Chore Strategy

We are big on chores here in our cozy stuffed full home.  We believe that it takes a family to make a house run and that children are chore list on refridgeratorintegral in running a household.  The kids have a separate set of chores for morning, after school, and evening.  They know what they are supposed to do and when it is supposed to be done.  They even have an understanding of why it is important to complete their chores (at least intellectually) as members of a cohesive family.  But, as with many of us adults, they have  difficulty with follow-through.

The usual way of getting through this thrice daily chore time has been rather painful.  It has evolved into something ugly and unsatisfying for all involved.  It has become something that no one in their right mind would want as part of their daily, let alone three times a day, routine.  I believe I must bear the brunt of the load when it comes to figuring out how this happened and why it continues, and ultimately how to mend it.

I have been a bit of  a curmudgeon (actually angry and frustrated with ugly words and sounds) when it comes to chore time and the natural tendency to rebel against that type of parenting has become the modus operendi for our family.  This is what it looks like.

Mom says, “Chore time”.  Kids all scatter or ignore mom and go play, wrestle, read, fight, whatever happens to pop up.  Mom follows and tells them they must do their chores.  They state that they are sorry, and with sad faces begin with something on their list.  Then they start playing, fighting, reading, etc.  This time mom comes and yells and threatens with punishments and removal of privileges and sometimes even outrageous threats that we all know are outright lies and kids respond the exact same way..apologies, sad faces and half-hearted attempts to do a chore.  This again devolves into “not chores” and mom just raises the frustration response and attempts to force with ugly words the act of “doing chores”.  This process is repeated until we are all tired and frustrated and unhappy. Then, if they haven’t done them properly I also have a habit of just finishing it up while they are at school, or outside playing.  So, they really aren’t learning any personal responsibility or motivation other than keeping mom happy, and that doesn’t seem to be much of a motivator either.boy scrubbing stove

Their chores are not unreasonable.  They are pretty much personal chores which involve taking care of their own bodies and their own belongings; getting dressed, picking up their toys and anything else they have left lying around the house or their rooms, homework, showers, brushing teeth, putting their clean folded laundry away and their dirty laundry in the hamper etc.  The usual things that any reasonable parent expects their children to do.  Then they each have a “pay chore” to earn their spend/save/give money.  This is one particular chore per child such as -taking care of the pet, washing dinner dishes, taking care of trash and recycling etc.  Reasonable tasks, and if they truly don’t want to do their pay chores they don’t have to, but they won’t earn any money at they end of the week.

So, I have decided that in order to change the dynamic I have to change how I deal with this.  It is hard to change old habits even if they are bad habits and it will mean my house is going to be rather messy for awhile.  I am not going to follow them, say ugly words, continually redirect them.  I will let go.  I will not finish their chores for them (there are exceptions to this-illness, piles of homework, other after school responsibilities that shorten their time-then I will happily lend them a hand).  I will not yell.  I probably will still get frustrated inside.  When I feel the pull to interfere and say the wrong things I go in my room and shut the door and read, journal, pray, listen to music etc.  Whatever will help me gain a better perspective.boy washing dishes

I have informed the boys that whatever doesn’t get done before school will still be there when they get home, and whatever doesn’t get done at bedtime will still be there when they get up.  It’s very hard to not clean up after they leave, or after they go to bed, or before they get up.  It is not my usual way to have mess, or food stuck to the counters, or trails of boy stuff all over the house.  I am a tidy and neat person by nature.  I am one of those who can’t think properly or relax if there is mess in my house.  So, this is a challenge for all of us.  They are used to me prodding and yelling in order for them to complete their tasks.  They are used to me finishing the things left undone.  They don’t learn much that way other than to rely on me for their own chores.  They don’t get privileges such as computer time, treats, games with parents etc with chores left undone.  They also don’t get a clean home which they are used to.  I told them that I will not neglect my own responsibilities and chores, but I will not be the one responsible for their chores.boy vacuuming

They aren’t sure whether or not to believe me.  I am not sure what will be the result, but I know it will be better than what it has already become. It will be a kinder gentler approach and I will not turn into the ugly shrieking mother who sets a bad example and cannot be pleased by my children or pleasing to anyone.  I am hopeful that in a few weeks we will have established a better habit, a kinder routine, a happier household.

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