Testing Parenting Classics: Toddler Chore Chart

About two weeks ago, my husband and I implemented a “chore” chart and reward system for our two year old. (To be exact, he will be three in November, so he’s two and 9 months.) I use quotations for “chore” because they aren’t so much chores as skills, responsibilities and things we want him to do without resistance or complaining.

I’ll admit it. This has been a hard one for me, and was totally my husband’s idea. I mean, how is my PRECIOUS BABY old enough to be given chores?!

But because we are a nice parenting ying and yang, my husband made a strong case that the time had certainly come, that this would be a nice segue into potty training, and rounded it out with the promise of a crafting project (because he knows how to appeal to me too).

So after a long trip to Mardel’s in which we spent more time discussing the logistics of the actual reward system than actual shopping, we developed this:

  • For every completed chore, we give him a check mark and he adds a sticker to his sheet.
  • Once a row of five stickers is achieved, he gets a small handful of M&Ms or large sticker/other small prize.
  • Maintain a dry-erasable and thus revisable list of chores. We created a mix that fall into three main categories:
    • Things He Can Do On His Own Now But Wouldn’t Otherwise
      • Brush teeth.
      • Put shoes on.
    • Things He Is Resisting Doing/Has Trouble With
      • Happy Dropoff aka being left at preschool without crying.
      • Happy Bedtime aka not telling us “no” when it’s time to go to bed.
      • Take a Bath. Same story.
      • Eat Dinner. Seriously, the kid doesn’t eat.
    • Easy Wins
      • Feed dogs. He loves to scoop the food into bowls.
      • Nap time. He almost never skips them, and Lord knows I need that time to myself, so we celebrate them. Haha.

So yes, so far, so good. I will say that we have failed at complete consistency – we don’t check off everything as it happens, or even remember to hit every item every day, but it’s become a fantastic tool for directing his energy and celebrating his capabilities. And I’m not sure he’s quite grasped the concept of completing the row of stickers and getting a reward – he really just likes putting the stickers on the paper.

But if we tell him it’s time to eat and he instead squirms on the couch, says no and “I want to watch Mickey,” we have something other than time-out to motivate him. And towards the end of the day when he is moody and tired, we let him go through the whole list and check off anything we haven’t gotten to yet, scoring lots of wins and fanfare, before reminding him he will get another check and sticker for going to bed when we tell him.

Finally, I like the flexibility of the system and the fact hat the list can evolve as he matures, and so can the reward.  My parents had quite an elaborate chore system by the time we were in elementary school that was totally based on intrinsic motivation (or perhaps more accurately, the extrinsic wrath of my mother), and I think it really made a difference. (Even though my friends weren’t happy when my mom began bragging to their moms about how I was doing my own laundry in fifth grade, and their moms decided to do the same. THAT did not win me many popularity contests.) ANYhow, I have high hopes that this will get him on the road to contributing to the family, helping him feel capable and proud, and hopefully mitigate the threenager-ness that lies ahead of us.

Do you have a similar system or experience? I would love to hear about it!!

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