Monday, June 14, 2010

a house that runs like clockwork

Those of you who read my blog primarily for theological insights will have to forgive me this summer.  Since the kids are out of school I'll be wearing my 'mommy' hat for more hours of the day ... and I'm guessing that will mean more 'mommy-related' posts.

For the past few years I confess that I have been nervous about summertime.  Eliana just thrives on structure, and when summer comes I love to wallow in spontaneity, seizing the moment to build memories with the kids.  What usually happens is that a lack of schedule from me either provokes a sour mood in her or inspires her to create her own structure, and pretty soon she thinks she should be able to run the show.  (Should I mention that she has every half-hour block of her first week of summer planned out already??!!)  She's a born leader, and it's not always easy to know how to give her opportunities for leadership and planning without handing over the reins entirely.

This summer is going to be different.  I actually can't wait to have her home all day!  A big reason is that she and I are doing much better.  I've made more of an effort to make plans, and learned to communicate my plans up front so that the day isn't hijacked.  But there's another reason I'm excited about this summer.  We recently heard about a chore-management, child-training program called Accountable Kids and decided to try it.  From day one it has worked wonders in our home!  One of my biggest parenting problems is that I'm so busy doing my own chores and thinking about what I want to do with the kids that I forget to make sure they have done their chores.  With 3 kids to keep track of, I find it hard to make sure that everyone is on task.  When I am thinking about what they need to do, I hate feeling like a drill sergeant, following them around and asking over and over if they've put their clothes away or cleared the table or made their bed or picked up their toys or brushed their teeth....etc etc.  But the Accountable Kids system has almost completely eliminated both of those issues.  I rarely have to remind them what they should be doing, but it's all getting done!  What a relief!

So how does this work?  We've adapted the program to fit our family best.  Here's how it works: Each of the girls has a pegboard with reminder cards for all the chores they need to do in a day hanging on the first peg in the order they should be done.  As they do each chore, they move the card to the "finished" peg.  Games, reading, playing outside, watching a show, and playing computer are things that have to wait until they come to a 'priviledge card'.  There is one hanging after their stack of morning chores, and one hanging after their stack of afternoon chores.  If I find them playing before they have finished their chores, I simply remind them that they need to get to their privilege card first.  If they are moving as slow as molasses, I gently remind them that if they take all morning to do their chores, then there won't be enough time left to play.  It's their choice!  It's made my job more fun, because they are focused on getting their work done so that they can play with me, instead of hearing me nag them all morning.  I am less stressed because by dinnertime the house is in pretty good shape instead of having a day's worth of chores all piled up to do.

There's more to the program than that.  One of my favorite parts is the 'extra chores' peg.  These are optional chores that can be done to earn money or prizes.  Emma is currently earning a 'bonus buck' for each extra chore she does (washing the front glass door, emptying out the trashes into the kitchen trash, folding all the squares in the laundry, etc).  When she has 5 bonus bucks she can pick out a Silly Band [If anyone without young children has read this far ...Silly Bandz are rubber-bands in the shape of something fun, like an ice cream cone, that can be worn as a bracelet.  They are the craze right now, and someone is laughing all the way to the bank that people will pay 25 cents each for rubber bands in the midst of a recession!!!].  You can call me crazy for buying a pack of Silly Bandz, but Emma earned her first one this morning, and I have a clean house!

Eliana in particular LOVES the Accountable Kids system.  After watching the video on their website she BEGGED us to buy it.  When Easton is a bit older, we'll hang his pegboard up, too, so he can join in the fun.  Three cheers for a program that has helped me be a better parent, and helped my kids love accountability!


  1. I found your blog via a link on AK. We started this program too recently! I'm having a hard time with the tickets and it's great reading your blog to see you've come up with something different. Do you use the tickets at all? My 7 y o son does great completing all chores and is fully motivated to do it for his special date card. (we skipped ahead and added that step and then nixed the tickets). So for right now he's been doing all of his chores and when the day is done he gets a sticker on his date card. He just earned his first date and has chosen to have Dad take him to our YMCA for a personal swimming lesson. =) Now our other son is 5 and he's slower going on this system. (he's the one i worry about) But he's learning to complete all his chores and it's getting closer to becoming habit. Our oldest needed the next step so I added Extra Chores for him today. He is super excited! (guess what! his gramma informed both him and i about sillybandz! they are kinda cool but wow i had no idea they were that expensive! gramma bought them a pack) Anyway, off track here... My youngest isn't ready for the next step so I'm just going to keep encouraging him on step 1 with the sticker for date card and stay at that level until his chores become habit.

    The first day I did the tickets but I kept not wanting to ask the kids to pay me to do something. I don't want to restrict outside playtime, I want them to get out there. I also don't want to be a ticket taker all day. I'm worried about the amount of time it'll require to be keeping track of tickets, etc. So if I have this right, you skip the tickets and just require based on time of day that they complete that set of chores and then hanging behind it you have a priveledge pass. (which i could use a ticket in that spot if i want to save priv. pass for later). But I like your premise, once chores are done you have free time. Does this ever not work out or work against you? Say you are running late in the a.m. and you also don't have time to make your bed. =) You all go out for a doctors appt or whatever, then you hit a park afterwards to eat a picnic. Do you say, well you didn't complete your chores so you can't play? If you don't, how will you remain consistent?

    I appreciate you letting me pick your brain!


  2. Hi Kara, This is Carmen’s husband, Danny. Carmen does the blogging but I handled the Accountability Kids board as well as the adaptations for our family. She asked me to reply. I’ve spent years making up various chore / attitude charts for our oldest (9 years old) and now our middle child, too. So often these became higher maintenance than we’d like and they eventually lose their effectiveness. When I stumbled across Accountability Kids, I wondered if this would be just the thing for our family. We like that it focuses on chores but that it doesn’t leave out attitude (best behavior cards). I especially like the fact that when schedules change or when responsibilities change, we simply add or take away (or re-order) the chore card stack. This is much easier than re-creating a new chart on the computer.

    To answer your questions, we’ve basically switched the tickets with the privilege pass. Like you, we didn’t want to manage tickets with various basic privileges (meaning play time), which our kids earn by finishing a set of chores. This, to us, felt like high maintenance. Rather than the kids turning in tickets to play outside, watch a show, play on the computer, read or play a game, etc., they simply need to finish their set of chores (for that time of day). We include a privilege pass behind each set of chores on their chore boards. When they see that pass, they know they can then do any of the above “basic privileges” (for limited times) until it’s time for their next set of chores. This worked great during school but now that schools out we’ve changed it a bit again. Since there are only 2 privilege passes and (in our case) 3 sets of chores (now that it’s summer time), we’ve switched to using the “morning,” “afternoon” and “evening” cards as their sign (in place of the privilege pass) that they are all finished with their chores and can now enjoy their “basic privileges.” So now we are not using the actual “privilege pass” at all as part of our program.

    Our children know they can take as long as they’d like to do their chores. The longer they take, the less time they have to play. If they do not finish their chores, not only do they not enjoy basic privileges (play time), they also do not receive the star at the end of the day. If we are out, our kids still do their chores first when they get home (even, possibly, in place of playtime). If we’re out too long for them to get all their chores done, yet they’ve done what they can with the time they had, they still get a sticker. If we’re gone for a few days, we skip the program while we’re gone (no stars).

    Our struggle continues to be having them hurry. On a normal day this is no big deal because they end up paying the consequence by not having much or any play time (it’s up to them!). But it’s when we’re planning to be somewhere and they are dragging their feet that has been a bit more tricky. We’ve recently decided that if we have to do a chore for our children because of a timing issue (e.g. we’re having guests over or are leaving to go somewhere and “x” must be done before guests arrive or before we leave), then they pay us for doing their chore for them. This hasn’t been an issue with our oldest daughter since she is so motivated to just get her chores done (especially now that she knows exactly what’s expected of her). Our younger daughter (almost 5) has, indeed, lost a bonus buck or two by Carmen doing her chores for her when she was in a hurry. (Bonus bucks are earned by doing extra chores.) We can’t control our children and certainly cannot force them to hurry, so we need to be creative in what consequences are put in place in these situations. We’re not settled on this one yet . . . .

    (continues on next comment)

  3. The program intends for privilege passes to be used to eliminate bad behavior. They suggest that if our children avoid something negative they normally, they deserve a privilege pass and a special privilege. Though we agree with this concept, we thought getting a reward EVERY time they avoid “x” behavior, was too much (and, again, too high maintenance). So we use the tickets, instead, for this concept. Currently, we are working on good manners at the dinner table. If they have good manners, they get a ticket. If they use bad manners, they lose a ticket. We used tickets since there are 10 of them (there are only two privilege passes). If our children earn 10 tickets in this way, they get a reward (we’ve pre-arranged what the reward will be). Since Carmen and I don’t always remember to give a ticket for good manners (after all, it’s harder to notice good manners over bad!), we’ve made it our kids’ responsibility to give themselves a ticket if they had good manners. If they have bad manners, we take a ticket away.

    As side note: We decided to do dates after 3 cards filled with stars. If they do their chores every day (which they do) they’ll earn a date once-a-month. We may change that to every two cards they fill but since we expect our kids to do all of their chores every day, a date every 10 days was too much (for our family).

    We also didn’t cut the cards since we figured some chores would be switched around from time to time . . . . which didn’t change the effectiveness of the program for us.

    We LOVE the best behavior cards. Our kids have been caught NUMEROUS times doing something extra special (for a sibling or otherwise) and have received a best behavior card for it. We don’t always give a card but try to use them for positive reinforcement. After they receive 4 cards, they are rewarded. Though we don’t normally take best behavior cards away, when we are particularly disappointed in a behavior, we will take one back.

    If you had a question that I missed, please let us know. And if you have great ideas that have worked with your kiddos, please share!!

    Blessings, Danny

  4. Hey guys. This looks like something that would be effective here. I have been looking into Managers of their chores as well. Do you know anything about those?
    Can you share the website for what you are using? Thanks!!
    BTW - if you get spontaneous and head our direction, give us a call - we'd love to see you!

  5. Ha - just saw the link when I went back to tell Brenden. Sorry!