Bribes, threats, punishment, rewards, treats, money, toys…I have tried it all to get my kids to happily do their fair share of the household work. But the fact is, I don’t always do my chores with glee either. And, like my children, I have been known to procrastinate a less-than-exciting task hanging over my head.
So, we should understand when our kids don’t run toward the chore-at-hand with dancing feet and smiling faces.
The goal is to teach them how to be a part of a family. We all pitch in to do the work that has to be done, so we can do the things we want to do. That’s why I do them. Because If I don’t have clean towels, I don’t enjoy my shower nearly as much.
I used to really dislike going to the grocery store. I had panic attacks in the snack isle and broke out with hives in the frozen food section. But it is a chore that has to be done. So I used to treat myself with a home magazine after I finished a big grocery run. After I had put all of the groceries away I would allow myself to sit down and peruse the pages getting inspiration for my next project.
Maybe my kids are the same way. And maybe they deserve a little treat at the end of their most disliked chore too. It doesn’t have to be food, just something to look forward to.
After taking all of this into consideration I did away with the threats, and bribes and sympathetically approached this as a fact of life. These things have to get done and as a family we all pitch in.
First, I divided the house into similarly sized areas. Each child was assigned an area, or areas, they need to clean. One child has the front living room, another the family room, another the sitting room. Then I divided the basement, where all of our toys are, the same way. One has the kitchen area, another the dress up area, another the bins, etc. And each child is responsible for their own bedroom and bath.
Second, I divvied up the after dinner chores: everyone takes their dishes to the sink, one wipes the table, another sweeps and so on.
Now, here is how I ask them to get them done. While these techniques aren’t perfect, it enables me to stay calm while allowing them to take responsibility for their part.
Chore Time. With the younger kids, ages 5 and under, I use a time technique. I tell them that 4:30 p.m. is chore time. And at 4:30 before I start dinner we clean up together. Since they require more supervision this gives me time before I am elbow deep in dinner prep. Often I will take the mail with me and sort through or read the latest catalog while I watch them cleaning. Otherwise, I help them out. Once they are done, and in order to keep my house from getting totally trashed again, I put a show on for them while I make dinner.
Chore Deadlines. With the older kids I give them a little more autonomy to choose when they do their chores. They have to have their areas clean before they can go out to play after dinner. This gives them all day to decide when to do them, but a firm deadline with incentive following the deadline. For the ones that put off their chores until after dinner I like to use statements like, “feel free to go outside and play once your chores are done.” or “you are welcome to play with your friends as soon as your chores and completed.” So they have a deadline, but room to choose – now or later. There is incentive to complete them with the opportunity to play after dinner. And there is a consequence of not getting to play after dinner if they don’t get it done by that time.
Of course I always have to check, because they never get them done well, never. My husband and I share the checking responsibility and sometimes I will have them check each others work. If I don’t have time to check and they did a bad job, the next night they don’t go out at all.
5 Minute Clean Up. There is one other technique I use now and then. I call it the 5 minute clean up. I use this when the toy room is really messy and no one wants to touch it. On these days I grab the kitchen timer, or the iPod and put some fun tunes on. Then we all clean as much as we can get done in 5 minutes. Then we stop – and leave it. We can make some decent progress in 5 minutes and the next day it isn’t as daunting. I just did this one the other day and we had the entire basement cleaned up in two evenings of 5 minute clean ups.
What do you do?