KW Mocha Momma Babble Voices Writing Well About Contact
Kelly WickhamSpeakingWritingTravelingCreating Kelly Wickham: Teacher, Speaker, Storyteller
about Kelly

twitter pinterest subscribe

Subscribe to the
Mocha Momma blog by email:


Motivating Children to Do Chores

Lately, I've been writing over at Babble about Executive Dysfunction, a disorder that was quite foreign to me until last month that can mimic Aspergers which is considered to be "on the spectrum" of Autism. Over the last few years I wondered what was really going on with my son, Morgan, and this fall I finally decided to get some answers for him. Here is part one and, if you're so inclined, I wrote a follow up post. It surprised me that the Huffington Post picked it up as an article but then that led to me doing a radio show for KUOW in Seattle about medicating children.

As another follow up, I thought I would share some ideas about the discipline and parenting techniques we use at home for him. Every parent needs tools to help, don't we? The usual consequences of discipline and punishing those children don't always work and, for me, I found that everything I used in the past with the other children didn't work with Morgan. That's not to say that the other kids weren't difficult. They were, but in very different ways and to differing degrees. A lot of what I learned from the first child psychiatrist we saw was about looking for good behavior. She phrased it as "catching good behavior" since it seemed to him that we only paid attention when he was misbehaving.

Not that I'm above bribery for doing homework or conning my children into doing something. I am not. I have tried a lot of things and tend to stick with whatever works for each individual child. (I have never tried hiring an elephant to help me discipline, though. I can promise you that. But I wish I had thought of that.) In looking for the positive in my children, especially with Morgan, it's become clear that much of my parenting has to be pro-active and not reactive to his behavior. If, for instance, we have a lot of things to do on a Saturday that includes cleaning and errands, I have to let Morgan know about them on Friday night so that if he needs to adjust he has plenty of time.

This idea, from my friend, Krista, is a great example of motivating children and giving them very specific chores but it also gives them some choice about the order in which they do them. Each jar contains money that is pre-determined as their allowance for the week. She adjusts that as needed when they don't complete all the chores.


Her children get the money when all their chores are completed by week's end. It's a great visual so they can what they'll earn if they do all their chores. Clear mason jars work great and she mounts them on a wall that the kids see every day as they enter the house.

The chores are done according to the age and responsibility of the child. This one, from Julia's list, includes "Trixie", their guinea pig that really belongs to Julia so it's her responsibility to care for and feed. It's possible that the kids can trade chores, but that's a deal between them and they stay on their list until the week is over. Each child moves their own clothespin clip from the To Do list to the Done list and their mom simply has to check on their completion without harping on them to get them completed.

These will probably work with children who aren't considered difficult as well, but for kids like mine who are motivated by the money they see as a reward and need to have something concrete to work towards, it's a simple brilliant idea.

Top photo credit courtesy of peasap via Creative Commons

« Couple of Things | Main | 21 Stories About Mason »

References (5)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    Kelly Wickham - Mocha Momma - Motivating Children to Do Chores
  • Response
    Kelly Wickham - Mocha Momma - Motivating Children to Do Chores
  • Response
    Response: bikini hair
    Kelly Wickham - Mocha Momma - Motivating Children to Do Chores
  • Response
    Kelly Wickham - Mocha Momma - Motivating Children to Do Chores
  • Response
    Response: quick weight loss
    Kelly Wickham - Mocha Momma - Motivating Children to Do Chores

Reader Comments (14)

Truly, truly love this. Thank you!

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteranymommy

I'm so glad! When I see great ideas I always snap a photo of them and I knew this would be a super one to highlight.

December 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMocha Momma

This is brilliant for so many reasons. What I most appreciate is that this system not only does its job, it's setting the kids up to succeed. Beautiful, too. I'm gonna post about this tomorrow on Parent many of us struggle with how to track and reward chores! Thanks for sharing, Kelly.

December 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAsha Dornfest {Parent Hacks}

My biggest concern is how much allowance to give them. I am a single mom of three kids, and money is tight. I never got allowance as a kid (and also did not get paid for good grades in school) so I dont know how to handle that. Many kids are getting upwards of $20! I want to teach them to work towards something, BUT keeping the house clean is something that everyone has to do together as a family. Any input would be helpful.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteph

With these great jars you can put almost anything in them. With money being tight you can put a coupon in for anything that your children find fun. What about a coupon for a one on one walk with Mommy, an hour of board games with Mommy or a trip to the park? You could even put a special treat or a special present from the dollar store. Just a few ideas to think over.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Those little clips with the chores on them are so cool! That is such a fun way to display chores and know what is done. The jars are an awesome idea too.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Dubac

[...] read an idea on Mocha Momma about motivating children to do chores, and I thought her idea was just fantastic! She makes little personalized to do clips at her house [...]

I love this--but I need additional ideas for the things that have to happen each day. In my house--piano and reading need to happen multiple times per week as does "picking up their clothes"


December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDawn @ thedalaimama

I'm with Karen, it can be coupons for things that don't cost money. We did something similar at my home for "catching good behavior" and it was never money for the reward. Usually things like, "Movie Night With Just Mom" and the kid could pick it out (even if I hated the movie, but oh well!) or even "Ice Cream for Dinner" which, of course, you'd have to have on hand.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMocha Momma

Thanks, Janet! I wish I could take all the credit. :-)

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMocha Momma

What about making multiple clips for piano practice and reading? If you make it required daily during the week, make up 5 clips for reading and move it every time the child reads.

I'm a fan of an Emergency Clip, too, so that you can do a 5 Minute Pickup. I set the timer for 5 minutes, play music, and tell all the kids that we have to do a fast clean. Everyone scrambles to their room to make it happen and I can do something for 5 minutes, too. Do you think that would work at your house?

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMocha Momma

Thank YOU for bringing readers to me, Asha! My brain is thinking about all kinds of new ideas right now. xoxo

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMocha Momma

Dawn -- I'd distinguish between chores and things you just have to do every day, like brush your teeth and pick up your clothes and practice and read. To me, offering rewards or allowance for those things sets up the expectation that every little thing is tied to a giveback. Instead, I'd just be firm and insistent that we all have things we have to take care of every day (like, say, a parent has to get dinner on the table). If the kid doesn't do them, well then, perhaps dinner won't show up. Or their favorite shirt will stay unwashed for weeks. Or the snacks won't be packed. Or whatever - -things kids can survive, but that teach them that we all have daily responsibilities to meet without any expectation of being paid for them. I have mixed reactions to allowance being tied to chores, but I am definitely against rewards for participating in the basic choreography of being a human being.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

Yes I do. I think I might be fashioning something like this over Christmas break. WE have a magnetic chart now-that works (when we remember) but I think if the money was visible, we'd all be more motivated: them to do their chores and me to pay them.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDawn @ thedalaimama

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>
BlogHerNPRMedia BistroHuffington Post