My children have had a responsibility chart for over a year now. They actually created it, deciding what they needed to do each day of the week. They broke it down into categories: morning, afternoon, evening and general responsibilities. They worked and worked to get this list just right and were really proud of the final product. I set up the financial arrangement and shared with them what they had the potential to earn (with portions going to their save jar and share jar). Everyone was excited when I hung the lists up in a prominent place outside our laundry room. There was a plan and money was to be earned. All was good.
Fast forward six months. The same list was posted on the wall. I knew this because of the date they wrote in at the top. The list was created for a span of one week worth of responsibilities. Each week a new list would replace the old. I constantly reminded them to look at their charts (they told me they wanted me to remind them to look at the chart instead of reminding them to do specific things on the chart) and encouraged them to remember that cash money was their reward at the end of the week. Still, nothing. Sure, they did some of the things they were supposed to do, usually with a whole lot of reminding. However, I didn’t feel like they did enough to warrant me paying them the full amount. I may have given them a dollar here and there, mainly to entice them to do more. That, too, didn’t work. I gave up and they eventually seemed to forget about it. Not a great parenting moment at all.
About a month ago I decided that I would revisit the responsibility chart with my children. They said they were interested in doing the chart and didn’t understand why I had never paid them. Instead of addressing that issue, I moved forward to today. I asked them to review the chart and see what needed to be added or deleted to bring it up to date. After a few tweaks, still all directed by them, I printed a new supply of the updated charts, invested in a $10 Target bulletin board (replacing smaller cork tiles), and proudly pinned the new charts on the board.
Before we officially started with the new charts, I thought long and hard about why they didn’t work before. I couldn’t come up with a solid answer, so I decided to go to the source– my children. Ultimately they said they never believed they would actually ever get any money since they never saw any. REALLY? That was hard for me to believe and not at all what I expected. They never saw the healthy stack of $1 bills I had stashed away, ready to distribute when completed lists were presented. Maybe they really did need to have proof of the money with their own eyes. That never crossed my mind.
An aha moment for sure. This time, after I hung the board and pinned up the charts, I decided to “show them the money.” I pinned five $1 bills beside each child’s chart, proof of potential earnings that week. Their reaction to seeing this– “What is the money for… is it for us?” They were clearly excited to see the actual money hanging on the board. I went on to explain that I would pay them a percentage of the money based on the number of responsibilities they completed each week. They were fine with this and I walked away, crossing my fingers that it would work this time.
The next day was Sunday and the new chart hung on the board, waiting to be filled in with check marks. I waited and watched. The first morning I noticed both of them at the charts, talking about what they each needed to do, then going off to take care of their work. Several more times during the day I noticed them checking the chart and moving into gear to accomplish another thing off of the list. Hesitant to declare success just yet, I continued to watch and wait.
We did agree that my only reminder to them would be to ask them to check the list to see what they still needed to do. I only had to do this a few times. On Friday night my daughter asked if they would actually get the money on the board to keep on Saturday (since that was the last day of the week, after all). I said, “Yes,” and I heard a squeal of joy in reply.
That Saturday afternoon I reviewed the charts with them and joyfully took down the five $1 bills and placed them in their happy hands. They raced upstairs to their rooms to place their earnings in their respective jars. I replaced the charts with new ones and pinned up two sets of five crisp $1 bills. Tomorrow would be the start of a new week, and hopefully continued success. I am not sure who was more excited– me or my children.
I guess there is a lot to be said for the phrase, “Show me the money!”
Stay tuned… I have some new suggestions for great books for children. My children have discovered some new ones that they just can’t read enough!