There are many reasons why parents ask their children to do chores (or not) around the house. Some parents pay their children to do them; others don’t; others still have a mixture of jobs, some of which are paid and others expected to be completed…just because. The variations are as wide and interesting as the families.
We cottoned on to a great strategy early on in our parenting. One that means any chores our kids do, they expect to complete. Properly. 100%. No exceptions.
Recently we’ve had a skiddy-undies issues with the two older boys. Call me particular, but skiddy-undies don’t really do it for me – especially as I am the one doing most of the washing. So in the last few weeks we’ve added a real-life consequence for them. Put a pair of undies in the wash with wees or poos (even a dribble or a smear) in them and the child in question gets to wash a load of towels. (No, I wouldn’t ask a child younger than five and a half to do this.)
Due to the age difference there is a variation. The Hare, at nine, is expected to find all the dirty and wet towels and cloths in the house, put them in the washing-machine, put in the appropriate amount of powder and put the machine on. The following morning, he hangs all of them out. At the end of the day he brings all of them in, folds them, puts them away and he puts the washing basket away properly – in the correct place and straight.(His turns are restricted to weekends and holidays due to a 7.30am bus for school.) The variation for the six-year old Owl is that he doesn’t have to do the larger towels and hangs all of the tea-towels, hand-towels, face-cloths and cleaning-cloths on to a drying-rack. But they both have to complete the job properly from start to finish, as I would. Hanging the towels all bunched-up means I will call them back to straighten them. Put them away scrunched-up means I will call them back to sort them out. When they are older the consequence will be to do a load of clothes – completely, hmmmm perhaps ironing too…
Now before you leap to the conclusion that I am being a dragon, be assured: I don’t raise my voice; I don’t hurt them; and I don’t add consequences. I also don’t go away. They can chose to go back to bed for 20 minutes or sit on the step and look at the load of washing for half an hour, but it doesn’t go away and they can’t do anything else until they’ve dealt with it. Just as in real-life where the debt stays there until you deal with it, or the car breaks down because you didn’t maintain it, or the flab gathers because you’re eating in a way that doesn’t work with your body: the consequence matches the action. As Robert Kiyosaki of Rich Dad Poor Dad fame says: Experience First = Lesson Second. That’s how the real world works.
This strategy works well because they know there is no getting away from the consequence of their actions. Actions, which let’s face it – at nine and six, they are perfectly capable of preventing. They don’t do anything else until the job is completed, but the job (by it’s very nature) happens in small and manageable chunks.
It also works well because we are slow to add chores to our children’s day. They don’t do a lot of chores compared to many of their friends.
But the main reason we have few chore issues, I believe is because of this expectation that all chores are completed to the nth degree. Even the 19 month-old Butterfly puts his dirty clothes in the washing-basket – with no bits hanging over the edge and has done since he could walk competently. When the older two finish eating, they put their scraps in the bin and plates either in the dish-washer or in the sink with water so we don’t end up with caked on food to scrub off.
And, as regular followers of this blog will know, there is no praise or reward – other than the task is done – the reward is in the completion – they get to raise their sense of self-assurance (that they can manage) without someone else having to tell them they’ve done a great job. They know what the completed job looks like; they know they have met that level of accomplishment; they automatically feel good about themselves –
and because we appreciate their work, I say, “Thanks.”
As the Owl said to me the other night, “Some things just need to be done, don’t they Mum? So there’s no point in fussing.”
Reckon there’s plenty of adults who aren’t that on to it!
(This is officially how I help put food on the table. If you’ve found this article useful, please feel free to use the Koha button just above my blogroll. Even the smallest amount is appreciated. 🙂 )