Back to School: Tips for Family Responsibilities



Back to school! Its that time of year that makes moms happy and sad; happy to start new routines and sad about the energy and organization it can take to get your family going. Throughout the month of August we are featuring organized moms who will help get you started back to school with the toughest tasks.

Moms are challenged to get everyone to do their part for family responsibilities and chores. Getting everyone to pitch in makes a difference. 

Chores at our house became more of a chore to discuss and get our son to do than an asset to our family time.  The arguing and nagging were non-stop.  To get over our hump, as I knew things would only get worse without instilling a sense of pride and ownership into our house for our son (3 at the time, currently 5 1/2), I began with a family meeting regarding expectations.   My husband had his jobs, I had my jobs, and our son was assigned his job(s).

We began with small tasks for our little man.  His first: putting away his clothes.  Not all of his clothes, but ones that didn’t really matter if they got wrinkled or not, like underwear or socks.  Each time he did it without complaining, he got to pick a sticker from the pack (we went to the store and stocked up on stickers that he picked out prior to doing this).  When he got 5 stickers, he got a reward.  Each category of our sticker chart had a pre-determined reward for filling in all sections.  After a week or two, we increased his load and ours.  (Of course, we described our jobs in more detail instead of adding more things for us to do.  For example, instead of “cleaning house”, it became “cleaning floors and vacuuming” for me and “outside chores” because “mowing and weed eating” for my husband.)  He started putting away his clothes AND putting out the napkins on the table for each meal.  Again, we followed thru with the sticker chart.  We kept it on the fridge so that it was a reminder to him AND us to use.   Consistency regarding the chart is what made this successful.  When I forgot to fill it in, he reminded me.

As he became more experienced and older, we increased his load even more.  Additionally, instead of getting stickers, he now gets an allowance ($3 a week). He saves him money for things he wants to buy.  His chores now consist of: putting all of his clothes away, matching the clean socks, picking up his room each night before getting ready for bed, setting the table for all meals, clearing the table after all meals, unloading the tupperware and silverware from the dishwasher, and washing or drying dishes (whichever would be easiest for him to do based on the dishes…we avoid him handling knives and glass as much as possible).  If he helps clean the bathroom (I spray the chemicals, he wipes), he gets 50 cents. If he helps clean the floors (yes, that includes sweeping and mopping), he gets 50 cents. If there is an extra family task (planting a tree, weeding the flowers, painting the porch, going through clothes, etc.) he has the opportunity to earn additional money (usually $1-$5) depending on the expectation of the outcome for the job’s difficulty level. On a side note, we switched to money instead of toy rewards because it was getting expensive.  As an added bonus, he is now learning the value of money.  Sometimes he requests 4 quarters instead of a one dollar bill, for example.

Here is the important part: ALL (not just a few and not just randomly) responsibilities need to be completed the first time asked AND without an argument to receive his allowance.  That means that if he does a great job all week but blows it over the weekend, he gets no allowance…not even part of it.  Seems harsh, right?  I thought so at first, but it is way worth it.  That was a challenge for him at the beginning, but after a few times of not getting his allowance, he knew we meant business.  The payoff of outlasting his behavior to show him we mean business, way out weighs giving into his fits for his allowance.  I didn’t threat to not pay him and then give him a partial amount.  What would I be teaching him?  This: it’s ok to throw fits to get what you want, you can do things in a half hearted way and get rewarded, the child makes the rules not the parent.  That’s not how it works.  I am the parent.  He is the child.  I am teaching a lifelong skill of self respect, self discipline, following directions, respecting adults, doing things because the need to get done, etc.  This is a black and white issue for us.  Either he will learn to take responsibility and become a responsible citizen or not.

It takes all of us to make our house be successful.  We set the bar at the level we want and WE are in control of him meeting that expectation.  WE are the parents.  He meets our expectation, he doesn’t set the expectation.  I learned that he could really do more than what I was originally expecting.  So, when he got rewarded for his efforts, he had the desire to show me what else he could do.  I no longer need to “water down” my expectations-I set the bar and he reaches it…because he can.  As he begins Kindergarten this year, we will increase his chores yet again.  Lucky kid…

Tiffani Collins is a 7th grade math teacher with one son.  She enjoys spending time with her family and her dog Spartan, and especially family game night. 

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