Parenting Hack: Even and Odd Days

I have a sister three years younger than I am. When we were kids we fought over everything. Who gets the front seat. Whose turn is it to take out the garbage. Or to feed the dog. Or to do the dishes. And on and on. As a parent of two kids I now know how crazy that must have made my parents.

Their solution to this was usually along the lines of “If you can’t work it out I’ll work it out for you,” followed by a forced compromise neither of us liked, delivered in exasperation, leaving each of us seething.

Luckily, with my two kids we’ve been using a solution that has worked great for many years, and one that came to us from my sister, ironically enough. We call it “even and odd days”. The way it works is that each child gets a day. When it is that child’s day, they have to do all of the chores, but they also get to reap whatever perks might occur that day. To keep track of whose day it is, one child takes even days and the other takes odd days. In our case, my son’s birthday falls on an odd day and my daughter’s on an even, so making the assignment (and remembering who has even and who has odd) was easy.

For example, the 24th is an even day so it is my daughter’s day. She’s got to feed the dog (both times), empty the dishwasher if it needs it, set the table, and rinse and load the dinner dishes into the dishwasher. But, if there’s a choice about what to have for dinner, she gets to pick. If we’re playing a game, she decides who goes first. So when it is your day you work hard, but you also reap the benefits.

The even and odd days approach takes the emotion and guesswork out of it. Who was the last person to clean the dog poop out of the back yard? Doesn’t matter–today’s an odd day, which means it is your turn, pal!

We started doing this when the kids were probably 5 and 8 and after sticking to it for six years I can say we’ve never had the kind of sibling strife over chores and perks like my sister and I experienced. Every now and then, when one kid’s schedule prevents them from doing a chore on their day and we ask the other one to do it, we’ll get a, “Sorry, not my day” response, particularly if that child has felt like the system hasn’t treated them fairly of late, but that can be dealt with. And when we first started out my son felt a little aggrieved because there are times when odd days occur twice in a row (31st, followed by 1st), but other than those blips, we’re happy with it.

The system even works for chores that are not daily tasks. For example, in our neighborhood, the trash and recycle bins have to be put out on the curb Sunday night. If a Sunday night falls on an even day, it’s my daughter’s task and when it falls on an odd it’s my son’s. Works like a charm.