I don’t know what it is about my toddler, but she loves to help, as long as helping is making a bigger mess and extending a ten minute task to a full half hour. But if the satisfied smile on her chubby little face isn’t worth it, then I’m not addicted to chocolate and sarcasm.
And I am both.
When it comes to my preschooler, though, he’s not as apt to jump at the opportunity to help out. Sure, he’ll offer to help Dad shovel the driveway after it disappears under a blanket of snow, and by shovel, I mean hurl snowballs at anyone within his reach. I’m normally inside making hot chocolate (see? Addicted.), so I thoroughly enjoy watching the kid “help” in the form of firing ice missiles at my husband while he digs us out of the arctic. But I guess that’s not exactly productive, now is it?
Inside is a different story. Because inside is my domain. When I ask the child to put away his toys and he runs and hides, I am not as amused. If he can bring home all these trophies from school that boast “Best Cleaner Upper,” I know something is amiss when he can’t manage to find a hamper for his stinky socks at home. And that’s when I realized: his teachers are giving him incentives to help and contribute, not threatening to throw out his stuff. Like maybe possibly perhaps I was…
So I made a chart with stickers. And no one cared. It was probably my fault because I often forgot to add the stickers when he did help with a chore; the whole thing blew up in my face when, after fulfilling his end of the bargain and I slacked like the forgetful pregnant lady I am, he deemed the whole chart process unacceptable.
I started to really pay attention to what grabbed and held his attention. My digital native son is a whiz on the iPad, so I said to myself, “Self, make an online chart!” It was a brilliant revelation if I do say so myself, but as my skills and creativity are limited, my 4-year-old was less than impressed with my Microsoft Word Chore Chart.
Thank you Baby Jesus for Chore Monster, an app and website. It’s accessible on my smart phone, iPad, and the computer. Three places you will often find my son.
Setting up the account was easy, and choosing chores and rewards was fun. My favorite?
Chore: Brush your teeth.
Reward: Breath that smells fresh and doesn’t make people hurl.
The kid got a kick out of it, too. I’m not giving him a new toy or promising him a trip to Mickey Mouse’s house for doing stuff he’s supposed to be doing in the first place. It’s basic cause and effect, and with my little mathematician in the making, that’s all he wants: logic.
So I set up a bunch of realistic chores for a little kid:
Let the dogs in/out
Put your dirty clothes in the hamper
If you mess it up, you clean it up (applies to multiple messes and situations, which I use to my advantage)
Hang up your bath towel
Not only was my little guy more excited about doing his chores, but over the span of a month, I didn’t even have to ask him to do these things any more. It was like he knew it was his job and he just…did it.
He gets super excited to finish a task and mark it “complete.” Now when he sees the dogs standing at the door with their noses pressed against the glass, he realizes they have to go out. He no longer throws his wet towel in the corner of his room to sprout mildew and gross me out. Instead, he–wait for it–takes the initiative and just gets the job done. I am one happy Mama.
He’s happy, too, because he sees that his contributions make a difference to our family. The rewards I matched with his chores were entirely my boring doing; I’m not big into bribing, but I know the incentive for something tangible works for a lot of other kiddos. I know what floats my son’s boat, though, and also? I’m cheap. I’m not offering a Lego set when he hangs up his coat for a week. That said, you are entirely within your rights as a parent and a non-cheapo to personalize the rewards as you see fit. That’s the beauty of Chore Monster; you make it work for you.
I received this paid opportunity through Canopi to partner with ChoreMonster.