Chores are the backbone of America. They help kids learn responsibility, time management and everyday living skills. Plus, the more work we can sluff off onto their shoulders, the less we have to do.
But motivation can be a challenge and you don’t want a lot of nagging to bring your summer down. So in that spirit, here are some easy ideas to make teaching values more fun.
1. Add a monetary component.
One of my goals this summer is to get some dinner-making off my plate and onto my kid’s. Every week, I’m taking them to the grocery store with $15 each to make a complete meal for a night all on their own including 2 vegetables and one must be green. (No. Green rice crispy treats do NOT count as a green.) At the end of a successful supper, I’ll reward them with a dollar. Sure it will be a lot of Tacos, Spaghetti and Lasagna, but I’ll have them trained to make 10 easy meals by fall. Plus, since I’ve added in money management skills, I get to brag about it to my friends while I lounge by the pool.
2. Put a timer on it.
Instead of issuing sitting time outs to my high-energy son, I issue working time outs or laps around the block. But I was getting challenged over getting started. So, I came up with Stop-Clock-Timer-Time-Outs. “For your working time out, bet you can’t un-stack that dishwasher in less than 3 minutes,” I say and then hit the start button on the timer. It works. No more arguments. Sadly, though, his sister wants Stop-Clock-Timer-Time-Outs too and the amount of hitting and bad behavior at our home has increased. But on the bright side, that’s exercise too.
3. Make it a competition.
As in tip 2, have the kids compete but against each other instead of the clock. This teaches them the good old fashioned value of sibling rivalry. For some reason, my kids fuss over who has to get out of the car to walk the videos up to the Redbox or to the library. Honestly, they whine about that. So I made a race out of it. Which child can return the movie faster or with fewer steps? Now when we pull into the lot they are both rearing to go.
4. Add a can of paint.
I believe in exploiting my kids to get the work done, but the mess they make painting is 10X more work than the help I get. No matter how quietly I prep an area, as soon as I open a can of paint my kids suddenly appear. “Can I help paint?” My daughter asked me recently. “Do you have any references?” I asked. She checked her elbows. “I don’t think so.” She replied. My son arrived. “Can I help?” I didn’t even know that was in his vocabulary. I gave in and let them help, but it gave me an idea. Since paint attracts them, I now keep a can around and open it when I’m looking for helpers. Whatever works right?
5. Reward with stickers.
Much as I may seem like a lazy mom, I don’t want my kids to be lazy. Summers go fast and we don’t want to waste them. So, I make my kids get in at least two “Summer Bridge” worksheets, their reading logs, piano practice and basketball practice each day. Turns out, Teens and Tweens still love stickers (especially when you attach a monetary value to them such as a nickel). We use charts and stickers to mark task completion. It gives a sense of accomplishment and a visual reminder that summer is fleeting and to soak it in—that is, once you get your work done.
6. Give it a cool name.
At our house, instead of folding clothes on Sunday night, we hold a Family-Fold-A-Thon. Instead of putting shoes in the hall closet, they go in Shoe World. This summer since I don’t have a job yet and the kid’s labor is free, they are going to help me build a retaining wall. Let me rephrase that. As part of Art and Architecture Week, we’ll be building “the Great Wall of Cooper Avenue” together! (Yes, the Great Wall of China was my inspiration on the name) And yes, I’m still working on it.