Charts, Chores and Ka-Ching!

What do you do when your 9-year-old comes to you and says he wants money of his own?  My first thought was,”Why?”  What does he need that he doesn’t already have? I guess that reaction came from my own childhood. I grew up in a middle class household; my parents didn’t have a lot of extra money to give my brother and me. We wanted things of course, but we didn’t necessarily need anything we didn’t already have. However, it is 2015 and my husband and I are fortunate to be in a much different financial situation.  We believe that many parents universally want their children to have advantages and opportunities that they didn’t have as children themselves, whether that be education, experiences, toys, or in this case, spending money.

I asked Jackson to wait until his dad got home from work. Then we sat down and brainstormed with him. We engaged him in a conversation to explore what things he could do to earn money, gently guiding him to his own conclusion that he could earn money for chores he completes.  Since Jackson has ADHD, we have tried a lot of charts for various rewards over the years mainly for behavior, so I was a little hesitant to create another chart.

My trepidation around creating yet another chart was less about Jackson and more about myself! I’ll admit it: I’ve become a lazy parent after all those times in the past where I’m more excited about the chart than Jackson. It’s also one more thing to keep track of and remind him to be conscientious about. Eventually his lack of enthusiasm gets the best of me and it becomes whatever happened to that reward chart? But the chores chart with money attached to it could be a great driver for him long-term and all I have to do is remember to print a new sheet. How convenient that Jackson has been good about reminding me!

Jackson's Chore Chart

Above is a snapshot of the chart we are using. We even made a simple version for his 4-year-old brother that includes things like putting napkins on the table, wiping down the doorknobs, and feeding the cat and dog. Jackson currently earns a quarter for every activity that he completes each day with the expectation that he records his work and that we check it daily. The best part is (and here’s the teachable moment) we also incorporated a concept of money management for him. On the counter in the kitchen we have three jars. One is marked SPEND, the next is marked SAVE, and the last is marked DONATE.  The idea is to put half in the spend jar, a fourth in save and a fourth in donate. We felt this was a great way to help create a sense of not just saving for the future, but also building a sense of community by giving back to organizations or persons who don’t have the advantages and opportunities that he does. We are hopeful that these help set habits for money management that he will take into his adulthood.

During breakfast the other day, Dad asked Jackson if he had thought about where he wanted to donate the money from his donate jar. He thought about it for a minute and said, “I think I’d donate it towards gay marriage.” Sounds good to me!

There are teachable moments with our kids all the time. There are those times when we let them pass by and we don’t say a word. Sometimes we stop to discuss them briefly; sometimes we really focus on helping our kids understand. It’s not easy to be a kid, and it’s certainly not fair for me to expect them to just know better. I think this will be a good life lesson for Jackson moving forward on buying what he needs and wants, saving for his future, and giving to those who need it most.

Now I just need to remember to keep a hefty supply of quarters around!

Posted by A.J. Edge

A.J. Edge has two sons through adoption, Jackson and Peyton. Along with his husband, Daniel, they live in Maplewood, New Jersey. Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, A.J. holds an MBA in Human Resources Management from Walden University and currently works within the animal health industry from a large pharmaceutical company.


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