Several years ago, a very wise woman was having a picnic for the parents and children of her art class. At the end of the meal, the parents stood up and began clearing the dishes. "Wait! Let the children do that!" she exclaimed. Then she went on to explain that if children have the ability to do a task, they should do it. It isn't cruel; it teaches them to be responsible adults. At the time, I only had two children ages 4 and 2. Her advice to the parents struck home and that very day my children started taking responsibility (and pride) in cleaning up after themselves.
Flash forward 5 years later - March 2012. My husband and I were taking a weekly F!nancial Peace Univer$ity class (you know, Dave Ramsey). Dave also has a FPU Junior course for children. Intrigued, I bought the kit and walked through it with my children. Now, we had been trying various reward systems for a few years by this point - they earned everything from marbles (redeemable for items), quarters, candy, and other rewards for completing their chores. However, I always fell behind in keeping up with everything. FPU Junior somewhat simplified things for me - but I simplified it further...
My children have daily and weekly tasks to perform. Each day they make up their beds, clean up their rooms, clear their dishes, etc. They also have age-appropriate jobs. Monday through Friday, they can earn a dollar a day - except for Chaucer - he earns quarters when he does an individual task (little kids like the clink of coins; they haven't yet learned to appreciate a piece of paper with a dead President on it). I also give an incentive dollar - if they have earned all 5 dollars for the week, I'll give them an extra dollar. They can also earn extra dollars for doing extra work; I never tell them they can earn the extra dollar and they know they should not ask for the extra dollar. Pay day is Saturday at breakfast. I give them their earnings for the week then they sort their money into three envelopes: SAVE, GIVE, and SPEND. This past Saturday was a "Give" week - so they have to put $1 in their Give envelope (regardless if they earned one dollar for the week or six). Anything left can go in either Save or Spend. Next week will be a "Save" week - so, again, $2 (regardless of the money earned) goes in their Save envelope. So, every two weeks, they are giving 10% (to our church) and 20% to their savings accounts. They usually keep those monies in the envelopes for a couple of months at which point we bring the envelopes to our church and to the bank. As for spend, they can spend their money on whatever they want to. I, personally, love the Spend envelopes! When we go to a fair, museum, or store, they aren't begging me for toys. They know to bring their money! This system has saved me and my husband a small fortune, I'm sure! Yesterday, while we were out and about, we stopped at a restaurant for lunch. Casey, wanting a milkshake and knowing not to ask me, whipped out a couple of dollars of her own money and bought one for herself. She was positively beaming about that milkshake!
One other thing I've implemented in our home is KID OF THE WEEK (KOTW). What a life saver this has been!! My children used to argue over who would go first - or, rather, last - when seeing their music teacher. KOTW has changed that! They used to break their necks to run out and get the mail. No more of that nonsense since we have a KOTW! Kid of the Week has advantages and disadvantages. Kid of the Week gets to check the mail, has a stronger vote in the choice of flicks for Family Movie Night, and gets their choice of where to sit during that movie. Kid of the Week also has to practice piano and voice first, has to clear extra dishes from the dining room table, has piano and voice lessons first, waters the plants, feeds the dog, and helps me sort and bag recycling. I'm sure there are more KOTW tasks, but I can't remember them right now. Recently, given that we will have a newborn in the house soon, I've given the kids a few new tasks to do and have taught them how to clean showers and Casey has learned how to set the washing machine to do laundry. Because of the simple advice I was given years ago, my children take pride in their home, earn money they can give and save and spend, and I have an amazingly clean home (usually) considering 6 people (7 before too long) live here!