Contribution and Chores by Age

African girl with folded laundry

Contribution is giving children small ways to be helpful throughout the day. If you are folding laundry, they can match socks, carry stacks of washcloths or put underwear in drawers. If you are getting dinner ready, they can color placemats, butter rolls, serve greenbeans, fold napkins or take drink orders. You might also ask children to water plants, pour dog food in the dog’s bowl or help get things ready for bathtime. These jobs are typically smaller than chores but are still helpful. It’s good to start contribution as early as two or three years old and continue through childhood.

Chores children do because they are part of the family can easily start by four or five years old. Chores at this age are daily and should be things the child can do independently. Family chores are not paid but are expected. It’s helpful to have a chore chart so children can track their efforts. This is also laying foundation for tracking chores for allowance later on. Chores as part of the family for younger children might include; simple pet care, putting clothes in the hamper, putting towels on hooks or carrying plates to the sink. For older children, family chores might include making their bed, walking the dog or picking up their play space.

Keeping contribution and family chores, you might add chores for allowance by six or seven years old. In the beginning, these chores should also be daily. As children get to be nine or ten years old, the schedule of chores can be more flexible. There might be a chore on the chart that happens once or twice a week. Paid chores for younger children might include setting the table, dusting a room or washing windows and mirrors. For older children paid chores might include loading and unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming a room or level of the house or cleaning a bathroom. As they are older, you might also offer a list of bigger, one time chores like cleaning out the garage or raking the yard to earn extra money.

For motivation’s sake, it may be helpful to keep school work and any musical instrument practice off chore charts. It’s also good to keep pet care on the contribution or family chore list and not be paid.

Introducing Chores

If you are thinking about introducing chores to your children, it is best to start with the idea of contribution. Contribution is giving kids jobs throughout the day and expecting them to help just because they are part of the family. For two year olds, this may be helping find socks when you do laundry. For five year olds, this may be folding napkins and buttering rolls when you are making dinner. For a full description of contribution, please visit https://parentingbydrrene.com/2012/10/12/contribution-getting-kids-to-help/.

Once contribution is well established, you can introduce chores children do because they are part of the family. These are daily chores, and things they are capable of doing. For a three year old, this might be getting their clothes in the hamper. For a five year old, this might be carrying plates to the sink after dinner. When you start daily chores, it is helpful to introduce a chart for them to track their progress. Be sure you also occasionally give descriptive praise, saying things like, “you cleared the table, that was helpful!”

Once the family chores are being consistently taken care of, you can introduce chores for allowance. If and when you do this, be sure to continue with contribution and chores they do because they are part of the family. If you only have them doing chores for allowance, you won’t be able to get their help in other ways unless you pay them. In the beginning, these should also be things they can do independently, and things that are done daily. It’s good to continue the chart that has a chore or two because they are family, and add the chore or two they do to earn allowance. In the beginning, help them to get through and be sure they earn their allowance.

From the beginning, it is good to help them divide their money into spending, saving and charity money. The spending is money they can carry with them to the store and spend on little things, or they can put it towards the bigger things they are saving for. In the beginning, saving money is for something big they’d like to buy. As they are older this money can be towards a car or towards college expenses. The charity money is to set aside for the penny drive at school or for the Sunday school offering plate.

As they get older, you can introduce optional chores or a list of ways they can earn additional money. They can also start to do small jobs for trusted neighbors such as walking their dogs or carrying in their mail.

You might also read: https://parentingbydrrene.com/2011/12/05/chores-by-age/ or https://parentingbydrrene.com/2011/12/04/chores-for-earning-allowance/

Other ideas? Please suggest them below!

Contribution – Getting Kids to Help

Contribution is getting children involved in the process of daily living. It is giving them jobs, so they can be productively engaged. When children are participating in family function, there is less need for discipline. This is very much in line with the Montessori philosophy. In a Montessori classroom, children are preparing snack, serving snack and cleaning up the snack area, even at two years old. There is little misbehavior around snacktime because it is their job, they take pride in it. The are fully engaged in positive behavior, so there is less time for the negative.

Starting at two years old, I think children should be contributing at home throughout the day. If you are folding laundry, they can be matching socks. If you are preparing a meal, they can be matching cups to lids or taking drink orders. Older children, who are buttering rolls or serving green beans, bypass the time for arguing, video games and to complain about what’s for dinner. You avoid the need for discipline by making them part of the process.

In the classroom, if my teachers are getting art supplies ready for the next day, there should be children helping them. They might be helping pour paint or matching papers. Yes, this takes longer and can be more of a mess, but the next day those helper children are a little more excited to be there.

Go wide with how they help. Setting the table every night for dinner sounds like more of a chore (I like chores and chores for allowance, but this is something different). Contribution includes drawing placemats, writing menus, folding napkins and serving food. Shake it up by suggesting different ways to contribute each day.

When they do contribute, take the help however it comes. Resist the urge to correct their helpfulness. Let’s say you have been working for a week with your six-year-old on how to make their bed. One morning they come to you excitedly and say, “mommy, I made my bed without you!” When you go to see it, find something nice to say about that bed. Even if it’s not what you’d hoped for, say something like, “this corner is so straight!” and leave the bed. If you take this moment to correct, or you wait til they go to school to remake the bed, you are squashing their contribution. It’s better to wait until the next morning and catch them before they make it to reteach.

Contribution teaches life skills, builds intrinsic motivation, and creates a sense of belonging and community.

For more on chores and allowance please read: https://parentingbydrrene.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/chores-by-age/ and https://parentingbydrrene.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/chores-for-earning-allowance/.

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