When my four oldest children were young my friend, Wanda, explained to me how she handled some of the competition between her children. She devised a system of odd and even, which worked great with her two children. On odd numbered days child number one, the eldest, received all the extra privileges and extra responsibilities. On even numbered days child number two, the younger, received all the extra privileges and extra responsibilities. I really don’t know how she handled it when a month had more or less than exactly 30 days. Maybe chaos reigned on those days. Her odd/even system worked fine for her two children, but how could I with four children possibly keep track whose turn it was for either privileges or responsibilities?
Out of her system I developed the host child method. It was a week of extras proceeding in birth order from oldest to youngest. Whoever was the host child was the one who went shopping for groceries and errands with mom that week. I typically did all my shopping and errands once a week on the same day every week. All the other children stayed home. I think the one child-with-Mom time also was special for both.
The host was the one who rode in the front seat while all the others rode in the middle or back of the minivan. The front passenger seat was highly desired so anytime not both Mom and Dad were in the vehicle a child could have that seat. (Due to airbags front seat riding is now restricted to those twelve and older. But this was not the case in the 80’s and 90’s.)
The host also received a treat of their choosing at the grocery store. A box of Little Debbie snack cakes was a favorite, but sometimes filling a bag with a mixture of individually wrapped Brach’s candies was chosen. Most of the children eventually preferred the equivalent in cash. Anytime any situation arose that week which meant that only one child got to do something extra or special or unusual the privilege belonged to the host child.
The host child was also called upon to do small extra things for mom. It might be running downstairs to the basement to get an item from the food pantry. Being host did not mean becoming mom’s personal slave for the week. There were more privileges than responsibilities or no one would ever want to be the host. Being host made one feel special.
The entire system was suspended when we were on vacation or if we had company for the entire week. The system was helpful because it left no questions or debate about who should receive whatever everyone thought to be the privilege at hand. The week always started on Sunday and ended on Saturday.
Of course, the age of each child must be considered when assigning extra tasks and giving extra privileges. What is right and appropriate for each child may not seem totally fair to other children. So be it. Sometime in their mid-teen years each of our children chose to withdraw from the host child system. This usually occurred about the time they could drive or had more independent income than what they earned from their chores at home.
The host child system did not eliminate all fighting but it did reduce it. There was more order and therefore less chaos. I am confident other families can find ways to adapt it to their family’s needs and find other rewards for their host children.