The Big One started 1st Grade (equivalent to Year 2 in the UK) recently, and with that has come a lot of extra responsibility! He now has homework every evening, comprising a Maths worksheet, reading and a list of spellings to revise for the weekly test. This was quite a shock to the little man's system coming from the warm and fuzzy environment of Kindergarten where days were spent learning through play and when school was out he was done. Oh no, he's a big kid now. And that comes with responsibilities. And a bitter pill to swallow it has been.
Big One: "Mummy, I feel like all I do these days is get up... go to school... work, work, work... come home... do my homework... have my dinner... and then go to bed! I never have time to play anymore!"
Me: "Welcome to the real world, honey!"
Getting him to sit and do the homework was like pulling teeth. We were literally spending 45 minutes a night doing a Maths worksheet, not because he found the work hard, but because each individual sum was accompanied by 5 minutes of moaning and groaning about the injustice of it all! I didn't even spend that much time on my homework when doing my A-levels at 18 (not that that is big, or clever)!
Anyway, Him Indoors & I decided that what he really needed was motivating. Clearly, the satisfaction of a job well done was not cutting the mustard, and the eye-rolling look of disdain he gave me at the mention of a sticker reward chart said it all. At the grand old age of 6, the Big One needed motivating by cold, hard cash!
I'll confess, part of me found this prospect a little distasteful (surely loving praise & encouragement is enough?), but then I began to consider the benefits of doing this.
- He is learning about money at school and we parents have been asked to enforce the lessons at home by providing them with opportunities to use coins & notes of different values. By working with an allowance he can practise his Maths skills for real!
- Like most 6 year-olds, the Big One's concept of how much things cost is utterly fantastical so maybe it will help teach him the value of money. And the value of hard work. Hey, money doesn't grow on trees after all!
- Also like a lot of kids his age, he asks for stuff. A lot. Now he can earn the means to buy stuff for himself rather than pestering me!
- We can use it as an opportunity to teach him about saving and goal-setting.
But, how to implement this in a practical way?
We decided to assign a value to each of his 'responsibilities'. So for example, one of his chores is to set the table for the evening meal. Not a particularly arduous task, but pitching in never the less. As a 5 minute task requiring little effort this responsibility is not a big earner... 20 cents a time! However, tidying his bedroom at the weekend so that the floor can be vacuumed takes a bit more effort and is worth a dollar! Obviously, the frequency at which these jobs must be performed varies too... putting dirty clothes in the laundry hamper is a daily chore, but dusting & polishing the upstairs bedrooms is a weekly job (I'm not a neat freak!).
So I decided to put my (limited) techy skills to work and produced a spreadsheet tracker for him to use. In the spreadsheet, each responsibility/job is assigned a value and a frequency. At bedtime each evening we review whether the tasks have been completed and add a 'Y' for yes or an 'N' for no. The spreadsheet automatically calculates the total earned so far that week. I put a little pie chart at the bottom of the chart so that he can see how much he can potentially earn in the week and how well he's doing towards that target!
To make the most of this activity, I also added a second sheet to the file where the Big One can track his saving and spending. On a Sunday evening, we have the 'Weekly Reckoning'... he gets his pay out and adds it to the ever increasing hoard in his piggy bank. I assumed the new riches would burn a hole in his pocket, but it would seem that it has had the reverse effect and he is displaying instinctive conservatism with his money! Recently, he was offered the opportunity to use all his savings to buy two Lego sets he had lusted after for a while. However, he decided to forgo this and only bought one... not wanting to clear out his piggy bank! He is also setting ambitious goals and sticking to a savings plan... he wants the new Lego Ninjago Fire Temple set at a whopping $120. He asked me to work out how many weeks he would have to save for, assuming he earned the full amount each week!
So has it worked?
This idea was originally inspired by the ongoing homework battle every evening after school. I can honestly say it has resolved that battle entirely! Homework is now done straight away, without complaint, and even he can see that it makes it quicker and less painful (we're down to a quick 10 minutes on the Maths worksheet now!). The weekly bonus of $1 for having a 'good attitude' towards tasks has made a huge impact too! Furthermore, the Big One has been really motivated in using the spreadsheet (he's all about the Screen Time at the moment!). All in all, my reservations about using money to motivate my child have gone for good and I feel great about teaching him the value of hard work, saving and spending wisely and goal setting!
If you would like to use the Allowance Tracker I have created, I have uploaded the Excel template to dropbox.com. Click here to go to file. I would appreciate your comments and feedback!