After numerous chore charts and systems over the past 11 years, I finally came up with a winning game-plan to get my tween to do her chores. Some families pay their children an allowance based on doing chores and some families pay their children an allowance that is not related to doing chores but with an expectation of contributing to the family workload and enjoying the benefits of the family income. Whatever works for you is great, but neither of these were working for me. So I had to change it up.
I saw a brilliant idea on Pinterest where parents would use a clothes pin to attach a dollar bill or two to a job on a cork board. If the child wanted money, then all they had to do was pick a job, do it and take the money from the pin. Simple. Yet, I procrastinated because living in Canada we don’t actually have dollar bills. I intended to use toonies and Ziploc bags, but the thought of managing that system proved too much for me. So, I improvised.
I liked the idea of having a variety of jobs that my tween could choose from, giving her choice over her work. I liked the idea of having money attached to each job so that she could have some control over how much money she makes each week. But I didn’t like the idea of having to make sure I had the correct amount of change each week for the various jobs and then having to manage the different amounts for each type of job. So, I decided to hire her, pay her a weekly “salary” and give her opportunities to earn bonuses above and beyond. If she didn’t complete all her jobs, she would have deductions from her pay and be in jeopardy of losing her job.
How I Hired My Tween:
1. Hang a Help Wanted Poster in a Visible Location
We’ve all seen a poster in a store window saying “Help wanted, enquire within”. The day I hung my poster in the front window by the door, I had hoped that my tween would be curious enough to apply for the job. It just so happened that one of her friends came over and saw the poster, so I asked her if she wanted a job. I knew that my tween would not be happy if I hired one of her friends over her and she quickly stated that I was going to be hiring her. To which I replied I would have to give her a job interview if she was interested in the job.
2. Interview Candidate
I decided to interview my daughter so that I could give her the experience of having a mock interview and prepare her a little for the future. Even though she is not legally eligible for employment for another 4 years, it’s never too early to learn such an important skill! I sat down across from her at our kitchen table and asked her to tell me why she was a good fit for this job. I asked her if she’d had any previous experience, what her strengths and weaknesses were, and then I told her about my expectations for the position and how this job would work. I asked her if she still wanted to proceed. After a few obligatory eye rolls, she said yes.
3. Discuss Probation Period
I wanted this experience to feel like a real job from the beginning for a few reasons. One, so that she would take her job seriously and two, so that she would benefit from having gone through this process at least once before actually taking on a real world job. So, I told her that she would be hired on probation for two weeks. If this wasn’t working out then she would not be asked to return to work. If it was then she could continue being gainfully employed. During these two weeks, we worked together to come up with the best approach to the job.
4. Post a List of Jobs
I wanted to make it fun for her when she “came to work” so that it wasn’t just a boring list. I cut out fun shapes for each job and used colourful markers to write the jobs down. Typically, I will post 12 jobs and she is required to complete 8 of them. She spends four nights a week at our house, so I felt asking her to do two jobs a day was reasonable in addition to her other commitments.
5. Recognition and Rewards
After her first successful week, I wanted to show her how much I appreciated her help by making a big deal of it. I wrote out a thank you card and included her first “pay” cheque on the inside. Some weeks she earns just the agreed upon salary of $20 and some weeks she earns bonuses or tips.
To justify her salary, I determined that this is the same amount of money that I would spend if I hire someone to come clean my house twice a month and I’d rather give it to my daughter while teaching her the life skills of getting and keeping a job!
6. Feedback and Continuous Improvement
At first, my tween didn’t love the idea of being dictated to (let’s be honest, who does?!) so she asked if she could come up with the list. I was hesitant, but allowed her the opportunity one week to see if it would work for us. It didn’t. So, recognizing her need for some choice and flexibility in her work we decided that I would post more jobs than needed doing in a week. This way she could pick the jobs she wanted to do but had enough options to make sure that she completed the minimum requirements.
As with anything in life, it’s important to give and receive feedback regularly and to modify the things that aren’t working. As I am treating this as a real job, reviewing her performance and giving her feedback are important and it’s just as important that she feel she can speak up and give me feedback as to what’s working for her and what’s not so we can make improvements.
Since hiring my tween two months ago, I have had much less nagging, yelling, and resistance and a lot more cooperation and a cleaner house! She was motivated by wanting a cell phone and I needed help around the house. I was sick of begging her to do chores in exchange for money. It was a win-win and all it took was different terminology to make it happen!
Struggle with sharing the household workload with you significant other? Dawn also wrote a great post on “How I ended the Chore War with my Husband” and shares some helpful tools that you can try too!