Still working for me: Sticks in Jars

I alluded to this post last week and have since decided it deserved its own spot pulled from the dark obscurity of the Momedy archives.

About a year ago, I instituted the "sticks in a jar" method of of getting chores and routines done in lieu of motherly nagging and whining (much as we all enjoyed that) and I'm here a year later to jove it works! Here is a re-post then, for those who missed it the first time around. Seriously try it, you'll like it!

First to give credit where it is due, I got the original idea for this super awesome thing which works for us here.

It was a day of joy and gladness when I discovered it, thanks again :)
And here are my adaptations:
First, instead of colouring the tips, we got coloured craft sticks and let each kid pick a colour. 'Cos they are pretty. And I'm very practical like that. Actually it does make it easier to spot when you add in the allowance earning sticks (which you will learn about later- patience, grasshopper). Can you guess which jar belongs to the princess?

We painted one end with a white tip. We wrote everything I ever nag them about on a daily basis on a separate stick. For my four year old, I drew a little picture too.

(The red sticks in the older boys' jars are for things which are not daily requirements or voluntary things that they wanted regular reminders on-like writing in their journals and updating their cute little blog).

SO: every day we start with all the sticks white-side down. When I hear the first stirrings of a fight each morning I say faux-brightly, (in that irritating way moms do when they are about to make their children suffer), "has everyone done their sticks?". And then they groan, and shoot dagger "now look what you've gone and done" expressions at the sibling they were about to fight with, and go and do them.

It's great!

Before we go out each day to do something fun, all the sticks must be white-side up (within reason). I no longer have to tell people to do their hair, or brush their teeth, or make their beds, or do their chore of the day or practice their instruments. It is all neatly encompassed under one cheerful and easily spoken nag "have you done your sticks yet?" It has really made the kids a lot more self-sufficient and has the added blessing of everyone experiencing less exposure to my lecturey voice. Our chore wheel has remained in use, since one of the sticks instructs, "do your chore on the wheel". The first person to get there each day gets to be Vanna White and spin the wheel.

And then there is the ever debated, agonized over allowance issue. Ok here are my basic stipulations regarding allowance:

1. I want it to be a reasonable facsimile of how real life works. You do work, you get paid. You don't do work, you do not get paid. You choose. If you do a lot of work, you get paid more (in a perfect world eh?), if you do a little work, not so much.

2. I do not want to pay my children for things that they need to do for the privilege of living in this house. Being part of a family means you don't get paid for making your bed. Fah gosh sakes.

3. I want the work=money connection to be easily apparent to them.

4. I want to pay them for stuff that we actually need done. I want their work to truly be of value.

So this is what we've come up with. We have a stick jar devoted entirely to money-earning type jobs. It is creatively named: $Job Jar$

On each stick there is a job description and a monetary value attached to the job.

They can select the job they want to do (or don't want to as the case may be, but hey, money talks). Once the job is done they take the stick and put it white side up in their individual jar.

We take the stick(s) out of their jar, and replace it with the payment. The job stick then goes back into the job jar. We keep it white side up if the job is not required (don't want two people sweeping the deck within minutes of each other) and turn it white side down once we need that particular job done again.

I also love that I don't have to come up with a job on the spot when they decide they need some cash to support their Webkinz habit, and I can also add jobs as I see the need for them which fulfills that whole "work of value" requirement.

Our kids then take the money deposited in their jars, and deposit it into their money banks (which have separate boxes for tithing, savings, spending etc. And it's really theirs to handle from there on out.) I have a friend who keeps her kids money separated in jars where they can see it grow and how it is distributed, which I think is a nice incentive-nothing like seeing your nest egg grow.

One thing my accountant dad did when I was growing up, which I thought was quite brilliant was to give each kid a little ledger book. We had to account for every penny of our pocket money each month (keeping a running balance) before we got paid again. We could spend it how we liked, we just had to be able to account for it. It was rather stressful for the math impaired but it was a very valuable exercise. My older two boys are old enough now for us to institute this I think. I love this as a teaching tool because the number one rule of successful money management is knowing where your money is going. (Or so all the books tell me).

Over my near decade of parenting I have come to the conclusion that nothing works forever. No matter how brilliantly it may at first. You really do have to switch things up fairly regularly it seems. Really, the stick concept it just a graduation from the story-board concept we were using before:

with an easy way to keep track and no stickers or star charts or things to check off.

But sticks..sticks are what are working for us right now. Hope this helps someone. What works for you?

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Susana said...

This is a great idea and super cute too! We use chore packs and it is working, but this is super as well!

home school dad said...

Great Idea. Glad you are "sticking" to it! I can;t wait to show this idea to my wife.

Jenny said...

that is awesome! i'm totally gonna pull this on my son when he's old enough to pull his weight around here.

MrsM said...

Mostly we just ask Monkey "what do you think Mommy needs help with?" or "what nice thing do you think you can do for daddy today?" because our main focus is on him thinking of others and taking the initiative with his contributions.

And because, frankly, we have no intention of paying him (or the girls when they get old enough) for household chores. Probably ever.

Some things go undone, or I have to do them, but I love to see him being thoughtful and it's great to see how accomplished he feels when he knows he's done something for someone else!

Mama Jenn said...

GREAT, GREAT ideas!!!

Frugal Girls! said...

What a fabulous idea ~ I am definitely going to make these!! :)

Fairion said...

What a great idea!! I love the pictures for the little one. I would love to know how you do a chore wheel with such diverse ages.

Becky said...

I like this idea, and wish I had heard of it when my kids were little! Glad you found something that works for you :)

Amanda said...

I love this idea! I have four kids and it is so hard to keep any chore system going. This may work for us!

It Feels Like Chaos said...

You are so right that you have to keep being creative and mixing things up! This is a super way to manage the chores and allowance; we may have to try this in our family!

Aunt LoLo said...

Two questions -
1) How did you get to be so brilliant
2) Do you think it's fair to put "clean the bathroom" in my two year old's jar (once I shamelessly copy you and make jars!)

oh, and 3) can I get one of those mop overalls and make Siu Jeun work for his keep as well? "No, sweetie - no nursing until you've dust mopped under the crib!"

Gina said...

Great adaptation. I used a similar stick system for the kids' jobs when I taught first grade. We're still on storyboard over here, but I can see graduating to sticks when my kids get older.

Found you through WFMW. I love your tagline!

Mommy Dear said...

Oh wow. This is brilliant.

I'm going shopping today for sticks! I can not wait til my kids see them on the counter tomorrow morning and ask me, "What're these, Mommy????"

I'll be like, "Glad you asked kiddos!"

Thank you so much for posting this! You may have saved my summer!

The Sayer Family said...

I LOVE THE STICKS! I read your post last year and adapted it down a little for Carson and it helps out SO much. He actually gets excited to get his things done. You're amazing!

Buildeth Her House said...

You are awesome!!! Thanks so much for posting this. I use a chore chart, but this is sooo much better. I'm going to the craft store today to get sticks.

Mommy Dear said...

PS--I left you something on my blog (of course)!

Hope you don't mind! :-)

KrustyTheCat said...

What an awesome idea!!! We need to revamp our chore chart, so I might have to look into this.

Falling Around said...

I am always looking for new ideas to help me quit nagging my kids while helping them be more responsible. I must admit, we have failed at many different methods, but this idea is inspired and I think it will work for us. Love it!

jill said...

Personally I enjoy the 20 hours a day that I get to nag, remind, fight with and last but not least RE-DO the chores that my adoring children didn't get just right. I love your ideas but I honestly never knew that you were a Stepford wife. I have to say that I am very impressed!

grannyann said...

I love your stick idea. Passed that on to my daughter and son for the grandkids.

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

Very clever -- and I love how visual and tangible it is!

I agree with you -- nothing works forever. So I'm tucking your idea around for when our current system stops working. :) Thanks!

Stephanie said...

What a cute idea! And keeping a ledger... I know several grown-ups that could benefit from either activity :)

Melissa said...

I love this! We've got 2 2-year-olds, so they might not quite be ready, but as soon as they are I'm going to have jars and sticks too! Thanks for sharing!

Marie said...

Love the stick idea for incentives! I'm going to try it. Thank you for the inspiration.


Jake Boxer said...

This is a great method! I used this for my bunk when I was a camp counselor, and the bunk stayed clean as a whistle.

If you have older kids (who can read and are familiar with e-mail), check out a website I made called PowrHouse (at ). It's currently in beta, but it works well (we're using it for our household). You add everyone you live with (kids, spouses, roommates, etc.), add your chores (names and how often they should be done), and PowrHouse keeps track of whose turn it is to do each chore (and sends email reminders every night, with links to click to signal that you've done the chores).