Tag Archives: chores

The Lost Lesson of Responsibility

Also posted on my other site: Homeschooling the Minds of Tomorrow

Laura age 4-2

Recently, I had a conversation with someone close in age to myself about our childhoods.  I recalled my Saturday responsibilities growing up: raking and bagging leaves when I was younger, and mowing the lawn when I was a bit older. I had some kitchen clean up job every night of the week, except for my birthday, from as far back as I can remember (the above picture is me, age four).

When my grandparents needed help with things like cleaning out their garage or doing yard work, to their house I went.  I did get an allowance, but I was not paid to do these things.  I did them because I was a member of the house and as such, I was expected to pitched in.  When I did want extra money, my mom was always ready with a list of serious jobs.

There also wasn’t the constant badgering of “do you have homework” from my parents.  If I had it, I was expected to do it.  If I failed, that was on me.  And I was going to be in trouble for it.

As a mommy of a basketball team plus one and a half subs, I have a huge responsibility to teach them, well, responsibility.  I must say, I feel like I’m failing miserably.  Once upon a time we had chore day, which was in addition to the daily chores of kitchen clean up and nightly toy pick up.  But getting kids to do these things is hard. It takes a substantial amount of effort on the parents’ part to assign jobs, oversee them, etc. Not to mention, staying sane when they complain and whine every minute of the process.  I blogged about it a few years back 🙂

Then there is the teaching of responsibility with school work and helping with younger siblings.  It was actually much easier to know what was done and what was not done when my kids were all being homeschooled together.  Some work we did together.  The independent assignments took as long as they took.  There was no lying or cheating about it – I simply had to come in and glance at their paper to know how much was completed.  Now that three are in school, at least one has homework on a fairly regular basis.  I don’t usually ask, and he doesn’t usually come home eager to do it (understandable as it may be after being at school for seven hours).  It’s not until bedtime that he may panic and say he has work.  At this point, my reply is, “why didn’t you do it instead of _____?”  So a lot of his work goes back as incomplete.

Now I must confess that I am a helicopter mom by nature.  I like knowing what’s going on at all times with all my kids.  I usually err on the side of doing too much for them, yet getting upset when they don’t do something for themselves.  This is where I feel like I am doing them a great disservice in the lesson of responsibility.  Since they have been in school, I have let a lot of things slide.  Chores are a thing of the past.  I don’t have the energy at the end of the day to deal with the arguments.  Similarly, they now believe that chores are just a little too much on top of a long public school day.  So it is usually me who, after getting six kids ready and into bed, drags my tired self into the kitchen to clean up the mess. I clean the house. I do the laundry.  And when they are out of socks or underwear or their favorite pair of jeans has yet to be washed, they are upset with me for not having done it.  My first thought is why don’t YOU start doing your own laundry?! Yet how could I expect such a thing when I have never given them the opportunity of that responsibility?

It seems the more and more we do for our kids in an effort to “help” them, the more we are creating a helpless generation.  Does the idea of them ruining a whole load of laundry bother me?  Absolutely!!  Am I afraid that if I let them pack their own lunches, they will not get a balanced meal?  You bet!  But what am I really teaching them by simply doing it all for them, day after day?  If it can be measured by their constant ingratitude and complaining, I am teaching them nothing. And in the process, I am getting more and more exhausted and bitter.  Also, NOT HELPFUL.

I know that I need to take a few steps back and allow them to take responsibility for more.  I believe they would actually be grateful for this.  It’s a battle with myself, as well.  I found the following list from sheknows.com to be helpful for me as I try to begin this process:

mother and daughter doing dishes

1. Assign some accountability

Age-appropriate chores are a simple way to teach your child responsibility. Add in a little financial incentive and your darling will begin learning how to manage finances, too.

2. Let her make decisions

Letting your child make some of her own choices will teach her accountability and help her to gain independence. Younger children should be offered limited options, but give her the chance to choose from them.

3. Foster independence

The only way to master any skill is through practice. By letting her tackle age-appropriate tasks, like getting herself dressed, she will also become more self-reliant.

4. Set a good example

Taking your own responsibilities seriously sets a good example for your kiddo’s watchful eyes. “Whether we promote it or not, children always learn by example”, says Thomas S. Greenspon, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Keeping your promises or being on time are ways you can lead by example.

5. Pick up a book

Stories pack a lot of punch, so when it comes to reading time, select books that illustrate responsibility. Interesting characters and situations she can identify with will hold her attention. Even better, she won’t tune you out because she isn’t being lectured!

6. Talk her through difficult situations

Although your first instinct is to direct and protect your adolescent, instead of automatically telling her what she should do, guide her through the process of coming to a conclusion on her own. Ask questions and encourage her to think it through with your support.

7. Show them the bigger picture

The ultimate goal is for your sweetheart act responsibly because she wants to, not just because she’s told to. Explaining to your child how doing her part is helping the family as a whole can sometimes help young children understand how their actions affect others.

Teaching your child responsibility helps build character and makes her a more independent, self-reliant person. As she grows, remember to let her responsibilities evolve. Finally, don’t forget to give her plenty for praise for a job well done!

Here is a list of Age-appropriate chores.

A book I read several years back, which I found invaluable at the time and seriously need to re-read a few more times, was Have a New Kid by Friday, by Dr. Kevin Leman.  He takes a very simple, yet no-nonsense approach to parenting, discipline, and teaching responsibility and accountability.

Cleaning on a Budget

I may be the only one who wastes enough time to see and read articles such as this, but apparently, a new kind of vacuum cleaner has just been manufactured for those of us on a serious budget.

Read the article here: http://www.govacuum.com/26132-Million-Dollar-Vacuum-Cleaner-Model-GV62711-UPC-60893974724.aspx

Okay, the part where I said it is budget friendly is, well, a huge, fat lie.  One to laugh at, cry at, wherever your emotional response takes you. Just in case you cannot or do not open the link, this is for a one million dollar, 24k gold vacuum cleaner. Yes, you read that right and no, it is not beautiul like one might imagine a gold vacuum should be.

So I’m thinking the same thing as the writer of the story: would it really make cleaning more fun?  But as a mom who struggles to get her kids to clean up their fair shares, would it make them more interested in cleaning?  Do they even know what a gold vacuum cleaner is?  No… not possible.  They don’t know what a million dollars is.  Thirteen bucks to the 11-year old makes him feel rich.

And then there is the issue of the wall banging (which I still believe is an act of deliberate defiance).  Would the 7-year old still bang walls with a real gold vacuum?  And does this gold plating chip off?  Because then we would have the issue of 14k gold flecks in our walls and the carpet (which, of course, would just get vacuumed up the next time he cleaned).  I wonder if this is something we could later have appraised… yes, Mr. Realtor… there is signficant lower wall damage… BUT, we have filled these cracks with GOLD!!!

Just some thoughts as I save up one million to buy one of those.  I was definitely not thinking of the long-term investment potential when I purchased the $30 battery operated one a year ago.

Cleaning and the Secret Plot of Children

Some people are going to gasp when I say this.  Some will shake their heads in sad disappointment.  Others may curse me through the screen.  But a few may actually know and agree with this truth:  Children have a secret plot to drive their parents crazy.

Let’s take a look at cleaning.  In my house, because I am a mean mom, cleaning is a group effort.  I would like to say we are an organized family and set aside a certain day for all the cleaning to get done, but that would be a lie.  It usually happens when I can’t stand looking at the bathrooms anymore.  Gross, I know.

Now I would just like to take a moment to say, I try to make things as easy on myself as possible.  So, awhile back I bought a little battery-operated vacuum cleaner for my 7-year old to use, and expensive packages of window cleaning wipes and disinfecting wipes for the 10-year old.  I even bought dusting wipes for the 4-year old and (now) 3-year old.  And yes, this is supposed to make things easier on me, not them.  Otherwise I would be worried about them squirting themselves and each other in the eyes with chemicals (green or non green, both would probably sting).  And they would probably trip over cords and break things with a real vacuum.

So… life made easy, right?  Give the 10-year old his wipes and send him to the bathrooms to clean.  I’ll scrub the toilets, I’ll spray down the bathtub for him to scrub later… just take the packages and go.  Give the 7-year old his vacuum cleaner and have him do the stairs and the upstairs.  But that’s where all hell breaks loose.

The 10-year old goes upstairs and yells down to me what is he supposed to do first?  I yell back up, “Same as always!!!”  He yells down that he doesn’t remember.  I yell back up that he DOES remember!  We go back and forth until my throat starts to hurt and I go up there and tell him what to do while actually doing most of it for him.  For awhile, he is quiet.

The 7-year old starts with the stairs.  He makes sure to bang the edge of the vacuum cleaner into every square inch of wall as he goes.  Then he does the upstairs.  Again, with the banging into the walls.  I go up there, annoyed, and show him how to vacuum in a nice little line, back and forth and WITHOUT hitting the walls.  I mostly do it for him.  Please note, this is probably the 50th time I have “shown” him.  As soon as I go downstairs, he turns on the vacuum for one minute before telling me the battery is dead.  How convenient… it has to charge for about 10 hours before he can do any real vacuuming now.

Meanwhile, the 4-year old and 3-year old actually are asking to help clean!  They are jumping up and down begging me to clean!!  I give them the dusting wipes and show them where to clean.  After the entire package has been used, I cannot tell any dusting has been done.  So I salvage the little piles of crumpled wipes and dust everything myself.

At this time, the 10-year old is back at it with the questions.  Does he have to do the toilets?  It’s gross.  I know… that’s why we are cleaning.  He doesn’t want to.  Do it anyway.  The 7-year old skips in and says since he is done, what can he do now?  I tell him to scrub one of the bathtubs that I have already sprayed down.  I give him a sponge and off he goes.  But one second later, I hear water running.  I run up there and ask him why is he running the water and washing away all the cleaning stuff before he scrubbed it?!?  He said he already did.  I point to the ring around the tub and say NO he has not.  Then I do it for him while he watches.

The 10-year old is screaming now and rolling on the floor about how he is tired and hates cleaning and blah blah blah.

The 7-year old is whining that he got water all over the bathroom floors and “accidentally” peed in the toilet with the blue stuff in it before it was scrubbed.

My throat hurts from screaming.  I am sweating because I just cleaned the whole house instead of the kids.

The 4 and 3-year old are running around asking for everything under the sun.

So… the older two successfully completed their mission and barely cleaned anything.  The 4 and 3-year-old are happy because I am too tired to argue and just shove at them whatever it was they are asking for.

I HATE cleaning days.  Good thing it won’t happen again for a while.

Unwanted Echoes

Sometimes the things we say as parents come back to haunt us through the mouths of our children.  Okay, I take that back… OFTEN times, the things we say as parents come back to haunt us through the mouths of our children.  There.  That’s more honest.

My children do have chores that are assigned on a weekly basis (I know, I’m soooooo mean).  However, they are also expected to do certain things around the house that I do no consider to be chores.  Let’s see… for starters, flush the toilet.  And if you use a whole roll of toilet paper and have tried to flush it too many times, for God’s sake, COME TELL ME!   I hate discovering these little things on my own.  At night, put away your clothes, dirty or clean, in their appropriate places, as well as put away all toys.  If I serve you food as you wait impatiently for it at the table, the least thing you can do is take your plate over when you’re done complaining, I mean eating it.  Rinsing it and putting it in the dishwasher would be nice, too, but I won’t push it.  When you step on the same piece of trash in the kitchen five times in a few minutes, seriously??  You can’t pick it up?!

So… when I have to remind my kids of little things like these, I have been known to use the phrase, “I am NOT your maid… come take over your plate!”  And by the way, we do not have a housekeeper, and even if we did, they would still not be permitted to be slobs.

Last night we were going through the bedtime ritual.  The two and four-year old were bathed with their teeth brushed.  Next step, pick up the toys.  Believe me, critics of my evil parenting ways, this is more of a chore for me then it is for the kids.  They whine about it EVERY NIGHT and it takes forever to get done.  It would be much easier if I just put their toys away for them in the 5 seconds it would take me, then to teach them to do it and sit there as they complain through it for 15 minutes.  But as I have said before, I must be a masochist.

The two-year old finished up first (his is always an epic disaster because he dumps out EVERYTHING).  On to the four-year old’s room.  Now, she maybe had two teddy bears and a bunny on the floor so we’re talking a HUGE clean up job, right?  So I asked her to put them away.  She let out a very loud sigh, managed to flip her hair back in a manner fit for a teenage cheerleader, and said,

“Ugh!  I’m not the maid, okay?!”

I was not amused.  I was too busy grinding my teeth.