A simple chore chart might work well when your kids are little, but they may outgrow a chore chart as they get older. Using a chore contract achieves several goals. First, it gives more details about how and when kids complete chores. Second, a chore contract utilizes a more mature approach that recognizes your child’s older age level. Hammer out the details of contract to teach your child real-life negotiation skills, as well.
Write down the chore details that you want your child to complete to prepare you to negotiate. Include the chores you want done, the frequency of the chores, specific locations for each chore and details about tasks included in each chore. Include provisions for compensation, if applicable, and penalties for not completing a chore properly.
Take your notes to your child to have a productive discussion. You might premise the chat by telling your child that you think she’s outgrown a chore chart and you think you’ve found a better solution that will fit her now that she’s a little older. Present each chore you want to assign to your child, one at a time, to discuss the chore. For example, an 10-year-old girl could be able to empty the dishwasher daily and feed the dog. A 14-year-old boy might be ready to mow the lawn every week and take out the garbage. Provide the details you’ve ironed to give your child the full picture of what’s involved in each chore.
Invite your child to share her reactions and thoughts about the chores. As your child tells you her thoughts, listen and take notes so you remember what she says. You might hear objections to the frequency of a chore, the details involved in a chore and compensation, if applicable. By listening respectfully, you help your child feel heard and valued, which contributes to an overall feeling of satisfaction and being loved in your child.
Consider your child’s points as they relate to your outline of the chore contract. Be prepared to give in some areas to help your child see the value of negotiation. For example, perhaps your chore contract details stipulated that your child’s room would be clean and picked-up by dinner every night but your child countered this detail with the bedroom being clean by bedtime. This might be one area where you could give in during the negotiation process.
Work through the details of each chore together until you have a chore chart that both you and your child feel comfortable signing.
Draw up the contract as a formal agreement between you and your child. The contract should include each chore your child will do as well as a complete description of the chore and details about the frequency, timing and compensation. Include how chores will be determined completed – generally by parental inspection – and when your child will receive any applicable compensation. Don’t forget to add details about privileges that your child might lose if issues arise with timely and satisfactory chore completion.
Sign and date the contract with your child to make it into a formal agreement between you.
Stay cool during the negotiation process. Remember -- this isn't just about chores. You're teaching your child important negotiation skills, too.