Updated: Jul 30, 2020
I have used various methods to entice my children to help me with cleaning up the house—some have worked and some didn’t. Some may have worked if I had a tool that was easy to use and visually appealing. Some children may be motivated with a visual representation that they can manipulate. So, I created a Job Board.
Motivation is key to getting kids to help around the house, and it changes as they grow older. Some kids are motivated by simply pleasing their parents when they are asked to do something, or they feel a responsibility and pride for accomplishing something. This falls into the intrinsic motivation category; they are motivated by their own thoughts and feelings. A list of available jobs as a reminder might be the only thing necessary.
Others need extrinsic motivation, or external influences to entice them to participate in what we want them to do. Knowing what motivates your child allows you to meet them where they are at, instead of demanding that they rise to your expectations, which they most likely are not able to do—and that’s okay!
A Job Board provides a consistent, visual aid, similar to a Token Board (June blog post) which provides clear expectations and motivating rewards. Visual aids allow us as parents to remove ourselves from the situation (i.e. we can stop lecturing, demanding, or threatening) and lets the child put their attention on the task and the rewards.
A Job Board has pictures with words of the jobs. For younger children, it is best to start with only a few jobs—it is less likely to overwhelm them, but still gives them a choice.
Both the beginner (shown right) and advanced (above) are laminated and use a Reward Card on the top right, and Tokens with Velco or check-marks in the boxes. I like Tokens as it uses multiple senses: visual, touch and audible as the Velco is ripped from the holding spot. This can be very satisfying for some, especially if they use token boards or visual schedules at school; it reminds them of accomplishing something. Reward Cards and Tokens can be stored on the back of the Job Board or separately. Download templates with instructions that can easily be customized and printed here.
Keep variables the same for a while, but it can be updated over time perhaps on or near their birthday to match their maturity. Remember that when additional jobs are added, do not expect that they will want to do the new jobs right away. Allowing them to get comfortable with new concepts, gives them the feeling of being in control which is important. Based on the child’s tolerance for new concepts and maturity level, here is a list of decisions to make for your first and subsequent boards:
How many jobs are needed for a reward,
How many times the same job can be done in the time period,
Duration of time until the reward is received: i.e. child picks one job a day and gets a small reward, or doing five jobs in a week for the reward.
It is important to introduce the Job Board when the child is alert and in a pleasant mood. You can leave it sitting near them and wait until they ask about it. Keep your discussion about it light and positive; try to pique their curiosity. For example: “Did you know that we have jobs right here in our house? I think that you just might be able to do some.” Then, discuss the rewards, and hype it up a little. Remember to keep your emotion and possible life-long negativity about chores out of it. Follow their lead. If they are uninterested, just leave it there and wait until they really want a reward.
When they are ready, model how to do the job. If they are willing to repeat what you do that is great! Give them a token. But if not, give them the check or token anyway, and praise them for watching and learning. The idea here, is to let them see and feel the process, accomplishment and the reward; that is number one in building the extrinsic motivation. Next time your child may jump right in, but if not, follow your child’s lead: maybe you do some and they can finish it. Give them credit each time they engage with the task, even if you do most of the work. Build up to them doing it independently, which may take weeks or months.
Give praise for their engagement: I like how you got started, you were very focused doing ___, or today, you started and finished—great job! If there is a week that they are uninterested, them allow them that choice. Just reinforce that if they want the reward, they can earn it when they are ready. Keep it positive-no threats or frowns. Keep in mind, this should be an interactive activity. They will enjoy spending time with you and those warm fuzzy feelings will stay with them when they are older and more independent.
You got this!
By using the Job Board, rewards will build their motivation to participate in helping around the house. I recommend that you err on the side of giving highly motivating rewards and giving them time to get used to it in small increments of expectations.
I will continue to share positive behavior supports, stories of my experiences as a parent of children with unique needs and my work in a special education classroom. If you haven’t already, please sign up for my free twice-monthly newsletter, What’s New, at www.developmentaltexts.com/contact and I will let you know the resources and blogs that I have been working on. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
--Nancy Roop received a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Oakland University in April 2020. She researched developmental psychology, linguistics and reading education while studying creative non-fiction writing. She supported students who have autism for nearly ten years. She founded Developmental Texts and is currently writing her first book, The Aquarium with Alex the Storyteller. Its about a fifth-grade student who is passionate about writing stories for peers on the autism spectrum: real world, relatable and relevant.