January 7, 2013

Our (Beta) Responsibility System

I kind of bristle at and shy away from charts in general.

They feel restrictive somehow, as though if I don't strictly follow them than I have failed, so what's the point in trying at all?

Consistency is hard for me so I'm not one for planning out every minute of my day. I like to be flexible so when the unexpected happens, my whole day isn't thrown off.

And let's face it, children are chalk-full of the unexpected.

I also find that when I try and force my day into a schedule of my choosing, then things never go according to plan. And that's frustrating. But I've come to accept that it's just how life is with kids!

So you need to roll with it.

But I also knew that it was time for me to do something to help my household run more smoothly.

I've spent a lot of time reading other people's ideas, schedules, lists, and charts. I've also been observing my family's habits trying to determine how to make some of these ideas work for us.

The problem was that there are TONS of fabulous and amazing and cute ideas out there!

But I confess, most felt so... restrictive and complicated.

So, I think I've finally formulated a plan that will work FOR ME.

First, I'm kind of anti-"chore". This might sound utterly ridiculous to you, but I really disliked the idea of making a "chore" chart.

I don't want my children to think of brushing teeth or making beds as a drudgery; a chore. But rather as something that should and needs to be done, because that's just how life is.

Same with homework and cleaning. While technically these things might be a chore, they still have to be done! So I'd rather them think of them as responsibilities to be taken care of, rather than chores that one must endure.

Does that make any sense at all?

Our Responsibility System Explained (for my 8,6,5,4 year old)
(My almost four-year old obviously isn't in school yet, but she'll follow the same basic structure and the same rules will apply. And if she wants game time, she needs to do her jobs)

First thing I did, was find a cute chart.

Yes, a chart and yes, a cute one.

I found these at Controlling my Chaos,  and thought they were so fun! Then just changed them from "chore charts" to "responsibility charts" on my computer.

I would have just made some but I still haven't been able to replace my dead iMac or my photoshop program. Total sadness.

Next, I worked with the natural schedule we already had going, our school schedule.

So here's what I did.


I usually wake my kids up at 7:00am every week day. I have chopped off an extra 10 minutes, so now I wake them up at 6:50am.

The idea is that when they wake up, they will say their personal prayers and make their beds first thing. Obviously this is simply a good habit to have. But they are old enough that with a little help from me, they can do these two things pretty well by themselves.

As for the teeth brushing, I honestly don't care if they brush them before or after breakfast, I just want them to get in the habit. Not only is the dentist bill killing us, but hygiene is important.


That's it. That's all I require from them in the morning.

After their responsibilities are done, I help them with dressing and breakfast. Then we have time for family prayer and scriptures before they head out to the bus stop.

  • If they can mark off that they completed their morning responsibilities, they can earn ten minutes of game time on the kindle, nabi, or computer.


We already try to do homework as soon as the kids have a snack after school, but hopefully this will help us to be a little more consistent.

The practice is there for when we decide to start up piano lessons again or when they start up anything that requires daily practice.

Now, the "two jobs" section is my brilliant plan to accomplish a three-part goal.

The jobs will be two small cleaning assignments, given out by me to each of the children.

For example, one day could look like this:

  • Savannah could be assigned to change over the laundry and start a new load, and scrub the bathtub.
  • Joseph could be assigned to sweep the kitchen floor and wipe the bathroom counters.
  • Jacob could be assigned to vacuum the living room and scrub the toilet.
  • Alayna could be assigned to pick-up the family room and wipe down the kitchen table. 
  • Claira can stand around looking cute and help pick-up toys.

The three-part goal is this:

- The house will be in a constant state of decency, that nothing will fall too far behind.

- This forces me to take action and make sure things get done so I have more time to spend on other responsibilities and projects.

- This gives me the opportunity to teach my children how to clean. They can learn how to do laundry (though Savannah already does) and to properly clean a toilet or start the dishwasher. All without wasting the entire afternoon cleaning. They should be able to complete their jobs in under 15 minutes.

For now, I'm leaving the jobs rather open-ended. I may later try to assign them certain jobs for certain days, but the idea is that they are constantly trying and doing new things. This helps with drudgery and boredom.  Plus if something is really messy, I can give each of the kids a different assignment in that one area to help straighten it out.

Obviously this works for us because we don't have very many after-school activities.

  • If the kids can mark off that they completed their afternoon responsibilities, they can earn another 10 minutes of electronic game time.


As soon as dinner is over, OR just before bedtime (depending on the day and how things are working out) there will be a 15-minute family pick-up session. Starting in their bedrooms and working out, for 15 minutes the family will give the house a general pick-up-and-put-away sweep.

This will leave the rest of the evening for calmer activities such as: a movie (if there's time), cashing in on their game time (if they haven't already), baths, or doing extra reading to earn extra game time.

Then brushing teeth and saying personal prayers will be done just before bed.

  • If they can mark off their evening responsibilities, they can earn 10 minutes of game time to be cashed in the next day.

I printed out each child's chart and put them in some frames I had here at the house already. This way we can use a dry erase marker and re-use the charts every week until such a time that something needs to be changed.

And as the kids grow, I know it will.

Plus it looks nice.

Next time I'll have to remember to shrink them an 8x10 size first.

It may sound like a lot, but for me its feels open and non-restrictive.

The whole thing is designed to be done in small, quick, manageable amounts to time. Aside from homework, nothing should take more than 10-15 minutes at a time to accomplish, so the kids should be able to get all their responsibilities done in under an hour every school day.

Because I really don't like wasting the entire day on cleaning, nor do I enjoy forcing a schedule. This way I can just piggy-back off the natural schedule we're already doing.

Also, if at the end of the week the older kids have been able to mark off everything every day, then they can earn a reward. We're still working out what that might be. (possibly a $1 per week or something along those lines)

Since this is the first week we're trying it, the system may require a bit of tweaking, but I feel pretty good about the plan.

If at any time the kids "cheat" and mark something as completed when it hasn't been, it will result in immediate loss of game time for the day. Period. If they cheat more than once, they loose the reward at the end of the week. Period.

I don't think this will be a problem, but the rules are there, just in case.

So... thoughts?

So we've been doing this for over a week now and for the most part, it works awesome for us! I am SO happy I started doing this! My house has stayed cleaner over all, the kids have been excited about learning new things (like how to clean a toilet and start the washer), and believe it or not, the kids seem to like knowing what to expect.

I can choose easy or more difficult jobs based on what they have going on that afternoon. Example, one day Savannah had an activity to go to so I just had her wipe down the table and change over the laundry.

I did run into some resistance one day with Savannah (my oldest who's 8) who didn't want to do her homework or her afternoon chores.

It was dinner time by the time we got her homework done and she didn't do her afternoon chores until after dinner. I told her she was only allowed to fall behind like that once a week before losing the chance to mark them off as complete.

I've also found that Friday afternoon is a hard day to follow through with since the kids usually don't have homework and knowing its the end of the week they just want to play. But I think if we can just get in the habit of taking care of the jobs right away, we shouldn't have a problem.

I've also found its difficult to keep track of how much game time everyone has.

We'll probably start writing it down in a special notebook and adding and marking off time as we go along.

7 super cool people speak:

Sarah said...

Our kids have asked for money a few times for helping around the house and it's always because one of their friends has told them that's how they get money. We don't pay our kids for doing basic stuff because Matt and I don't get paid for doing basic stuff to keep our house running. They help because they're part of the family.

BUT they also get a portion of money from each paycheck, just like Matt and I do, just because they're part of the family. It changes based on lots of things (needs, wants, size of our paycheck, family's overriding needs, etc). The idea is to give them enough that they don't feel like getting anything is unachievable (a dollar won't get you much outside a 1$ store and for an 8-year-old that is losing its luster) but they have to save for the slightly bigger wants. In fact, just today, Gray's getting his first 'paycheck'. We're starting him out with 3 dollars to see if he even understands what money is yet. Zander obviously doesn't get anything yet.

The kids *can* earn extra money for doing extra things that we really, really need done and aren't 'keep the family running smoothly' jobs. But I'm not paying them for doing basic stuff that I don't get paid for either. That's worked for us so far.

Serene is my name, not my life! said...

Sarah, I completely agree and that's why we've never done "allowance".

And your system sounds really awesome and I'm so glad it works! We might be exploring that possibility. :)

The dollar isn't really for getting paid for doing their responsibilities. But it seemed like a better reward than taking them out for ice cream every week.

And I don't want them to feel entitled to things just for being part of the family, but the kids really liked the idea of the dollar, which is why it was suggested. Though I did tell Hubby that Savannah is older so things ought to be a bit different for her.

We're still trying to figure this one out and it may take a little while to see how things go.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Sue said...

I like it. And I especially like changing from "chore" to "responsibility."

The right paradigm can make all the difference...for kids AND for adults!


Tamara said...

A reward my kids have enjoyed is one on one time with Mom or Dad. They like that they don't have to compete for our attention or share us for whatever time limit we set. We always end up playing a game of some sort. And then they don't learn to associate success with food or money, but with family. At least that's the idea. :)

Larsen said...

Well I'm one for short comments. I don't do any kind of chore chart or such kind of thing. I think it's great and if it works for you, then that is all that matters!

Good luck!
call me.

Sarah said...

Tamara, just a quick question - are you concerned that they might associate family only with succeeding? Like they aren't worth Mom and Dad spending time alone with them unless they behave right or do their chores? Like time alone with you is a reward an they have to work for it?

My father would take those who earned straight As in school out to dinner. He wasn't around much, so for us it wasn't the dinner we were craving but the time with him - if I even got one B I wasn't able to go and I (as one of 10 kids) missed that chance to spend time with him. He unknowingly warped our idea of family, making it a currency we fought for instead of something we got just because we were his kids.

That may have shaped how I interpreted your reward system.

Mama Smith said...

I LOVE your ideas...I am impressed with the CHARTS! Did I have charts? If I did...they were NOT that fancy! (smile)

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