I am a Stay-At-Home Mom (it's 2010 and THAT is still the best title we can come up with?!). Without a doubt I have spent far too much time believing in some creature of mythology known as The SAHM. You know her. She's that irritating woman who used to wear heels and pearls and lipstick, keep everything spotless, fit every meal pristinely within the food pyramid, and seemingly not need one ounce of assistance from the hubby or the kids. Today she is amazingly fit and trim (attractive not only to her husband, but also to all of her teen son's friends), has perfectly tousled hair and no stretch marks, keeps a home that at all times looks like something off of HGTV, and serves as an ambassador to some foreign country in her spare time. Clearly, I'm not her (note: since she's a myth, none of us are). But since on some level I have believed in her for a while, I am having to find reality and what it looks like for our family; realities like I am the manager of our home, not the maid; like it isn't easier to "just do it myself", but harder and downright isolating; like my husband and kids don't expect perfection, and would really rather have participation in The Process.

It's been a long-time coming, the implementation of assigned daily chores for the kiddos. 

Brilliant Beauty will be nine in August and in these nine years we have had our share of times when we would create a sort of system for chores/rewards.  But we've never hit the right groove with it.  Something(s) was always not quite follow-through-able about these systems.  I've thought a lot about it lately and think these are some of those factors for failure:
- elaborate chore lists (where chores changed everyday)
- too many chores or "wrong" chores (impractical, overwhelming, hard to maintain, etc.)
- clear expectations for chores, but unclear intentions on rewards

By these factors combined, we all eventually melt down into chore chart avoidance.  They impose expectations NOBODY in this house can live up to.

I took some time to really think about getting the kids to help around the house.  It all tends to fall to me, though you can all see from all the previous posts of cluttered messes and failed systems, I'm not capable of doing it all by my big self.  I'm also not doing my kids, my very willing and capable kids, any favors by NOT putting on them reasonable and age-appropriate responsibilites and expectations.  I need their help.  And they need to help.

Based on my ponderings and attempt to think it through, along with a whirl around the world-wide web to see what suggestions I could find, I came up with a system that we have now been working on for nearly four weeks.  Here it is...

- The kids (minus Pretty Baby for what should be obvious reasons...but we joke and say her chore is to be cute) were given two chore charts a piece: one for general tasks, one for kitchen tasks.  They were also given one other chart for special jobs.  Rather than making wordy charts I opted to create pictorial charts.  P.S. There are lots of places on the web where you can go to find printable chore charts, but by now you know me, and I chose to just create my own.
- They earn a star for each chore completed.  The stars can be combined to earn rewards.

The Chores
Little Big Man's chores are the same everyday (I don't know why exactly I felt compelled to move the pictures around each day, but whatever).  He has five "everyday" chores: brush his teeth, put his dirty laundry in the clothes basket, put books back on the bookshelf, throw trash away, and put his toys in the toybox.
Brilliant Beauty's five "everyday" chores are to put her dirty laundry in the clothes basket, brush her teeth, brush her hair, put videos and dvds where they go, and take her stuff back to her room at the end of the day.

Here are their kitchen charts:
Brilliant Beauty has to set the table for supper (plates and napkins) and then for the next day's breakfast after dinner dishes have been cleaned up, wipe down the table, give the dog water in his dish, bring dirty dishes to the sink, and sweep the floor.
Little Big Man has to put the silverware out for meals (after Brilliant Beauty has laid out the plates and napkins), fill the dog's dish with food, clean the seat of his highchair after meals, throw trash away, and use the dustpan to sweep up the pile Brilliant Beauty creates from sweeping.

Both of these charts are intended to be used EVERY day.  In addition to them, there is one more chart ...

I'm sure it's self-explanatory, but in case it's not...Sunday: both take baths; Monday: BB vacuums and dusts the living room, LBM puts folded towels away in their bathroom; Tuesday BB washes/folds/hangs/puts away a load of her clothes; Wednesday: both take baths; Thursday: BB cleans their sink and toilet; Friday: both clean their rooms; Saturday: both take the contents of their drawer (from a three-drawer plastic bin in the living room where I put their bric-a-brac I find scattered about) and put the items where they go in their rooms.

The Rewards
For every chore the kids do, they recieve a star on an index card.  A while back I found these too-cute little mailboxes somewhere, but had no immediate use for them.  Now, they are the homes for the kids' star cards.

For every twenty-five stars Brilliant Beauty earns, she gets $1.00.  Little Big Man needs a bit more immediate gratification for a job well done, so he can use his stars to buy a piece of candy from the candy jar or something of the like (he digs just getting the stars).  We also use the stars to earn trips to Yuck-E-Geez or the thrift store, time doing something we don't often do like painting (with "Mommy's paint"), or a trip to a playground.  As you can see in the picture, if a star is traded for a reward I just mark through it with a pen.  Brilliant Beauty has already earned $4.00 since we started.  That's 100 CHORES!  I also made a card that says, "Look at YOU!  Thanks for helping!" which has two additional stars on it for them to put in their mailbox to be added to their star card at the end of the day.  They can get this when they are caught in the act of being especially helpful, or thoughtful, or doing something above and beyond what they were asked to do.  At different points in time the chores and/or the rewards may have to be adjusted, but the system seems to be a winner.

I really have loved this so much, and so have the kids.  Brilliant Beauty eats it up and seems to race herself each day to see how early in the day she can get it all completed.  There have been plenty of days when all the chores don't or can't get done, but since a star is earned per chore, there is still a sense of accomplishment for them even if they only complete a couple of their chores.  I am very diligent about making sure we credit them their stars each evening.  Likewise, there are also times they are disappointed they didn't earn more stars which spurs them on to try harder the next day.  We're not so rigid with the Special Jobs chart; for instance, if they get their Sunday baths on Monday, I'll still give them a star for the task completed.  It isn't about rigidity, but responsibility and ownership and teamwork.

So it turns out there really is no I in TEAM, and no such thing as that hose-beast aka The Perfect SAHM.  My kids need me and I need them, too.  And that is totally okay.  We are indeed a team in a lot of areas, at least for their first eighteen years, and finding ways to function as a team leaves us all feeling pretty good at the end of the day.  It really is a joy to watch chores bring a bit of purpose instead of feel like a punishment.

Now if we can get Little Big Man to put "it" in the pot all the time we'll really be on to something . . .


  1. I love love love this post!! Thank you for the great tips. I am a stay at home mom of 3 and exhausted and overwhelmed. This is just the type of system I have been seeking to teach my kids responsibilities, reward them properly and get a little help around the house. Bravo!!

  2. Anonymous6:38:00 PM

    These are cute and I love them. I work with children with behavioral issues, and the parents are always looking for motivating and effective chore regimens.


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