Is Choremonster Helping Us Raise Little Monsters? A Skeptic’s ViewBY: Irina Papuc | July 3, 2012
As an adult, you sometimes just have to get things done, and situations undoubtably arise where no incentive or reward exists. Your conscience acts as the only compass. It’s part of what defines us as responsible, ethical contributors to society, and enables us to make the right decisions even if they are less materialistically substantial.
Teaching our kids these complex concepts requires time and effort. Websites like Choremonster seek to sidestep the dialogue by creating a virtual universe of prizes and rewards to keep kids entertained while doing the household grunt work.
Based in Cincinnati, Choremonster is a web and mobile application that aims to make chores fun by allowing kids to trade work like cleaning their room for prizes, cash, and virtual, collectible monsters. The website contains two portals, one for parents and one for kids. The parents log in to assign chores and the appropriate reward. The kids then do the chore and collect their prize.
While this system eases the burden off the parents’ end, do we run the risk of losing an integral part of growing up? That is, the true meaning of responsibility?
As parents, we strive to impart this lesson by showing kids that behind every action there is a motive and a repercussion. It is not always about what’s in it for them, but also about what’s best for society as a whole. Take for example feeding a pet. When your child feeds the pet, they do more than just carry out a task. They learn that this little animal relies on their diligence, and that the real ‘incentive’ is to prolong that animal’s life because of love.
Rather than holding the child accountable for that pet’s life, Choremonster turns the task into a game, and the price of that life no longer fits in the equation. Children jump from task to task, their relish for work driven by the prize rather than the actions’ ramifications.
Raising someone to believe that only prize-driven work matters creates many red flags. After all, how many of our future employers will feed us ice cream cones every time we do a good job? By promising rewards for something as trivial as doing the laundry, we condition our kids to expect something in return. We raise complacent little monsters. This sense of entitlement leads to unhealthy habits as adults. Unfortunately, Choremonster is doing just that.
I decided to see for myself how the website works and registered as a mother. A friendly purple monster named Frank immediately prompted me to add my children’s names, user names, genders, and ages. After selecting chores that ranged from making the bed, picking up toys, and doing laundry, I had the choice to choose prizes for their completion.
At this point, I stopped and asked myself why a kid would ever want to set the table. Could parents teach them that setting the table is an important precursor to enjoying an intimate family dinner together, and thus carries intrinsic value? I could not help but feel, as I continued on to the next screen — which prompted me to add how many points the chore is worth, as well as what reward it merits (ice cream, a new Xbox?) — that I was in some way outsourcing my responsibility as a parent.
I was in essence trading good life lessons for goodies. After all, once the chores are done, how many parents actually take the time to tell their kids that even though they got a prize, it’s not about the prize at all? What kid would buy that?
This over-simplification of how the world works could potentially transcend the innocent realm of childhood chores and carry us into adulthood. Having conditioned ourselves to receive a little prize or treat every time we do something good, like little puppy dogs, will we see life as one big game, where, rather than learning to care for your home because it is your home, it’s just about what you get in return?
I hope I’m wrong.
Irina PapucIrina has a degree in Physics, and enjoys geeking out with the best of them. In her spare time, she works on an organic farm, reads comic books, and ponders the mysteries of the universe. In her unspared time, she is a writer and member of the social enterprise startup SolarCubed.
"After all, how many of our future employers will feed us ice cream cones every time we do a good job? By promising rewards for something as trivial as doing the laundry, we condition our kids to expect something in return"
What, like a paycheck?
I appreciate you taking the time to use and think about ChoreMonster (I'm cofounder and Chief Creative Officer at ChoreMonster). Thanks so much for your thoughts and ideas.
I believe everything in life has a motivation — whether it's for feeling good about yourself for doing something to help others, or for working 8 hours a day at a job to provide for your family by getting an income.
Of course not everything in life has a reward (being a parent in and of itself is without any immediate or even tangible reward or benefit, other than what we hope is raising a child who is able to go into the world and support themselves, their family, add value to the world, etc). Chores can fall into that category - if you're perspective for chores and your family to require work by virtue of being asked. As a parent of 3 children, I understand that kids have to help simply because they are asked to, but often the "motivation" to get our children to do that is negative ("Please put the dishes away or you won't..."). We don't wish to reinforce a negative motivation.
But the fact is (and this backed up by countless research we can provide if you wish) that kids do not do chores, period. Our system is for getting parents and kids to start that process in a medium that many kids already dwell (62% of kids 4-12 have a personal media device).
Our belief is that hard work gets rewarded (I don't know of any adults that can survive and provide for their family by not getting anything but a pat on the back as income), but that reward is completely subject to the parent — does it have to be a toy or a game or even money? No. We don't have any preset rewards - you can even use the system without getting any reward.
I think we can agree that parenting styles differ greatly from family to family. ChoreMonster is not for everyone. Our goal is to create tools for parents to parent how they parent. :) But to say it's creating monsters seems to a bit of hyperbole.
I agree with the cofounder. Everything in life is incentivized - get a good grade, go to a nice college. Work hard - get a promotion. Of course, it doesn't ALWAYS work that way ( would be nice though) but there is a huge importance in teaching kids to reap what they sow.
Yes, its also important to teach kids to do nice and good things out of kindness and love but in my opinion, chores is not the best area to teach kids that lesson. Instead taking them to help in a soup kitchen, or a nursing home etc would teach them about doing good things 'just because'. Also learning organization and cleanliness at a young age , whatever the cost, is a huge advantage going into school and life.
@wiseacre ..."but often the motivation to get our kids to do that is negative. ("Please put the dishes away or you won't...). We don't wish to reinforce a negative motivation." Society does not shy away from negative motivations. (If you fail to pay your house mortgage, the bank will say, "Please pay your bills or you won't...") If you don't fulfill some baseline responsibility such as paying an electric bill, the electric company will send your bill to a collection agency and might even repossess your property. "But the fact is, that kids do not do chores, period." Everyone I knew growing up did chores. I'm sure most people in the United States have had similar experiences. Can you cite your sources? "I don't know of any adults that can survive and provide for their family by not getting anything but a pat on the back as income." The prerequisite to starting a family is many years of hard work and entry-level positions until obtaining a raise and the financial stability to be on your own. This requires self-discipline and delayed gratification, while the system behind Choremonster seems to be doing just the opposite, since the reward is immediate. And systems of immediate rewards have been known to cause bad life habits. A Columbia university study (http://duende.uoregon.edu./~hsu/blogfiles/Shoda,Mischel,&Peake%281990%29.pdf) showed a strong correlation between mastering delayed gratification and important life skills such as ability to plan, thinking ahead, and using/responding to reason. On a similar note, a Stanford study (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/18/090518fa_fact_lehrer?currentPage=all) showed that children who have the drive to delay eating candy are more likely to apply that drive in important life skills. A participant of the study said years later, "If you give me a challenge or a task, then I'm going to find a way to do it, even if that means not eating my favorite food." "You can even use the system without getting any reward." Do you have any statistics showing what percentage of parents are doing this? And while teaching children the value of community service and altruism is important, you can't effectively help others until your own life is in order.
Irina Papuc wiseacre Hi Irina, this is Chris Bergman, the other founder of ChoreMonster. This is quickly turning into an issue of "how to parent." We are designers and entrepreneurs who want to make something fun and exciting for the whole family. Our users have told us that the kids love the monsters and it's really helped them find structure in their home. We're not here to teach parents how to parent. We're here to build tools that augment their parenting choices, whatever they may be. I really really appreciate all of your feedback and thoughts. Thank you so much for taking the time to give a different point of view.
Irina Papuc wiseacre
"The prerequisite to starting a family is many years of hard work and entry-level positions until obtaining a raise and the financial stability to be on your own."
your degree is obviously not in biology. that's not how it works....
@ctrent @wiseacre Haha, it is, unless you want to be on welfare. So you're basically advocating that people should start families without any financial backup? It doesn't take a biologist to realize how irresponsible that is.