Just recently things came to a head in our house. Not only was I sick and tired of picking up after my children 24/7, I was totally fed up of my own nagging voice...."put your school bags away", "you've left your clothes on the bathroom floor...again!", "please, please would someone just lay the table without a huge disagreement over whose turn it is!"
In my experience, people have very different views on how much children should help around the home. My own mother made my sister and I do very little, although there was that one time when she referred to us as "lazy sluts"- a term with very different connotations in her day....apparently!
Personally, I am of the mindset that if we're living under the same roof, everyone should play a part in making the home run smoothly. This applies to a three-year-old as well as a 23-year-old, although the tasks clearly need to be age appropriate (asking a three-year-old to take the bins out might be a little harsh!).
From the age of three my children have been making their own beds; a task which has thankfully become second nature to them. We later moved on to slightly more taxing jobs like tidying up the toys and cleaning out respective pets, but despite trying sticker charts, bribery rewards of pocket money, additional bonuses for doing extras, nothing was effective and we were rarely consistent.
Six weeks ago, I 'announced' to my offspring a new regime.
Firstly we introduced an allowance: an amount of money that each child receives at the end of the week. This allowance is not pocket money and we introduced it by saying we believe that they are mature enough to learn how to budget and be wise with money - flattery works every time!
The Teenager now receives £13 per week, The Tween £11 per week and The Boy £8 per week.
This may seem like a lot of money and I can assure you that it does put a substantial dent in the wallet, but with it comes sacrifices: birthday and Christmas presents for family members are bought with this money; any extra activities above and beyond the norm is paid for with this money (eg, youth club subs); ice rink or cinema trips with friends are funded from this pot as are any additional clothes (over and above essentials), toys, games or sweets. On holiday, they even had to buy their own ice creams!
Age Appropriate Jobs
With maturity (and an allowance) comes additional responsibilities around the home. Each child has their own rota of jobs to do over the week; clearly marked with set tasks for each day. I won't bore you with a long list, but I do believe that at 13 and 11, the girls are now old enough to load and unload the dishwasher, do the hoovering and help tidy up the house at the end of the day.
The Boy is capable of emptying the bins, laying the table and polishing school shoes. All three children are expected to tidy and dust their bedrooms once a week, pets are to be looked after, homework is to be done before any TV watching and extra money can be earned. Guess what? It's working!
Consequences to Actions
We also expect certain rules to be followed in the home: showing respect and courtesy to all family members; carrying out jobs with minimal moaning(!); and generally clearing up after themselves. If this doesn't happen, then any 'foul play' is logged in their own personal notebook (to avoid accusations of inequality!) and fines of 10p are deducted from that week's allowance.
Now I know that some of you reading this will be thinking we're running some kind of ultra strict boot camp for wayward Tweens (please don't send any more my way!) but in my experience, unless things are spelled out very clearly to children, expectations begin to slip and eventually, all the work ends up back at mum's door (either that or the nagging voice comes back into play and no-one wants that!).
What are the benefits?
Teamwork - One of the obvious benefits to this system is that we are now working as a team rather than in constant opposition - Mum and Dad vs Kids.
A Tidier home - I'm not saying our home is a 'bed of roses' but there are marked improvements in certain areas, in particular The Teenager's untidy bedroom which on the whole, has seen a remarkable transformation! She has quickly learned that the more mess she makes during the week, the harder the job is come Saturday.
Improvement in behaviour - The Tween has made progress in all areas, but particularly in eradicating certain behaviours that we wanted to see less of (running out of ice-cream funds on holiday was a factor in this!).
Good attitudes - For The Boy, it's pretty much 'business as usual' (whoever said that boys are harder than girls got it soooo wrong!) but his gracious attitude when carrying out jobs really should be commended.
What are they learning?
How to budget - I believe that teaching children to handle money well, should start at a young age. I know of adults who say they were never given guidelines as children and have subsequently got themselves into very serious debt in later life. If we don't want that for our children, we should be teaching them to budget now.
For the first two weeks, The Tween spent her allowance almost immediately, on things she had been coveting (I think she thought it was an early Christmas!). It wasn't long however, before she realised that spending her money all at once, meant that she had nothing left for snacks on her way home from school and that buying presents at Christmas time would be a tough call!
Historically, it has been The Teenager for whom money 'burns a hole'. Interestingly, she has been the one who has probably learned the most in all this. At Youth Club last week, she took some of her own money to spend on snacks. On our way home, I asked her what she had bought, she hadn't spent a penny! This was her response: "If it had been your money, I would have spent it all on a drink and some sweets because otherwise you would ask for it back, now that it's mine, I don't want to spend it on rubbish!".
Behaviour leads to natural consequences - There will come a time when one of them will not receive as much money as they were hoping for, in fact this particular week I have a feeling that a certain child might end up with zero, mainly due to questionable behaviour! But this too is an incredibly valuable lesson to learn - you cannot simply behave as you please and not suffer the consequence.
The joy of giving - Last week was our wedding anniversary. Despite suggesting that our children might want to save some of their money to buy presents for family on special occasions, we never for a second thought that they would include our anniversary in this. The day arrived and both girls proudly presented us with a very special card and a small present.
Being responsible - They took great delight in telling us about the shopping trip after school and their reasons for choosing each gift and card. Providing them with the opportunity to do this, all by themselves, is not something we have done before. They clearly rose to the challenge and blossomed in the process.
What are your thoughts on asking children to help out with jobs around the home?
Do your children have to earn pocket money or is it just given?
What age do you think is appropriate for an allowance?
Suzanne blogs over at 3 Children and It, where she shares the highs and lows of bringing up a family in the 21st Century. She blogs with honesty and humour, leaving very little to the imagination!
Blogs at: 3 Children and it