Because we are not savages: assigning chores and an allowance

About six months ago I started giving Ian an allowance. It actually has saved me money in that he stopped begging me to buy him things at Target, Toys R Us, and online. My answer was always, "You have money now. Save for what you want to buy." 

Every Monday, Ian gets $1 for every year he is old. $5 of those dollars goes into a spending account and then $1 goes into savings and $1 goes into a charity account for him to decide what he wants to do. If you're looking for a great way to keep track of all that stuff, I highly recommend FamZoo. There are many weeks I would have totally forgotten to pay him otherwise.

I had some general things around the house that I wanted him to help me with but there wasn't a check list or a chore chart anywhere. I kinda felt like there are just some things that he needed to do in order to keep the house going. Honestly, I've not had the bandwidth for coming up with some sort of chore system until now.

The last few days I've been pondering how to modify this plan. Since Ian has a lady friend he's taking out for taco burritos* and sodas, he wants to have more money in his wallet. I can respect that. This also means, however, that he's been hounding me the last few days for jobs at home that will earn him money. 

I am in uncharted territory when it comes to all this stuff as I never had an allowance, or a bedtime, or chores, or a curfew, or ... I was raised by wolves. Wonderful, amazing, loving, wolves. 

I started with three levels of expectations. The first section is: Because We Are Not Savages. These are things that you just need to do to separate yourself from dogs. They include:

  • Put on clean clothes
  • Brush your teeth
  • Clean your body
  • Make your bed
  • Put dirty clothes in the hamper
  • Make good choices about food
  • Help prepare meals
  • Clean up after eating 
  • Put dirty dishes in the sink
  • Do your homework 
  • Reduce needless noise in the home (turn off the damn TV!)
  • Listen generously
  • Help bring groceries into the house
  • Put things back when you're done
  • Leave things better than you found them

The "payment" for those things is getting to sleep in a bed, kisses on the head, and moving along the path of becoming a kind, clever, upstanding member of society. Congratulations.

All the essentials on our fridge. 

All the essentials on our fridge. 

The next level includes the things that earn him his base salary of $5 a week. They include:

  • Feed the pets & refill the water bowl daily
  • Clean up toys in your room daily
  • Empty the small trash cans around the house on the night before trash day
  • Bring the empty trash cans in from the curb after trash day
  • Put away your laundry
  • Sweep the kitchen floor
  • Sweep the front porch
  • Sweep the bathroom floors
  • Clean bathroom sinks & mirrors
  • Vacuum downstairs (we have a cordless Dyson that is seven-year-old friendly)
  • Dust the shelves (the dog hair levitates) 

None of those jobs are really a back-breaker. And they're all things that have to happen pretty regularly in order for the house to not look like a sty. If he only did those things and nothing else, I would be satisfied. But the boy wants to make some more money, so I added another level.

He is able to make up to another $10 by performing additional chores for money. Those are:

  • Wipe down the outside of the kitchen trash can and the fridge handles ($0.50)
  • Empty the four litter boxes ($1 each, up to twice a week)
  • Scrub toilets and wipe them down ($1 per toilet, once a week)
  • Wipe down the leather living room furniture ($1, once per week)
  • Wipe down the stove ($0.25 each day)
  • Wipe down the kitchen counters ($0.25 each day)

Shrop felt like the chores involving poop should have a higher pay rate, but I'm gonna see if Ian protests. It's not like anybody was paying me anything to clean cat boxes and there are a lot of cat boxes in this joint. 

And finally, my favorite job. I added a Bonus Adventure Assignment. If Ian chooses to go on an unsupervised adventure of at least 30 minutes and reports on his findings, he earns $3! This adventure can not happen on our street (if I can still hear you playing, you're not adventuring). The report must be written before payment can be received. Photos and video are encouraged. 

The iPhone allows me to stalk my kid's location using Find Friends while still giving him freedom.

The iPhone allows me to stalk my kid's location using Find Friends while still giving him freedom.

Yes, $3 is a lot. But when we got to that section of the document, Ian FLEW off of the sofa, grabbed his phone and his Stryker bag, and was off to the school playground! He was gone for an hour. He called to tell me he finished his report, he called again when he got to our driveway, and he raced straight to the couch to share it with me.

After collecting his $3, he went back to the chart. He swept the front porch, hunted for things to put away in his room, fed the dogs, and swept the kitchen. He just kept saying, "I like helping out around the house, Mommy." I could see him taking pride in what he was doing. 

He took a bath while I read him the next chapter of Harry Potter and then he was out like a light. This anxious, nervous, wayward kid without a rudder just smiled and said, "good night, Mommy." I would pay a lot more than $3 to see this change in him.

Shrop has a theory that kids crave structure. I knew that academically but I wasn't sure how I wanted to implement things in our home. I was also concerned about turning our house into a boot camp or my kid into some asshole who wouldn't be decent unless he was paid to do so. I had a lot of worries (he comes by it honest). It seems Shrop's theory is proving sound so far.

After his reasonable run in with the cops this weekend and his obvious delight today, I'm feeling better about all of this. And so is Ian.

Adventure report filed. $3 in hand! He gave himself an 8/10 score because of his handwriting.

Adventure report filed. $3 in hand! He gave himself an 8/10 score because of his handwriting.

* I love listening to kids explain things. When Ian and Maylee returned from Taco Bell they talked about what a great deal the taco burrito was "because it's actually a taco *and* a burrito so you get two things in the same paper for $1.59 and that's a real bargain."