The $4.50 Secret to My Clean House (Also, An Easy Way to Teach Your Children Diligence)


I really loathe the nagging me.

The me that craves a bit of order and beauty, despite the reality of a large family, and just believes everyone else should be a part of keeping that order andΒ they should long for the beauty too, except when they don’t and I’m left nagging about chores half-done and a general lack of concern for the tidiness of our home.

**Deep breath**

My Dad always says, “You can’t expect what you don’t inspect” and that’s true. Once you establish a chore routine, that’s only half the work. If you don’t inspect it daily, quality will plummet.

But inspecting it wasn’t even enough. I’d still have to point out all the things that didn’t get done and address the overall apathy that is natural to younger children who just want to get on with the day. My diligence speech wasn’t going very far.

And then, after 22 years of parenting, I finally had a stroke of genius. I’m serious. This worked!

I ran to the dollar store and grabbed a hefty $4.50 bag of the mini-packs of m&m’s on sale half price after Halloween. (Note to self: next time grab 2 or 3.)

I gathered my children around and told them that in life there was a general principle: diligence is rewarded. Not always, not always immediately, but usually in some form. And I told them that from now on, every day after chore time, I would inspect to see who was the most diligent in their chore and the winner would get a pack of candy.

You wouldn’t believe how my children cleaned. Deep cleaned. Mopped. Vacuumed under cushions. Moved furniture. Like “wow” cleaned.

Interestingly, they were having fun, probably because they were competing. I soon figured out though, that I don’t think it’s fair to only award one child. After all, the principle is “diligence is rewarded.” If they are all diligent they should all get a reward. But I didn’t want to lose the effectiveness of their going above and beyond, so I decided to pick one winner who gets 2 packs of candy.

I realize this may fizzle out soon, or I may have to up the ante or change the prize. Your children may not get very excited about candy but rather have money. Or if you are organized enough to keep up, you could give each one a sticker or some mark for each day they are diligent and then reward the ones who get a mark every day with a weekly outing for ice cream. The ideas are endless.

But the principle is important. Be sure that I’ve stressed to them that diligence is also its own reward. But if we are trying to train their character for success in life as adults, I think teaching principles like these is important.

I was also sure to thank them for their work and brag on their individual efforts. My 5 year old, whose chores are still small, volunteered to clean up his big sister’s room since she is sick. He caught the others’ contagion and ran with it.

Each day I remind them, again, that the Bible speaks highly of diligence and that as they grow up that trait will serve them well, no matter what they do.

And they eat their m&m’s, nod, and talk about how they are going to win the prize tomorrow. I hope they heard the “diligence” part of the speech.


Today Brooks won. (Do you see all the furniture moved out? And he mopped too.) And it goes without saying that between their fun over competing and the results the clean house has on me, our mornings are simply happier and more pleasant.

Try it and tell me your results! Or if you’ve had good results with another strategy, we would all love to hear about it.

15 Responses to “The $4.50 Secret to My Clean House (Also, An Easy Way to Teach Your Children Diligence)”

  1. Tracy says:

    Thanks for this idea. I’ve been needing some inspiration to motivate my children in their chores. I hate when I start feeling like I’m always “cracking the whip”. So my tendency is to neglect the work of assigning chores and inspecting, and do more myself or let the housekeeping start to slide. How much better to motivate our children to diligence with a fun or yummy reward.

  2. Charlotte Moore says:

    Neat idea!! Wish I had thought of this when our two boys were young and still at home. Ha!!

  3. Natalie says:

    Hi Kelly, I have missed being here! This is a good idea and an encouragement as well. I somehow have this silly idea that other families do not struggle with this issue. It is an encouragement to see that it is a common problem and that I am not alone in my longing for beauty and order in the midst of a large family :).

  4. Magret says:

    Please tell me if i am too… (whatever), but rewarding makes me uncomfortable Seems to me my children will get the message wrong — that one don’t need to be dilligent if you can’t expect to be rewarded (immediately) by something tangible?

    • Kelly Crawford says:


      I understand your concern. And as I mentioned, I do remind my children that diligence is its own reward. BUT, especially as children who sometimes need motivation anyway, I want to help them discover the basic life principle that diligence DOES usually come with a reward, even if it’s not always immediate. Just the same as I want them to earn their own money and spend their own money, since that’s a principle of life, even though sometimes I still buy them gifts. There are plenty of other things they do too, for which they don’t get candy. πŸ˜‰

  5. Jeanne says:

    God’s Word teaches us, “The laborer is worthy of his reward.”

    • Kelly Crawford says:

      That’s a good reference, Jeanne. I know there’s a lot of fuzziness when it comes to rewarding chores–we have never given money for regular chores–just extra ones, but a small reward seems to be a good middle for me.

  6. D. says:

    Hi Kelly,

    This may be a silly question, but do you find that the reward of candy ends up pushing the kids to too much of a competitive spirit and maybe even a bad attitude afterwards if they didn’t end up winning? Especially the younger ones?

    I’m just asking because typically this is what ends up happening in our home when the others kids realize THEY were not the winner.

    Instead, I will sometimes give them something special and unexpected as a reminder (and encouragement) that I appreciate their diligence. I guess I don’t want them to connect doing something only because there is a tangible reward at the end every time.

    • 6 arrows says:


      I like that idea of giving special rewards unexpectedly. Case in point, the piano teacher I had in junior and senior high school surprised me once by putting an elegant sticker of a grand piano on one piece I prepared from my Bach Inventions and Sinfonias collection. It was not an easy piece, and I didn’t think I’d played it all that well, but she was pleased with the effort I’d put into working it up to the degree I had, and showed it by awarding me that sticker.

      That was the only time she did that, and maybe because it was such an unusual occurrence, it has left me with a very warm feeling to this day.

      Sometimes (oftentimes?) less is more… maybe way more? πŸ™‚

  7. 6 arrows says:

    Off topic, but I like the new pictures you’ve added to the slider. πŸ™‚

  8. Jennifer says:

    Well, it’s been over a month now & i’m wondering how it’s going. Before I finished I began to think you had been hiding the candy so that the most diligent would find their prizes! LOL! I have 7 & it does get frustrating when they don’t do a good job, especially after showing that they can. Do you have any other posts regarding how often you swap chores? I’ve read where some families swap out daily, weekly or monthly, once everyone knows their job. We do a combination of the same daily chores & a rotating weekly chore.


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