Put your children to work this summer!

by Annie Valentine
Contributing writer

shutterstock_57159193There is nothing better than the death of a school year and the birth of summer fun. Children and parents alike appreciate the respite after nine months of homework, projects and extra-curricular commitments.

Still, having children stuck in the house all summer can be just as much trouble as over-scheduling them. Most children feel entitled to a summer “break” from their responsibilities. Managing free time and teaching children of all ages to be accountable at home can be just as difficult as an overcrowded schedule.

Stephanie Flake has five children whose ages range from 3 to 14. She uses a simple index card system to help her children independently manage their summer chores and free time needs.

“My biggest challenge before I implemented our program was that they wanted free time, and I was the one telling them no,” Flake said. “It became a power struggle; it was a fight against me.”

She came up with a simple chore card system that her children could use to earn “screen time.”

“I think screens are some of the most desirable items. What a parent has to do is find what their child desires, then use that to encourage their child to accomplish what needs to be done,” Flake said.

The chore cards are simple. Each child has his or her own card with a simply tailored list of daily tasks that must be accomplished before they can earn a “token.”

Once the children complete their Chore Cards, they turn them in and earn two tokens — worth 30 minutes of screen time apiece — to spend or save. They can use more than one token a day as long as they take a 30-minute break between tokens to play or read.

“For our family, the basics on their chore cards consist of getting ready for the day, making their bed and practicing the piano, plus two school pages,” Flake said.

The whole card doesn’t take more than 45 minutes, and the school pages are 5 to 10 minutes apiece.
Flake’s goal is simple: get her children up and moving and using their brains.

“When they turn into couch potatoes, we have more grumpiness, more fighting and that blah feeling where no one wants to do anything,” she said. “For our family, it’s the same every time.”

When implementing a summer chore chart, Flake’s best advice is to keep it simple.

“Keep it within limits your children can reach,” she said.

Glenna Boerner is a stay at home mom with two young daughters, ages 4 and 6. She uses another simple and effective way to teach her girls the monetary value of work.

Her system starts with a weekly chore chart taped to the kitchen wall. For every chore they successfully complete, they can put a sticker on their chart.

“They needed something to physically see that would motivate them to start helping me, some kind of sight motivator,” Boerner said.

Boerner doesn’t ask her girls to do things outside their skill level, but she makes sure they’re learning responsibility.

“Some of their chores are really simple, like brushing teeth or picking up toys no matter where,” she said. “Allie (6) has to walk Sparkle the dog with me. Cameron (4) has to feed the cat. Allie has to unload the dishwasher. Cameron has to clear the table.”

At the end of the week, the children get one quarter for every star on their chore chart. Boerner said her girls understand they can use their money however they choose — the more stars, the more coins. The girls earn somewhere between 12 and 16 quarters a week.

It’s a well-known fact that finding the right motivator is key to helping children learn responsibility, and giving them attainable goals can foster success and happiness at home.