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18 January 2014

A Parent's Perspective on Housecleaning, Chores, and Payment

I have never believed that children should get paid for doing work around the house that contributes to the running of the house.  For example, my oldest child is responsible for taking out the trash each Wednesday night.  This task also includes checking trash around the house and emptying it as needed during the week. My youngest is the recycler and composter, taking care of both recycling and composting containers as needed. I believe this because these are tasks they will need to be able to do successfully when they are on their own; no one is going to pay them to do all things as adults! When these tasks are not completed successfully there are consequences, usually along the lines of a "PARENTAL LECTURE" (Used sparingly, this is an amazingly useful scare tactic), or loss of technology (including but not limited to TV and iDevices).

However, when it comes to housecleaning my husband and I have been navigating very murky territory. A little over a year ago my girls started getting paid to the clean the house.  Of course, there is a story behind this decision! Since 2005 I'd had a bi-monthly house cleaner and it was awesome!  She cleaned all the rooms, which took so much time off my working mom schedule.  Each of us in the family would spend a few minutes the night before she cleaned putting away various little items that had accumulated all over the house.  I'd started to notice, though, that certain little people were less inclined to pick up their "stuff." Finally, we let go of the housecleaner and told the girls they needed to learn how to clean their own house.  After all unless you are independently wealthy, no one is going to be cleaning your house for you when you are 22 and broke. (For my girls, living with mom or dad throughout their 20's is not an option without some tough and nasty consequences and responsibilities.)

This went...okay. I showed the girls how to clean each room and created a cleaning chart.  We tied their cleaning tasks to money, since they were replacing the cleaning lady. On one hand, I had more money in my pocket each month because these young novices didn't make the same as our experienced and professional house cleaner.  On the other hand, they just didn't do a very good job! We've also had to deal with times when dance or Science Olympiad or the school play have them at practice or rehearsal on their designated cleaning day (That would be Saturday morning) and they had to schedule and do their cleaning at other times.

I have struggled with how teach my children a greater level of responsibility for this task while also teaching them life skills. Working with young college students has taught me more than ever how absolutely essential it is for our young people to learn two things: RESPONSIBILITY and CONSEQUENCES! I decided to create a documentation system that is tied to their earnings.

Each child must document her weekly work, state what went well and declare an area that will need a tighter focus the next week. They must also declare how much they have earned that week.  Plus, without doing this documentation they will not get paid! Jody and I have decided to also offer a bonus system, in which they may accumulate points (not more money, though...) that will earn them cool, fun stuff. We are still working on the details on this. I'll be happy to share when I'm finished with this! This is the cleaning task form I created, you can see it here: Perrien's Cleaning Ticket for Kids

For every mom and dad who states that their kids are too busy to clean the house...this is absolutely not true! NOT TRUE. My oldest is in challenging middle school classes with homework, has an activity after school every day of the week, and has weekend church responsibilities. My youngest is in a competitive after school program on weeknights and sometimes travels on the weekends for this program. She has weekend church responsibilities, too, and homework each night. I argue that every child can find 2-3 hours during the week to contribute at home. If you are reading this and still don't believe your children have the time, I challenge you to spend a week watching your children and documenting what they do each hour.  In fact, Jen at I Heart Organizing has a free printable (Weekly Routine Timetable) for doing just that: I think you will be amazed at how much free time your children do have on their hands!

I believe my job as a mom is to support my children now, and to also prepare them for the rest of their life.  It's a difficult task, but I learn from my mistakes, I learn from the children (or college children) I teach, and I learn from my own two kids.

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