More than five years ago I began what has been the most successful thing I have ever done to get the kids to be helpful around the house: the Family Store.
Whenever the kids do something helpful or kind or come when I call or whatever, they earn a Badger Buck. Once every week or two I open up the plastic storage tub in my closet that is the Family Store and they can spend their Badger Bucks on various treats. (I have actual paper Badger Bucks but they don't get them until we open the store: I just keep tally marks in my planner to keep track of how many they have. That way their bucks don't get lost or stolen by siblings.)
The Family Store has always worked when I have done it and been consistent about it. There have been long stretches where we haven't done it at all, due to moves or pregnancy, and there have been a couple of times where the Badger Bucks lost some motivating power because I would go too long without opening the Family Store.
We started it back up again a couple weeks ago and I realized again how nice it is to be able to say "who wants a Badger Buck?" and then have a stampede of eager helpers, rather than my usual pleas of "will someone please come help me?" which are usually ignored.
Finding items to put in the Family Store can be challenging. At first I was determined to keep the treats healthy, so I stocked it with things like little boxes of raisins and little tubs of apple sauce. I didn't want to buy cheap junky toys that would quickly end up in the garbage, so I would try to budget for some nicer stuff like Schleich plastic figures, but it was hard to keep that affordable. So I have caved in and stocked the store with candy. I went to Target the day after Easter and bought a ton of Easter candy, so the Family Store is currently chock full of sugar. It also has other things: notebooks and rolls of Scotch tape are two popular items, as well as various craft supplies like chenille stems (formerly known as pipe cleaners.)
I have found, though, that the kids don't really care too much what is in it. They just love having Badger Bucks to spend and having their own little time in Mom's room to chose their stuff.
I thought they might outgrow it eventually, especially as they started earning real money, but Bean still eagerly participates in both the earning and the spending of Badger Bucks.
One rule I have is that they can't ask for Badger Bucks. I don't want to constantly deal with them saying "do I get a Badger Buck for that?" or even just "what can I do to earn a Badger Buck?" So they can't ask. But I think I am pretty generous with the bucks-- I must be, judging by how happy they all are with the system. (Every week the older ones get an average of 3 or 4 pieces of fun-sized chocolate or the equivalent.)
Right now I am most pleased with how Peanut is responding to the Badger Buck system. Ever since we moved to Utah last September, Peanut has been Awful. Just ask my poor parents-in-law. She has gone through a lot of difficult changes and it has really come out in her behavior. It has been such a challenge to help her feel loved and like there is some stability in her life. Badger Bucks are doing wonders for her. She loves to do things to help me so she can earn a Badger Buck. And she loves to shop at the Family Store. I think she is thriving off of having something in her life she can control in a positive way. I still have a long way to go with her but it is encouraging to see these changes.
Long live the Family Store!