When you're recovering from two surgeries in one week, reading is a good thing to do. Right now I'm enjoying Eric Weiner's The Geography of Bliss---
Weiner talks about an experiment in Japan that you could use at home to help your kids be more helpful and happy. Here is what he wrote in his chapter about a visit to one of the unhappiest countries in the world, the former Soviet Republic of Moldova:
What the Moldovans fail to recognize is the power of selfish altruism. It may sound a bit Sunday school-ish, but helping others makes us feel good. Psychologists at Kobe College in Japan proved this. They divided a group of college students into two groups. One group did nothing differently for a week. The other group was asked to count the number of kind acts they performed during that week. They weren't asked to perform any kind acts, merely to take note of them. After a week, this second group reported a marked jump in happiness levels compared to the control group. "Simply by counting the acts of kindness of one week, people become happier and more grateful," concluded the researchers.
So, how to do this at home? Give your kid a 3 by 5 index card, a golf pencil and something to carry these things around in. A pocket would do. No need to make this complicated.
Ask them to tally their acts of kindness. Maybe jot a word about what the act of kindness was: "MTDWStBsct" Review the card each day. Translate. (They emptied the wastebasket.)
If you try this idea, I think you'd find that it's better than a chore list with money paid for each chore done. It'll be less record keeping for you. Cheaper, for sure. And your kids gets things money never bought: inner self worth, satisfaction, occasions to connect deeply with mom and dad, and, yes, happiness.
And practice writing. Your VISA card can't give your kid practice writing.