite possibly sexually perverted, if you think there is anything wrong with an older brother or Dad helping a little girl who is too young to care for herself. By that same logic, diaper changes should only be done by parents of the same gender. That sure wouldn't work with Dad being at work, if you have a boy child. Or are you somehow so demented to think that only men/boys violate little girls, but that women are incapable of doing the same to little boys?

      My 11-year old prepubescent has absolutely no concept of what goes on between men and women, nor has he at all begun to think along those lines. But even if he did (such as for example my husband obviously does), he would not look at a little girl with lust. What do you mean, they "do not look like toddlers?" For one, they do. But secondly, are you saying that anything looking older than a toddler has inherent sexual appeal???

      In a normal family, even sexually active adult siblings and parents are NEVER attracted to one another. It is sick and perverse to suggest otherwise. I remember taking baths with my brothers as a child, and it was neither inappropriate nor in any way sexual. For you to sexualize something so innocent shows the condition of your own heart and thought life.

    3. I agree there is no harm in siblings, even those of opposite gender assisting smaller ones when needed, but I do not understand why, within a family context your girls then swim in knee length skirts? Particularly when your sons are free to do to the same topless, and even sit at the dinner table in only swim trunks? I'm obviously not suggesting that swimming nude is the answer, but I do not understand why you draw the line in favour of modest swimwear around those same boys who assist with dressing and bathing. Could you clarify?

    4. They don't just go swimming at home. Just because WE don't look on them with perverted thoughts, doesn't mean some random freak stranger in public might not. They do not wear those swim suits to be protected from the eyes of their own brothers. Also, if I don't want them wearing bikinis as teens, why introduce them now just to forbid them later.

      Finally, they are great sun protection. In spite of the kids being fair skinned, they virtually never use sun block all summer.

  2. You guys have a CAT? Where is she/he? Cats and nutella rule the Internet you know! How come us cat lovers never got a glimpse of your kitty-witty?!

  3. This is a really nice system. I think I may have to use something similar. My eldest is old enough to do chores and wants to buy things (he does help out but doesnt get paid. We had an allowance system going at one point but like you said happens...things got busy, we forgot to was nickel and diming etc). Thanks for posting.

    As far as the large families using older kids to help out and getting flack thing: I do think that older children helping with younger children is standard no matter WHAT size family you have. I have 2 children who are 8yrs and 3 yrs. The eldest helps out immensely with the 3 year old. Most of my friends utilize their older kids to help out with the younger siblings (families with 2-4 kids) I think the large families that use their older children to RAISE the younger ones are the ones that (in my opinion) deserve the flack. You are a mother for a reason. Part of your job is to raise the kids. Not slough them off on a 14 year old to actually do the raising. Helping tend to and raising are two completely different things. Everything that people read here indicate that you do the actual raising and majority of tending to. Thought I would just put that out there......

  4. Gil and I talked about this long and hard on several occasions to find a fit for our brood. We decided that basic chores would not be paid, they should be completed simply as part of personal care, or participation in a household and family. We break these into morning and afternoon chores like you do. Morning: Make bed, oldest 5 shower and dress pyjamas under pillow or in laundry basket if it is your washing day, breakfast, pack lunch (I make the sandwiches and they are responsible for choosing fruit and snacks), pack school bags, little ones dress, wash faces, brush teeth and do hair (little girls to me for braiding, big girls to do their own), shoes on and in car by 8.15 am.
    Afternoon: Lunch boxes on counter, shoes, bags and coats by the door, change out of school clothes (to be hung or laundry as per daily schedule) snacks and tidy up, clean laundry away, homework/reading practice/music practice.
    Evening: Little ones bathe, brush teeth, wash faces, pyjamas, brush hair, pick up personal belongings, reading or homework before bed. Bed by appropriate time. None of this is paid, instead each child receives a small Base amount that is theirs regardless. (In the event something is broken or damaged through carelessness, this money will be docked to repay damages.) We feel these chores should not be rewarded, but are essential life abilities that you should not receive bonuses for, instead as part of a working family, you are entitled to a small amount to pay for personal wants that are not covered under our essential provisions.

  5. As my role is that of mother and housekeeper, and my husband as provider of money and home, we feel it is primarily our responsibility to keep the house in clean, working order. This definitely doesn't mean that the children don't participate, there are schedules for assistance with cooking, dishes, laundry, and vacuuming and mopping, but as the ones who intended to create a home and large family, Gil and I feel we are the ones essentially responsible. Our children did not choose to be born into a large family, nor did we have a number of workers. These chores are bonuses for allowance, and if a child completes each job efficiently and on time, they will receive extra money.

    Extra money can be earned by assisting with, or completing extra chores that would usually be Gil's or my domain. Washing windows, weeding or mowing, cleaning and organising fridge, pantry or closets, wiping walls and baseboards, car washing, sewing name labels or colour spots (we colour code for child identification, each child has their own colour for all clothing, lunchboxes, shoes etc) on laundry, cleaning the bathroom and toilet, and any other major tasks that arise. This can be to raise extra funds for a special occasion or purchase, or to repay a debt.

    While our children play together and love each other dearly, I don't ask or include for any babysitting or sibling care from the older ones. Gil and I chose to have the number of children we did, and it should not be the responsibility of our elder ones to do that work for us. It is our job as parents to attend to and teach our small ones their tasks and personal hygiene and provide assistance until they are able to complete them alone. Again, this does not mean that the children are uncaring or uninvolved with each other, they will pour drinks, make snacks, play games read books and tie shoes when needed, however it comes from a gentle and respectful parenting and family model, where assisting others is second nature and rather than what we feel to be a forced sense of duty and without expecting or receiving remuneration for doing so. They understand that as older ones they have a responsibility to protect and guide their younger siblings, and to treat them with compassion and love, but only as siblings, not charges or standby parents. There is no changing nappies, no feeding at dinner time, no assisting younger ones to dress, (except for Caitlin who insists I just do not do 'Elsa' hair like Ruby can!) that is my job as their mother, and I feel strongly that it is unfair to expect my children to do my job.

    We are also trailing giving our eldest daughters in high school a larger amount each week now, which they must budget to include more things we previously covered, bus fare, personal sanitary items, special snacks, gifts for friends' birthdays and the like. When they are old enough to take a part time job, we will then cut their allowance (save for extra work) and begin asking a small portion for 'board' - very small, but just to begin to allow the idea of including living costs in their budgets.

    I have been quiet for some time, an unexpected miscarriage from a surprise pregnancy, three birthdays, and a short family holiday has kept me away from the computer. I have been catching up on your blog though, and look forward to more posts.

    Blessings from one big family to another, Annabelle.

  6. It's great to have access to antibiotics when they're needed. There is a huge amount of evidence that over-use of antibiotics may be responsible for the increase in allergies and other auto-immune disorders. Moderation and judicious use is the key.

  7. That is a really neat system you have going! I have been looking for something similar for my daughter. I have tried the control journal for a student at (flylady has helped me immensely, getting myself organized in baby steps), but I think the dock system would work better for us.
    Thanks for the tip on home remedy for ear ache, the wide (mis)use of antibiotics is a far bigger threat to human health than most people realize.

  8. I love this system, thanks for sharing!! I'm very curious what the asterik means for mealtimes?

  9. This is awesome! I'll be bookmarking this for when I have kids. I have done a lot of babysitting for particularly entitled children, and I will strive to make sure my kids never end up like that. I feel that this system is a fantastic way to promote a hard working attitude.


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