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The Child Reward Chart: get your children to earn their technology time

Keep your children engaged, busy and off devices with our downloadable chart of chores and rewards. Parents share their ideas for how to persuade UK children to help around the home, and we look at the benefits of a little time spent outside or being creative away from the screen.

Is doing chores good for you?

According to an 80-year study by researchers at Harvard University, learning a good work ethic from a young age can actually increase the chance of a happy life and a healthy lifestyle later on. The longest study of its kind in history, it discovered that letting children avoid household tasks could have a negative impact on their future happiness.

The study argued that these tasks give children the experience of working and achievement, and help them learn time management, as they have to finish their household tasks around homework and other activities.

You know how much of a struggle it is to stay focused in the office, care for the kids and still be able to sort out the family finances, like your life insurance – if your kids do chores from an early age, this sort of task juggling could be a breeze for them later on.

A study published by the University of Minnesota, meanwhile, found that children who helped around the house in their early years had better career paths, a higher IQ and better relationships in later life.

Why is it so hard to get children to help around the house?

Of course, your children aren’t going to be persuaded to help around the house by the promise of future riches.

In fact, according to a recent study by Children’s World, the International Survey of Children’s Well-Being (ISCWeB), English children are actually among the best at avoiding chores.

The ISCWeB survey asked eight year-olds in 16 countries how often they helped around the home, and 47% of English children said every day. This put them above only Germany and South Korea on the table.

But it’s not only pre-teens that go missing when there’s housework to do – adolescents can also be impatient when it comes to helping out.

One scientific study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS) argues that adolescents can’t be blamed for their impatience, they’re just wired that way.

‘Adolescents given the choice between a small reward right away and a bigger reward later tend to choose the immediate, smaller reward,’ says the study.

Why do children struggle to concentrate on chores?

Don’t be too hard if your children start shirking, then, as they might not have developed mentally enough – though it’s probably not a good idea to tell them that…

‘[Children] are less able than adults to focus on the possible future benefit of the options,’ the PNAS study continues. ‘As a result, they tend to be more impatient and to opt for immediate rewards rather than pursuing long-term goals.’

This is due to the pathways in their brain that determine decision-making not being as strong as those in adults.

‘These two areas are the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex – which is activated by tasks such as planning for the future – and the striatum, which is part of the reward evaluation system,’ says the study.

How to get your children to help around the house

'The best way of encouraging my kids to help around the house is by offering a reward,’ says mum-of-two, journalist and ghostwriter Shannon Kyle (@ShannonDotKyle). ‘A small amount of pocket money: 50p for laying the table every week, for example, or 20p each time the dishwasher is emptied. Also, telling them they can only watch TV in the evening after the jobs are done often works a treat.

‘For older teenagers, asking them to do anything can be tricky, but I've found if you just stop doing everything for them this helps,’ Shannon continues. ‘I showed my teenage daughter how to use a washing machine one day and then stopped doing her washing.'

Brighton-based travel writer Tracey Davies (@DollysDay) also uses money as an incentive, making sure her children finish their allocated tasks.

‘My kids are all in charge of keeping their bedroom's clean, and they take it in turns to feed pets, empty the dishwasher and walk the dog,’ says Tracey. ‘Any reluctance to help out results in a reduction in their pocket money.’

Kalpana Fitzpatrick (@KalpanaFitz), founder of mummymoneymatters.com, also uses chores as a chance to teach her children the importance of saving.

‘With two boys, sometimes I make it into a competition – this involves collecting gold stars for doing tasks before I hand over any extra pocket money.’ Says Kalpana, ‘I also encourage my kids to save the money, and will often double it if they put it in their money box instead of spending it.

The benefits of social and creative time

Of course, your children won’t only be doing chores or playing with devices – there are plenty of activities that get them off the screens that could be beneficial to their development.

Getting your children involved in the arts, for example, can help them develop social skills, such as helping, sharing and empathizing, according to a study by the American National Endowment for the Arts.

The arts can include drawing, acting or music –music instruction has the added proven benefit of accelerating brain development in young children.

As it’s the height of summer, encouraging your children to play outside is also a good idea. Research has revealed that playing outdoors has numerous benefits to a child’s well-being and development, from improving their social skills to enabling to grasp mathematical concepts.

Chores, then, are not the only activities that you should be rewarding your child for.

So, what’s the solution?

Giving them an incentive, especially one that’s family finance or tech-related, could do it.

Download, print off and stick up the LV= Child Reward Chart linked below and your children will be able to directly link task with a tech or cash reward.

If you’re concerned about their time using technology already, read our article on UK children’s tech use.

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