I have written about my elder son in the past. Readers may recall that he is less than industrious when it comes to academics and contributing around the house. By comparison, my younger son applies himself to his school work and is far more willing to offer assistance around the house. He keeps his room relatively clean and organized. He also anticipates work that needs to be done and often does it before he is asked. Moreover, he has a good sense of what projects really should qualify for payment and is aggressive in seeking those out.
Over the past couple of months, I began to notice that my younger son was also showing much more industry when he visited his friend’s houses. He would help his friends and their younger siblings with homework. I would see him helping his friends with yard work or in cleaning a garage. I applauded his effort and his willingness to contribute, but I also found it surprising. Still, he is a good kid so I assumed that it was his good nature that was prevailing on him to help. I also recognized that it is always more fun to work with friends than to do nothing at home, at least to a boy who does not yet have a driver’s license, and I felt that that attitude had also contributed.
Last weekend, however, I drove by one of my son’s friend’s houses and saw him cleaning the garage with both his friend’s parents but with the friends nowhere in sight. It turns out that his friends were in the house doing homework. Later I suggested that if he really wanted to help someone to clean a garage, he might want to start by helping me clean a garage first.
It was then that I learned about the point system. My son’s friends’ parents were not paying my son to help, but they were awarding him points whenever he did help them around the house. After he had amassed so many points, they would invite him to join the family for a movie or take him out to dinner with the family. The points were liberally awarded and that explained why my son was invited to join in so many fun activities.
I really like this concept. It is a great way to motivate kids to help and to foster a sense of community without actually focusing the kids on how much they will earn. It is also a great way to teach kids the benefits of working for someone who is not a parent. In the past, we have paid our son and his friends to wash our cars, and they have done a good job. Indeed, they even had fun doing it. Nevertheless, I have witnessed first-hand that a reward system that is not cash based can work as well, if not better than a cash system. More importantly, by paying the kids with nights out or an afternoon at the movies, the kids learn to identify hard work with positive experiences instead of just a paycheck.
What ways have you found to motivate kids to help around your house? Do you limit chores to just your own kids or do you involve their friends as well?