Wednesday, August 7, 2013

For those of us who fail at chore charts

One of the bittersweet realities of parenting is that you're preparing your children to leave you. As much as I like to dream of them being little forever (and always thinking I'm the coolest person ever), they are going to grow up. And when they do, I'd like them to be able to take care of themselves.

This is one of those areas of life where what I believe in theory is often different than what happens in practice. I believe that kids should contribute to the running of the household in an age appropriate manner. I believe kids should learn to do things for themselves as they are able. I believe kids should have responsibilities and be helpful and do meaningful work in their home.

The biggest obstacle to achieving that with my kids is most certainly ME.

Yep. This girl, right here.

The best way, that I can envision, to make sure they know how to take care of themselves and contribute to the family in a meaningful way, is to be consistent. Come up with a system, or at least a set of expectations, and stick to it. Do it daily. Be more like that mom, who can keep her house beautifully clean with the help of her little minions, checking off their ten daily chores on their Pinterest-inspired, vintage, hand-made chore charts.

I fail at chore charts.

Why? Because I'm kinda lazy. I'm not great at being consistent with housework by myself, let alone when you add in the drama that comes with trying to make kids do it. And yet, I know I'm doing my kids a disservice by not making them do more around the house. I've even tried to tackle this problem before, and we did great for a while. The problem is, I get lazy and inconsistent and don't really want to deal with it, so I let it slide once in while. Once in a while turns into most of the time, which turns into they don't know what the word "chores" means anymore.

I've tried chore charts and stickers and magnets and rewards. The biggest problem with all of those things is, of course, me. I don't follow up with them. I don't check them off or move the magnet or make sure the kids pay attention to them. I love the idea of chore charts - they look so nice and organized! But I have yet to implement a system that we stick with for more than a couple of days.

Seriously, why do I suck at this?
I am also resisting the urge to tell myself that I'll make everything perfect after we move. It is a trap that is all too easy to fall into. "Once we're in the new house, I will completely overhaul our lives and everything will be organized and perfect and wonderful!" Riiiiiight. Are you forgetting the chaos of boxes and unpacking and for the love of all that is good, where is the white kitty with the pink collar because she won't go to sleep without it!

But I will not give up!

My mantra this year is "simple and real." I'm not trying to win any awards for "Most Amazing Homeschooling Mom." I just want to find ways to accomplish the things I think are important. One of those things is getting my kids to do chores. I don't expect them to love it, or flit cheerfully around with their Swiffer dusters and cleaning rags (although they do love those dusters, let me tell ya). I do expect them to help with the things that need to be done to have a nice home to live in. And that has to start with me.

Although I don't have a solid plan, here's what I know:

KISS: Keep it Simple, Stupid (that "stupid" is not directed at you, but squarely back at me). Fancy isn't going to get the job done around here, regardless of how nice it looks in photos. If I go with any kind of chore chart or routine, it needs to be simple.

Give the kids ownership: I think a solution that puts the responsibility for checking off their chores on the shoulders of the kids is the way to go. If I'm the one who has to keep up with what has been done, it won't happening consistently. Been there, done that. But maybe if they have a check box or a chore card to move, and it is their job to do it, they will actually, you know, do it.

Do chores together: This has been successful for us in the past, again, I just need to be consistent. Instead of assigning a bunch of separate chores, we all work together on something. It might be vacuuming, and we take turns with the vacuum while the others move things out of the way. The kids actually like cleaning bathrooms, with their squirt bottles of a water/vinegar solution; another thing we can work on together. There's a nice sense of working as a team that occurs if we tackle a chore as a group, rather than sending them off to do separate things. It also cuts down on the whining, negotiating, and "It isn't faaaaaiiiiiir!" that comes with assigning separate chores.

Take it slow: Better habits won't be built all at once. We can start with just one thing when we get settled in the new house. That will probably be having the boys help empty the dishwasher. Once that becomes routine, we can add something else - whatever else is simple to implement and will have an impact on our daily life. But slow and steady will build good habits - a big overhaul won't have staying power.

So what works in your home to get the kids helping, and keep things running smoothly? You know, aside from the cleaning and laundry fairy, who consistently shuns my house. No amount of clapping and chanting, "I do believe in fairies!" seems to bring her here.

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