I had an idea the other night when I was lying awake after dealing with a middle-of-the-night vomit explosion. Lily caught that terrible stomach bug that has been stalking us all winter. It is really hard to go back to sleep when you know that you’ll be awoken in a mere half-hour by the sounds of your one year old expelling the contents of her stomach yet again. I suppose I have my dear, sweet Lily to thank for this Middle-of-the-Night Moment of Genius, or MOTNMOG in text-speak.
I have been struggling with some age-old questions of late. When is the right time to start assigning my kids chores? Should they be paid an allowance? If yes, what is the going rate for, say, making your bed or cleaning up every last grain of rice you spilled on the floor after dinner? In many parenting circles, the topic of paying allowance is hotly debated. The Pro-Allowance Parents believe that earning allowance for doing work around the house teaches the value of hard work and money management skills. The Anti-Allowance Parents believe that chores build self-confidence and responsibility by giving them the opportunity to contribute to the household. They are learning household tasks and it should not be tied to money. I can see the value in both of these schools of thought and was waffling about what to do when I had my MOTNMOG. What if you could teach responsibility and household tasks, while building compassion and money management skills? Well, I say that you can!
My idea is in its infancy stages, but nonetheless I am going to run with it and I would love for your feedback as I get started. As you might suspect by the title of this post, it is called Chores For Charity and I am completely in love with it. Here are the basics:
- Each month, select a different charity to be the beneficiary of Chores For Charity. The selection process will be dependent on how old your children are. With my preschooler, I am simply going to offer her a choice of two different groups month. Older children may be able to nominate charities based on some simple internet research.
- Set up a Chores For Charity jar and allow your children to decorate it each month to reflect the beneficiary charity. This is the perfect time to talk about all of the wonderful things the beneficiary charity does, so you want to make sure you pick a charity that will be interesting to your kids!
- Create an age-appropriate chore chart for the month and assign earnings to each task. Another variation would be to assign a daily rate or weekly rate for completing all assigned tasks. What are “age-appropriate” chores? Check out The Happy Housewife’s suggestions!
- Pay your child(ren) for the tasks completed and allow them to deposit their earnings in the Chores For Charity jar so that your child(ren) can see progress over the month.
- At the end of the month, empty the jar together and count the earnings. [Aside: use this step to practice some simple math skills - counting, adding, subtracting, etc.] Write a check and either hand-deliver or send it to the beneficiary and make sure to include a letter about how your children earned the money through Chores For Charity. And, parents, don’t forget to keep a record of your donation for tax purposes!
What do you think? I plan to start Chores For Charity in our house on March 1st and will focus it on Josie, my 3 year old for now. The “parenting experts,” you know those people who get quoted in articles about parenting or who get featured on news segments, all seem to think sometime between ages 2 and 3 is a good time to start introducing chores. So, Lily is on the sidelines for now, but as soon as she is ready, we will add her to the chore chart.
It should be said that the act of implementing a “chore system” is an inherently hard one. KJ Dell’Antonia wrote a wonderful piece about the societal importance of chores and the challenges that parents face when putting a system in place. I think it is so important to be able to relinquish a little control in order to allow your children to learn how to complete their “jobs.” The results may not be perfect, and that is okay. So, my mantra as I start this journey will be: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
March will be my “test month.” I’m looking forward to seeing what works, and what doesn’t. Inevitably some part of this elaborate plan to introduce my girls to charitable giving will be a complete and utter disaster. But, at least it will make for a fun blog post…stay tuned!
Disclaimer: Just as I was ready to publish this post I decided to Google “Chores for Charity” and found that my MOTNMOG was shared by others too. Apparently the concept of Chores For Charity is not a unique one. I do believe, however, that my idea for implementing Chores For Charity in the home is unique. Below are some links to other Chores For Charity programs that I found. I love that two of them were launched by teens!