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Are Job Charts Really Helpful?


Walk into any home of young children and you are likely to see chore charts tracking daily duties, star charts to account for hard-earned rewards, and sets of rules posted so children will see a constant reminder of what they are supposed to be doing.

Is there any benefit to our children earning gold stars when they’ve successfully picked up their toys?

Do our children really need to earn rewards for eating all their vegetables? Do we really need to track how many new ones they try and – upon eating five – do they really deserve a new toy?

I recently saw a television spot on job charts, and the parenting expert was sharing various incentives for rewarding children’s behavior. It all seemed so silly to me. As parents, we should lay down our expectations, help our children learn how to fulfill them, and that should be the end of it.

Instead, we turn parenting into a technique and use tips and tools to teach and manipulate behavior.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not attacking you if you utilize charts in your home. I am a charting queen. I’d be happy to sell you the charts and reward systems I have created through the years. I have them all. They are ridiculous. They make me laugh now, but I still create more.

I have four children. At one time, my four children were all under the age of five. I needed charts – for my sanity, so that I could remember who did what and who needed what. I still need charts. Otherwise, I don’t remember who ate breakfast or who needs to brush their teeth. When they say to me “Mom, is there anything else I need to do before I…”, I don’t know the answer without referring to my chart or list.

But the whole notion of earning stars for peeing in the potty or getting a reward for giving away your pacifiers, as my oldest two sons did – that is a bit overboard and, perhaps, more for the parents than the children. We have difficulty when our children squirm a little bit.

Our lives are so busy, and we are not as focused or on top of things as we’d like to be. We are desperate for our children to learn a new skill or to be on schedule. We do not like to feel out of control. I know when my children have all gone to bed for the night and I realize that they did not put away their clean laundry, I squirm at the thought of adding one more thing to tomorrow’s to-do list.

I remember being tired of my little ones saying, “What do I do now?” throughout the morning routine, so I created a chart. Then I could say: “Look at your chart. Did you do everything? What do you have left to do before we leave for school?”
I changed charts all the time. I’ve made some great ones through the years. My children were as excited about the charts as I was. They worked for a time, and then they fizzled away – into a new chart, a new helping aid.

Is it possible to have a love-hate relationship with chore charts? These days, moms need all the help they can get. So, what’s wrong with a little nudge from a piece of poster board with Velcro-adhered tasks?

These days, I have lists. My children’s chores rotate. Each one is in charge of a particular room during the week, and they have a list of what needs to be accomplished in that room. They earn money (inconsistently) for the extra household help they provide. I track it in a check register, and they can access that money after a discussion with mom and dad.

In our house, the after school hours are a mad rush. I have a middle school student, a sixth grader, fourth grader, and second grader. The younger two are in a Spanish-immersion program. Everyone has something to say to me after school, which I cherish. I know a lot of parents have trouble getting their children to divulge any information about their school day. It’s four children and one mama with two ears. My head starts spinning the minute the school bell rings.

I have a write on-wipe off board that I write our daily list of things to do. That way, I remember who needs to shower before bedtime, if the garbage needs to be taken out, or who has an activity that afternoon. Lists help me, and – I suppose – a list is a grown up chore chart.

Whether you love charts or despise them – we all have methods for keeping our household and the lives of our children under control. Order equals sanity. May the force be with you in your pursuit of staying sane.
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Content copyright © 2014 by Lisa Polovin Pinkus. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Lisa Polovin Pinkus. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Lisa Polovin Pinkus for details.

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