Mama Mantra: Work First, Then You Can Play

Posted June 11, 2021 by Prairie Wife -

“Work first, then you can play.”

It’s an often-repeated phrase around here, and one that is harder than you’d think to follow through on…even as an adult!

After all, there are lots of times when I put off work to play…yet I find myself telling the Cowkids ALL THE TIME that they can have as much time to do whatever they want AFTER the work is done.

For me personally, I often use bribery to keep motivated.

Some real-life examples of bribery I’ve used in the past:

If you work out consistently for 3 months you can get yourself a Peloton Bike for the winter.

Get the dishes done and the laundry finally put away, and then you can watch a movie.

Limit your fun money spending and then get that one item you have totally been lusting after…

I could go on and on but I think you get the point.

The same type of bribery works for the Cowkids BUT I find myself cringing with the idea of teaching them if they do the work they can get rewarded every time.

After all, more often than not, as adults we don’t get physically or monetarily rewarded for doing most of the things we do, we do it because it’s necessary.

The Cowkids don’t get paid for their regular chores (taking care of animals and anything to do with the house) so they are familiar with the idea of doing work because it needs to be done.

But sometimes there are things I want their help with that are above and beyond what we normally ask.

A lot of the time they just have to help anyway, sometimes after the job is done we pay them based on their effort, and then there is the chore bag and the fun bag.

It’s something we came up with during quarantine, and we kept it up all last Summer.

As summer rolled around this year, the Cowkids asked if they could do it again, and I agreed.

We take two gallon-sized zip lock bags and label one the chore bag and one the fun bag.

In the chore bag we put pieces of paper with above and beyond chores written on each one.

Some examples are:

  • washing off the dining room table chairs
  • wiping down walls
  • sorting through and organizing various closets
  • deep cleaning the cars
  • making dinner for the family


In the fun bag, we put extra fun activities that we don’t normally do.

Some examples are:

  • cupcake wars
  • family movie night (popcorn)
  • go buy a new book at the bookstore
  • an hour of tech time
  • family dance party (everyone has to participate)


One or two times a week we pick from the chore bag and when the chore is completed they can pick from the fun bag.

It’s a great way to get things done, but in a way that makes everyone happy!

And yet another way I can show the Cowkids that if you do the work first, then you can have fun.

What tips and tricks do you have for teaching your children how to have a good work ethic?

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Categories: Life As It Happens, Parenting

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