And not Just to Give Mummy a Break
We have all said it, haven’t we? “When I grow up and have kids, I won’t make them do chores.” I can almost pinpoint the exact day I screamed this at my own parents when they slunk out of the kitchen after instructing me and my brother to empty and fill the dishwasher after dinner. It’s only with hindsight that I look back and think ‘it’s not like I had to wash the damn plates by hand!’ But now, as a mother of two tearaway daughters and a messy as hell husband, I find myself saying the same words my mother uttered to me all those years ago “You need to learn how to look after yourself and learn the value of money!” By god she was right.
For the first few years of my children’s lives, I did everything for them. I never realised just how big the rod was that I was making for myself. They made a mess of their toys and I would think ‘they are just kids, let them play’ and spend hours trying to restore the normalcy to my living-room! HOURS!
Nothing has changed. Years down the line, both my daughters have their own bedrooms but are still incapable of tidying up after themselves. No matter how much I nag them!
“I can’t find it” is a sentence that is uttered far too often during a normal day. I am sick and tired of having to find everything for them because the house is such a mess they can’t see the ‘wood’ for the piles of toys and clothes!
Finally, at the age of 6, I have towed the line with my eldest daughter and a ‘chore rota’ has been drawn up. Why? Not because I am a strict military parent (the very reason I thought my parents did the same thing when I was a child) but because I am… a PARENT.
I am not a cleaner. I am not a maid. I am not the hired help. I have to spend my day trying to get to bedtime with both my mini-mes still alive and breathing. Most days I am simply over the moon if I check on them at night and I have survived another day! No one tells you how difficult it is to raise two small human beings.
My main point is: I am a parent and my job is hard enough as it is. Once you are old enough to change your pants, you are also old enough to take those dirty pants, put them IN a washing basket and not simply drop them on the floor at random intervals throughout the house.
So, after announcing to my husband that the kids would from now on be doing ‘chores’, I realised I had no real idea how to start the process. I threw myself in at the deep end and I asked my eldest daughter to tidy up the mess she had made in the living-room.
Cue epic diva strop meltdown of a tantrum.
What the hell was I seeing? I had not brought up spoiled brats. This was simply not going to fly in this house. I told her what to do, told her there would be no TV and no playing until it was finished and left her to it.
I returned half an hour later and could not find her anywhere. 10 minutes of searching later and I find her sat on the floor of the bathroom. “I needed the toilet,” she muttered as she played with the empty toilet roll that her father left behind. Setting a fabulous example there of course! The whole scene just conjured memories of me as a child with the oldest of my younger brothers often using the same excuse to get out of helping me with the dishes… “I need a pee,” he would mutter before spending half an hour on the toilet. Obviously, training for being a man as that also seems to be a habit that lives well on into adult years with that species.
I have a new found respect for my mother, because the 4 hours of “What are you doing? Tidy up!” and various other incarnations of the sentence later… and the living room was still not tidy. I eventually gave up and did it myself.
The next day I tried a different tactic. Bribery. To any mother or woman who has ever muttered the words “you should never bribe a child” I have to call you out as a liar, or you have never actually been a mother. Bribery is the only way to get the mini munchkins to do anything!!! There. I said it. Sue me or report me to social services, I don’t care. It gets the job done.
The results with bribery were slightly different. My daughters did indeed pick up all the stuff in the living-room (due to my promise of pocket money to spend on a new toy at the weekend). However, I had not bargained on my kids being so sneaky. An hour later I walked into the bedroom to find everything they had moved from the living-room scattered at the DOOR of their bedroom. Not even in the middle of the room, but right in front of the door.
I didn’t lose my cool… I shook my head, closed the door, then resigned myself to the fact that I would need to consult trusty Pinterest to help me figure this one out.
I came across this little nugget!
The idea really struck with me. My eldest is money driven. We have talked at length about the fact that she can’t just expect everything she wants without having to earn it. If she wants that special toy, she knows she either has to ask for it for Christmas, or her birthday, or she needs to save the money and buy it herself. So this was ideal. To see the money just a little out of reach… whilst knowing she can only have it when she has completed the task (to Mum’s satisfaction) ticks three boxes.
- She feels a real sense of accomplishment.
- She is starting to understand the value of money.
- *BONUS* I finally get some help around the house.
My youngest daughter, however, is too young to understand money. The key thing to remember here is that each child is different and may have totally different motivations. My youngest loves to help people. She loves sparkly things and hugs and recognition. My diva of an older daughter couldn’t care less about a ‘pat on the back’, she needs physical rewards. This next idea I came across… again thanks to Pinterest (and no, I am not normally a Pinterest Mummy, but needs must!) suits her perfectly.
My youngest gets such satisfaction out of seeing all the pegs neatly on the other side at the end of the day. She also knows that she will also get a treat at the weekend too when her sister gets to spend her pocket money. Just like the picture example, I made it personal to her, glittery, and I changed the pegs each day to keep her interested.
So I had the finished products sorted, my next task was to find out what was ‘acceptable’ as chores for each of them to do each day/week. There has been plenty of debate surrounding this subject and far too many articles that suggest different things, but in my house, if you are old enough to make the mess, you are old enough to learn to clean it up. Both children have learned to make their own beds, they help me change the sheets, help me load and unload the washing machine, my seven year old can hoover and my five year old can dust and polish. The trick is to work with your children’s strengths. You are not asking them to make a roast dinner, just to put the plates in the dishwasher after dinner. That is more than acceptable in my book.
For a rule of thumb, this list (from amomstake.com) really helped me and each week and month I find new chores to add and remove from the list.
I have learned these five very important things during this somewhat difficult adult chore – teaching children to do chores instills the following life skills from an early age:
1: It teaches them important life skills and helps them become independent.
2: It reduces Mummy stress, which makes the house a happier place and frees up Mummy time to spend doing fun stuff with the children.
3: It helps children understand responsibility and respect for things. If they keep things clean, they last longer. If their rooms are messy, toys get broken. Seems simple to us, but it is a valuable lesson to younger children.
4: It seems kids really do love to help. Once you get them over the idea of it being ‘boring’, most children will love the routine and sense of accomplishment.
5: Chores help children develop team skills (if you have multiple children). My girls now work together to get the chores done quicker. So teach them young and give them an advantage in the workplace later in life.
One other note: Don’t expect to just give your kids a list of chores and have them know exactly what to do. Use the first few weeks to enjoy helping them. Make it fun. Teach them how to do it better, quicker and easier. Make it enjoyable from the outset and although it may take longer, in the beginning, to teach them how to do it, you will be much happier in the long run when they are able to do it all by themselves, allowing you five minutes to have that cup of coffee before it goes cold!