Chores, Rewards and Organizing – Oh My!

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by Cynthia Marple

Chores are not always awful

I HATE cleaning the house; I mean truly hate it. There are many ways I can avoid basic house cleaning – after all if I don’t re-watch the third season of Bones, how will I truly understand the growing relationship between Agent Seeley and Dr. Brennan? This, of course, means my boys have picked up that attitude. The result is an unmotivated child times two.

Learning to care for your room and your house develops responsibility and pride. Also, it is a joy to have a house ready for friends to drop by for a fun visit. Parents do need to teach productive skills to their children. At some point between the age of 18 and 35, your child will leave home and have his/her own place. I remember when I was a freshman in college and I had a roommate that did not know how to wash her clothes. Before moving out, her parents did not have a conversation with her about self-care.

This summer, I plan to delegate more chores to my boys so they can acquire skills in home economics. Oh yes, summer is the perfect time to train your children in the fine art of cleaning toilets, scrubbing sinks, vacuuming floors, and washing windows. Sometimes I get frustrated watching my eleven year old sweep because he is not as careful as I am. So I will twist my arm and let my perfectly capable son learn to take care of this chore.

There is a very helpful list of age appropriate chores floating around on the Internet to study. I have a six year old and an eleven year old so each one has a different level of ability and that makes it easier to divide up chores. The hard part will be to maintain the consistency of completing all tasks.

When my boys are at school, I use loud, cheesy, heavy metal, dance/pop and hip hop to motivate myself to clean the house. But the lyrics are not always kid-friendly and a clean version is not always downloadable. A creative solution for when I want to enlist my little army: using mainly Disney generated “work” songs. Many of the classic films have some kind of work song such as “Happy Working Song” from Enchanted, “Whistle While You Work” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and “The Work Song” from Cinderella. Have a “Grumpasarus” with lazy legs who suddenly hates all styles of music? Remind him or her that when the cleaning is done, the music will go off.

To reward or not to reward 

Ideally, keeping a clean house and organizing toys, clothes, books and favorite mementoes would be second nature and the appreciation of a clean, neat living space would be enough. If you have such kids, great – can I borrow them?  Seriously, encouraging positive behavior with rewards will generate more excitement than nagging them to behave. If I have lots of reminders it makes me think my sons no longer speak English.

I found a website that lets you create “reward bucks.” I created some and printed them on neon card stock. The boys think they look seriously cool. Various additional perks such a trip to the zoo or a waterpark can be earned by completion of chores. Another practical chore/skill that can be learned with reward bucks is how to budget and save in order to earn what you need for those special treats. Set out a certain number that can be earned for successful completion of assigned chores or homework. Include ways to earn bucks for positive behavior. Did your shy girl say hello to a new child at the playground? Did your super-climber sit still with one reminder? Give some bucks when you catch him or her making positive choices.

For example, the earning chart could look like this:

Activity   Bucks Earned
Complete assigned chores weekly = 10
Help carry in groceries = 5
Perfect aim in the potty (for boys) = 15
Sitting still = 1
Complete an extra page of summer learning = 5
Get dressed without help = 5

Use both for chores and to reinforce good behavior while inadvertently discouraging negative behavior. Tailor the activities for earning to fit your family and children.

Use a cereal box, can with a lid or other container as a bank.  Help your child decorate it. Make sure items can be easily removed so the container is not destroyed after a withdrawal.


Now for the even more fun step: saving and spending hard earned bucks for rewards. For example, say this is the reward chart:

Reward   Bucks Needed
A trip for ice cream = 200
An afternoon at the Zoo = 1000
30 extra minutes of game time = 300
Dessert date with just Mom or Dad = 500
$10 toy = 250
2 hours at a park of your choice = 50
Buy a special candy = 25
Pizza for breakfast = 40
Pancakes for dinner = 40
Extra bedtime story = 75

Notice that some items cost more than others. Use a mix of what the child really loves the most and some truly special items. Ask your child what kind of reward he or she would really want. Go ahead and be “video arcade chintzy” with how much the rewards cost. The link for behavior bucks is

There is a summer camp available in Houston that lets children run a city. Junior Achievement Biz Town is a great place for children to learn about running a business and try out their brilliant ideas. My fifth grader had a field trip to Biz Town and had a blast. This facility has a ten-thousand square foot indoor mini-city with several businesses that a child can work in and help run.  For more information, go to

Organizing and sorting for a good cause

A Native American proverb I remember hearing from my mother is: “The more you give, the more good you will receive.” You need to clean out old, unused stuff to make room for the new. After organizing and sorting toys, clothes and books, see which ones are gently used. Ask your child to help with selecting some gently used items to donate to charity or take to a consignment shop. It is a simple way to encourage compassion in your child. Sometimes it helps a seven year to let go of a favorite baby toy if he/she knows it will be loved by a new child.


For a few outgrown toys and books, place them in a memory box for safe-keeping. Someday your child may be a parent and it will be wonderful to have a few toys or books to pass on.

So if my boys and I can make it through the household chores while listening to the Dwarves sing “Whistle While You Work,” you can do it too! Make it fun with reward bucks and make some unforgettable summer memories together. Seize the day and don’t let this summer pass without letting your kids take a big role on the cleaning crew. Please share any ideas that have worked for you and your family in the comments.

1 thought on “Chores, Rewards and Organizing – Oh My!”

  1. Great post! Love the reward bucks. We’ve been using real $, but I like the reward bucks to go towards activities instead if things.

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