I don’t ask much. I swear I don’t. I want them to empty their lunch boxes after school. I want them to pack their own lunches (with help, in the case of Wyatt and Rory). I want them to put their clothes in the laundry hamper, turned right-side-out.
That’s it, really, although I rounded off with table clearing, dog feeding and two area clean-ups, all assigned as a team. And bought a star chart, and tried to put them on, and got utterly lost in the morass of who did what what nights and how to designate changing teams (because neither Rory nor Wyatt can feed dogs on their own), and then even more stymied by the whole dry-erase marker issue, because every time anyone moved a star, the whole thing got erased. It lasted all of one day.
So how to incentivize them to do the things I want them to do? They liked the idea of stars. And I don’t like the idea of paying them money. I give Sam an allowance, and am about to do the same for Lily, but I won’t do that for Wyatt or Rory until they can add and subtract money. And I’m not really “paying” them to do things (although I will, occasionally, for really undesirable chores like scooping dog poop). I think they do things when things need doin g just because they’re part of the family. And that actually worked fine for the dishes and the dog feeding…
But I got really, really tired of the daily whining about emptying the lunch box, and I just couldn’t convince them to unball their socks. Thus: Star chips.
Star chips are poker chips, with star stickers on them. Every time you do a chore, you get a star chip. This has lasted, to great enthusiasm, for a solid week, and tonight inaugurates the “mommy store.” I considered trading star chips for money–but really, to buy anything anyone would want to have at any store in our rather precious little town takes more money than I’m willing to hand a preschooler, and going to a store causes such angst if you don’t understand cash–can I have that? no. That? no. That?!!?? no. Pretty much all you can have is the eraser. I’m sorry.
And it’s much worse for Rory, who continues to be largely unable to accept anything that anyone else has chosen for her in any way–so that the news that she can only buy A, B or C in a given store causes her head to explode, because she cannot face accepting my options if there are other clearly visible possibilities. (In some contexts, she’s better about this now–we can, for example, read her a kids’ menu–but going to a toy store with only, say, $3 is just a BAD IDEA.
So the mommy store will have items that can be purchased with stars. They each have in the vicinity of 15 stars. Some a few more (which has prompted unexpected arguments) because if, say, you’re asleep when we get home from dinner and can’t pack your lunch, you don’t get a star, and on a couple of occasions Wyatt and Lily had an opportunity to earn an extra star, and that just didn’t happen to Rory this week. My plan is to set them up so they can get one large desirable thing with, say, 14 star chips and then there will be a few assorted candies you can buy for 1 chip each. I bought a few things, but I don’t think I’ll put it all out.
I think, as a bonus, that this will encourage Rory to learn to count better, and to leave things where they belong instead of carrying them around (I think she lost a starchip this morning). I’ll add a little to this later, after the mommy store opens for business.