Chores..... I bet that word conjures up all sorts of reactions in your family.
I propose that we re-frame the word we use and instead call it a task. According to Mirriam-Webster, chore is defined as "a small job done regularly" and "a dull, unpleasant, or difficult job or experience". In my mind, a task is more manageable to consider.
Over the past week, I have had the opportunity to meet with four different groups of parents- so fun! One of the topics that comes up is "chores" and allowances. A father shared how his family handled chores in his house when he was growing up. Everyone has chores/tasks to complete every day, simply because they are a member of the family. These chores/tasks are not attached to money. They did them because that was the expectation. They had an allowance, but it was not dependent on their chore/task.
I love this idea. Every person contributes to the running of the household as is appropriate. Let't talk about intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation--- Intrinsic motivation: I do the right thing/contribute/help out because that is the right thing to do. Extrinsic motivation: I do the right thing because I am going to get some reward for doing what you want me to do. Rewards could be food, money, experiences. It is a slippery slope on that path, my friends!
When we raise the bar in terms of expectations, and also check ourselves to make sure we are showing respect for our children, they will rise to the occasion. My 3 year old son loves to help fold the laundry. His folding skills are not quite there yet, but he loves sitting with us as we fold and put clothes into piles. And he LOVES to put the clothes into the bag, help carry it upstairs and then take it out of the bag and help put it away!
Maria Montessori said "If teaching is to be effective with young children, it must assist them to advance on the way to independence. It must initiate them into those kinds of activities which they can perform themselves.." (The Discovery of the Child, p. 57)
A search on Google or Pinterest will give you loads of suggestions on age-appropriate tasks for your child. The key is to start small, have the correct child-size tools for the task, and model/show how the task is to be completed. Understand that in the beginning, when your child is washing the windows or mirrors with a squeegee and spray bottle of water and vinegar, there will be lots of clean-up. When your child is setting the table, they might skip something. Give them grace to figure it out. Be there for support, but trust them. Be consistent, remain calm, and trust your child (and yourself!).
If you choose to give an allowance, that is a great time to talk about money and budgeting. Introduce a tiered approach- saving for something, donating to a charity, and spending. There is a great article about the importance of talking about money awareness beginning at age 3- check out Bankrate for this article. http://www.bankrate.com/finance/financial-literacy/4-money-lessons-for-children-to-master-1.aspx
Have 3 separate containers for the money- a save container, a spend container and a donate container. This helps the child begin to develop critical thinking skills about the value of money, and also underscoring the fact that it is not just about them. We are raising our son to see that we are part of a larger community, and that we are all connected. We help other people and the earth in our small ways by the choices we make, every single day.
Montessori stated that "It is a mental chemistry that takes place in the child, producing a chemical transformation. These impressions not only penetrate the mind of the child, they form it; they become incarnated, for the child makes his own 'mental flesh' in using the things that are in his environment. We have called this type of mind the 'absorbent mind' and it is difficult for us to conceive the magnitude of its powers." -Education for a New World, p. 14
Beth is a mom first and foremost. She is also a trained Montessori teacher who is passionate about making the lofty ideals of the Montessori philosophy more real and manageable for families.