When I was growing up in the early 90’s, one of the most powerful motivators for my mother was the chore chart. I remember her marking up a large poster board with brightly colored markers and placing our task list on the fridge. It was so exciting; especially when the prizes listed were so magnificent. 1st place was a happy meal, 2nd was a curly fry from Arby’s, and 3rd place was a Little Debbie zebra cake. I always enjoyed eating that cake…
Here is how to make an effective chore chart for home. You may need to modify this process if your child is on the spectrum as there are so many variables related to their learning and behavioral capabilities.
Step 1: Gather all your supplies: Construction paper (grid marks are especially helpful), markers, a straight edge or ruler to mark lines.
Step 2: Set realistic goals and expectations. My five year old daughter is responsible for cleaning the living room, vacuuming the living room, cleaning the downstairs bathroom (including the toilet), cleaning her room, and making her bed. My three year old son is responsible for feeding the dog, cat, and fish, wiping down the table, picking up toys, dressing himself, and brushing his teeth.
Step 3: Create a process to help them succeed. For example, our rainbow vacuum was too heavy for my daughter to manage so I purchased a lightweight canister model for around $40 at Walmart. I also moved the majority of her toys from her bedroom to the play area so she only had three bins for toys in her room: stuffed animals, Barbies, and Calico Critters.
Step 4: Create a big and small reward system. Chore charts can teach both long term and short term gratification. Utilize happy faces or let your child select a special sticker to mark each task as complete. Long term rewards can be earned by getting a certain amount of stickers earned over the course of the week. Create a prize chest of rings, bouncy balls, silly pencils, etc. from the dollar store and let them pick from the chest when they reach their goal.
Step 5: Set crystal clear expectations. If you expect a five year olds bed making skills to match yours, you will be sorely disappointed. However, if the quilt is spread on the mattress in the right direction, pillows are at the head of the bed, and her stuffed animal is in the corner, I would call it a win. Practice makes perfect, so join in and help every once in awhile to give tips to make the process easier.
Step 6: Vocally praise and show off their work. Take a picture to show Grandma. If your child gets lots of positive reinforcement for cleaning, this new task will become a habit. Don’t let our children be branded as the lazy generation, they are more than capable if we give them the opportunity to do so.
*Although not necessarily cleaning related, my personal favorite chores include the “Helping Others” and “Bonus” chore. The child selects what they want to do and it makes them aware of all the different opportunities to volunteer their help.