A Reward for Efi

One of our favorite alonim, called Mibereshit, comes in a gan or an elementary school edition. The gan version has a regular feature about a boy named Efi and his family. Efi has lots of problems but his wise parents help him resolve them through a discussion about the weekly Torah portion.

Last week Efi went to the dentist with his mother. Usually they enjoy looking at store windows, but Efi got upset when his mother told him an elaborate toy he coveted (pictured) was very expensive. She suggested he wait until Passover to request it as an afikoman present. Efi wasn’t satisfied, so they sat on a bench to think of a solution. (We are almost always rushed on our way to appointments, but Efi’s parents always have time and patience to explain things to him.) Efi tells his mother, “In gan we learned how Jacob worked for seven years to “earn” Rachel from her father.” His mother remembers. “I am ready to work for my toy!” Efi will straighten out the bathroom, clear the lunch dishes from the table, and help his mother fold the laundry without her needing to remind him. “If I do this for a week, will you buy me the gift?” She agrees. He does the chores, and she buys him the present.

I posted it because of the story’s educational implications, but I want to add the following. I have six children of various ages and temperaments and no matter how highly motivated, not one of them would be able to follow through on Efi’s promise without frequent reminders. According to research, even adults need about three weeks to establish a habit.

This post was inspired by Raanana Ramblings.


  1. No way can children do those things without reminders! And also, do children do chores (without reminding!) because they are going to get something for it, or because they need to learn to be active participants in a household?
    As far as shopping, with the children home so early from school 😉 , they come more often than they did before. They would fill up my cart with all kinds of goodies, but as they put it in, if it’s something I don’t want to purchase, I take it out. And I keep ’em busy by having them go find some things on the list.

  2. I don’t reward my children for chores.
    SInce you can’t do anything about your kids’ short day, think about how much they can learn at the store. Aside from math skills, they learn how you compare prices, nutrition, keeping food fresh, handling disputes with the store, how you talk to the salespeople, what to do if they are out of something you need, how you react to sales or rising prices, preventing impulse buying etc. We tend to take all of these things for granted.

  3. Is the mother allowed to replace a toy with a different one after a week as Rachel was replaced?
    Not my technique for raising children. Demands tend to get bigger and bigger and they forget what they are supposed to do and don’t quite understand the implications. I think if you are going to use rewards, keep them small. The joy of seeing a sticker chart fill up is great for a child in gan and will help them understand the process of working far more than a toy.

  4. sylvia_rachel says

    I can tell you that my gan-age child could not possibly follow through on a promise like that. She would make the promise, and mean it very sincerely, but within two days she’d probably have forgotten. And although I know kids who can and do stick to their goals for long periods — I know of a seven-year-old who saved all her allowance for an entire year because her parents told her she could have a particular kind of doll if she paid for it herself! — I know many more who would lose interest very quickly.
    I don’t reward my daughter for doing her chores, either — although I do say thank you, which many people have told me I shouldn’t. I think it works out OK, since I also like to be thanked for cooking dinner, etc. Also, if we can’t afford the toy, we can’t afford the toy, and I want her to understand that — when I say “We can’t afford that,” it’s a real reason, not an excuse.

  5. No one pays me for what I have to do around the house… why should I pay the kids?
    This is silly pop psych about getting your kids to do what they need to, and it has unfortunately infiltrated into all walks of society, including MeBraishit.
    Not impressed, sorry.

  6. We’ve been working on chores for a while now.
    I also don’t believe in rewarding for chores. Children are a part of the household and are expected to help.
    However, now that our children have TV and computer privileges, it’s easier to get them to do their chores.
    Simple: they can’t have their privileges until they complete their obligations. And when they “forget” they lose their privileges.
    There were arguments in the beginning, but these are the rules. And they often do their chores quicker and without argument, so that they can play.
    (though I usually need to remind them… even my 13 yr old)

  7. I think saying Thank You to your children for helping is completely proper and called for. My husband also needs some “training” and saying thank you works a whole lot better than either having a fight or saying nothing.
    Kids should be expected to help and no can mean no. But, I wouldn’t say “we can’t afford that” (even when it is completely true). Kids see us spend money on all sorts of things, some immediately necessary, some not immediately necessary, and some not at all necessary. I think saying “it isn’t in the budget” is the best approach.
    Great post Mom in Israel.

  8. LOL- I was reading your post and thinking that it sounds like something I would do (point out a flaw in a children’s story), so when I got to the end and saw my “name” it put a smile on my face.
    I agree, no child of mine would be so good about keeping that deal. And I don’t reward my kids for chores either. When they grumble, I tell them that everyone in the family has to pitch in- and if they don’t like that chore they can scrub toilets instead (sorry, I know I’ve already mentioned that on your blog!). That always gets them moving on their chores!
    And I also thank my kids, when I remember to. Kids are people, too!

  9. I read the story about Efi over Shabbat, and thought to myself, “would I do that?” No, I wouldn’t. But I think the other people are right that I wouldn’t need to anyway, since what gan-age kid would do so many chores without a reminder for a whole week?
    I try to remember to thank my children for their contributions. My daughter in particular likes to be made much of when she does something helpful on her own initiative. I am happy to reward these events by telling her (and her father and grandparents) what a help it was.
    I also don’t like to say “we can’t afford that.” A friend heard once in a Shiur that it makes children feel poor. That makes some sense to me. I prefer what SL said, or “I want to use our money for things we need more than we need the toy”.
    One more comment to SL: *children* can be trained effectively (eventually). Other family members can’t be. I try to focus on their other contributions instead. 😉

  10. sylvia_rachel says

    I also use that line about everyone pitching in. I use it a lot.
    It had not occurred to me that “we can’t afford that” might be a bad thing to say. I heard it from my parents all the time when I was a kid, and I don’t remember that it ever made me feel poor. But it’s a very good point that it’s a matter of priorities rather than of price alone. I do talk about that — “If we spent so much money on A, there would be none left for B, C and D which are important to us” — but I’m going to try to make that clearer from now on.

  11. mominisrael says

    What a great discussion. I try to take a middle ground between being too grateful and taking children for granted. I certainly don’t agree with deliberately withholding a thank you, but doing their jobs should not be contingent on our saying it. If they do something extra without asking, or something helpful, or something that they usually balk about, I try to acknowledge it. But some kids can never get enough, and some don’t seem to need it at all.

  12. lion of zion says

    that was me

  13. lion of zion says

    where is the line btw rewards and bribes?

  14. 1) nothing wrong with saying thank you. this is part of teaching kids to be polite and grateful of others’ help, regardless of whether that help is optional or imposed (just like you would still say thank you to an employee?)
    2) “it’s a very good point that it’s a matter of priorities rather than of price alone.”
    most young kids (and probably many teenagers as well) don’t really share the same concept of priorities as parents do. they just don’t get it unless you tell them out right that you don’t have the $ for it.
    3) “I also don’t believe in rewarding for chores . . . However, now that our children have TV and computer privileges, it’s easier to get them to do their chores . . .”
    so then you are rewarding them
    4) ” She suggested he wait until Passover to request it as an afikoman present.”
    if she can’t afford it (or it’s not a priority), so be it. why make a promise she might not be able to keep?

  15. mominisrael says

    1) agreed
    2)I like “it’s not in our budget” better than “we can’t afford it.” I think the kids understand that either of those means no.
    3) It does get fuzzy here.
    4) She didn’t say she can’t afford it, just that the gift was expensive. The implication being that she would be able to afford buying such a gift for Pesach.
    rewards vs. bribes–speaking for myself here, I resort to bribes when I am in a really tight spot with a young child.

  16. Try 3 years if you’re over 40.
    3 months if you’re under 20
    3 weeks if you’re under 10
    Yes, I just made all that up.

  17. MotherInShomron says

    Several years ago we cut the days of our ozeret from once a week to once every two weeks, and the children (then aged 7, 9, 11) would clean the house. The money that would have gone to the ozeret was put aside in a “fund” that they would decide how to use it. At the end of the cleaning I would make sure to give them a special treat, like a special chocolate or pizza. After a year they had enough to pay for charter tickets for a trip to Europe.
    In this way we didn’t “pay” them for helping, but they got their reward. Of course we didn’t let on that we would have taken them anyway.
    Now they are older, and we have no ozeret at all, they all have daily tasks (10 minutes at most) and weekly cleaning. They divided all the cleaning equally, and agreed to rotate every month which prevents the complaint “I do more than him”. Now there are four of them it’s getting easier, although I have to remind them. And I always say thank-you.
    The hardest part was teaching how to clean at the beginning. Sometimes it would take me twice a long a doing it myself, but after a few months it started paying off. I also observed that boys aren’t as thorough as girls, or that “almost” is just as good as “completely” for them.

  18. mominisrael says

    TD: Good theory.
    MiS: Your last point is so important–it takes a certain amount of investment to teach kids to do chores properly. But it’s worth it.