If you ask me why we as a married couple decided to have children, I would provide an answer with phrases like "to continue our families' legacies" and "to take the love that we share and spread it through our own children and their children and their children's children" or "to ensure that there will be someone to take care of us when we are too old to take care of ourselves".
The General's answer is a little more direct: "so we can make them do the jobs around here that we don't want to do anymore". To say he was discouraged to find out we were pregnant with a second daughter - thereby likely committing him to a life long sentence of lawn mowing if history repeats itself - was an emotion that was evident almost immediately.
At almost six and eight years old, it has been decided (mostly by me, I'll admit) that it is time for a full on chore list for each of our daughters. They have always been held responsible for some sort of job from very early on: helping pick up toys and putting dirty clothes in the hamper were part of the initial introduction to a life of hard labor. The biggest catalyst for bonafide chores is a selfish one. Frankly, I'm tired of hearing myself ask/nag/beg/yell the same phrases over and over and over again each and every day.
"Pick up your shoes."
"Go make your bed."
"Dirty clothes go in the hamper."
"We don't keep granola bar wrappers on the living room floor."
"I said go get ready for bed!"
I know they don't believe it, but I really don't like to listen to myself talk as much as they require me to. There are times when even I want to punch myself in the face at uttering the phrase "That bowl does not go there! Put it next to the sink!" for yet another time. As a result, The Chore Chart was born.
There was some negotiation and compromise that had to take place first between The General and me. We grew up in houses with very different ideas on chores and subsequent rewards, and melding the two together into something that might work for our children took some time. The General did not earn an allowance growing up aside from "putting his knees under the table three times a day" (direct quote, heard several times throughout this process) whereas I earned monetary compensation - albeit meager - for completing jobs like making sure orange juice was always made and my room was cleaned every Saturday by noon (that time limit was brutal for a late sleeper like myself). The General's take on the girls doing chores was more punitive than I had envisioned. He thought that chores should be done because we say they should be done and failure to complete those jobs would result in loss of privileges. My idea was that by completing their daily jobs they could earn some type of token toward a reward.
Can you tell we work in very different environments?
I will admit fully that the system our girls are working under resembles my initial ideas much more than his. What we've worked out goes a little something like this: they each have an identical list of eight jobs to complete (six daily, one as appropriate, and one bonus "parent's choice" to use at our discretion whenever and however we choose). For each job that is completed, they earn a bead. Beads are only earned, however, if they are completed without a reminder (this is going to be insanely difficult for me and my neurotic need for things to be put away) and before 7 pm, and at least five beads must be earned before they are allowed to have their iPods for that day.
Each bead that is earned is put in their individual jar. Once the bead level reaches the first mark, they can turn those beads in for a Level One prize of their choice (treat at the grocery store, a movie rental, one app or song download) or continue saving for their choice of a Level Two prize to be awarded when the jar is full (a manicure at the nail salon, a movie at the Dollar Theater, a treat at McDonald's or Dairy Queen). As parents, we also reserve the right to take away beads for questionable behavior - fighting, hitting, kicking, whining, lying, and stealing were all discussed - as well as award beads for extraordinary helpfulness when appropriate.
The chore charts we are using were stolen from a Pinterest find. The charts are laminated and we're using a wet erase marker to make revisions quick and easy. I purchased a clipboard for each girl and they individually chose scrapbook paper I had on hand to make each one unique. On the back of each clipboard is a list of the incentives they are working toward as a reminder and motivation. Total cost for this project (including beads and jars): $5.00. Holla!
We had an in-depth conversation tonight following dinner to discuss how this is all going to play out. Shortcake seems very excited about the system and asked if we could start tomorrow. Punkin, on the other hand, is skeptical of this whole clipboard nonsense. I don't think she's quite wrapped her brain around the fact that she's going to be doing exactly the same things she's been expected to do for the last six months or more, but now she's going to be rewarded for doing them.
I think it will be interesting to watch how this plays out. All I know is that if this earns me peace as a result of not having to repeat myself sixteen thousand times in the course of one day I will sing praises of The Chore Chart from here to eternity (or for as long as this bliss might last).