I could feel the weekend ticking away, telling me it was almost time. Part of me = super excited. Part of me = very apprehensive. The excited feelings come from the side of me that really wants to teach my children something more than the me-centered attitude that absorbs them. (The attitude that assumes their clean clothes will magically appear in their dressers, that their food will be ready and waiting, and their toys will be organized for them.) I want them to learn those basic skills of life and help them become confident in their ability to do those things. But being someone with a procrastinating personality I struggle with organization. Its hard for me to make a commitment and see it through to the end. So I get a little nervous I will let this fade away and by the end of summer it will be just like it always is – bored, whining kids who won’t do any work and want me to walk a fork into the dining room for them because they feel so entitled it doesn’t even cross their minds they could get up and get the fork themselves, hence leaving mom (me) in frantic panic trying to carry the load of the whole house while I prepare to add another whiny child to the mix in November.
In the book Cleaning House, Wyma adds new expectations for her kids month by month. First month is cleaning their rooms and making their beds every morning. The next month she adds cooking – each kid takes a night, picks the menu, shops for the food, prepares it and cleans it up. Then she adds yard work, serving, and so on.
I guess I’m a little meaner. Cause I’m loading it all on – RIGHT NOW. We have a schedule on the white board so they know what is expected every day.
Every day: They are expected to make beds and have floor cleaned. They each have a jar of quarters – one for each day of the month – and if their bedroom duties aren’t done for that day I take a quarter. Also to do their Bridge books (school stuff), flute practice, and reading.
Twice a week: They’re in charge of cat duty – litter and food/water
Twice a week: They get to help with supper (and get to choose what we cook depending on what we have in the house) and are also on dish duty that day
Once a week: They help with any laundry duties going on for that day.
(…. So now that I look at that list, I realize its not really that much. Just simple chores that should be done anyway in a normal household. Somehow I have enabled them into thinking these are big tasks …. I will have to think of some bigger duties once we have this list mastered.)
This is how day one went for us….
– LOTS of crying this morning from a certain pre-teen girl who just could not fathom how I could ask her to put a clean bed sheet onto her bed. “I caaaan’t! I caaaaaaan’t! I caaaaaaaaaaan’t!” she cried. On and on. Probably for 2 hours. Part of this was because she had a super late bedtime all weekend (not by my choice – she had a babysitter with different ideas about healthy bedtimes) and part was because she really thought she couldn’t. I had never showed her how, and I had never expected her to do it before, so she really didn’t think she could. My role, as hard as it was for me to pull of, was detachment. I had to constantly remind myself that she could. I did not need to rescue her. It was hard to not get sucked in to her pleading and emotions. To help myself stay calm, I kept picturing her as a mom standing by her kids’ beds with a blank look on her face. And my precious little grand kids sleeping on bare mattresses. I was not going to give in. And you know what? She did it. After all that fussing. And she had the proudest look on her face. And I can even say she looked peaceful. I made sure she knew how proud I was.
(Lesson learned by both her and I: She CAN. Her whining usually means she wants me to do it for her, and I’ve trained her that I will step in and take over, further fueling her perception that she can’t.)
– The 8 year old was SUPER excited to be grilling burgers and frying squash with me. I really didn’t expect that out of him. He tends to be more of a complainer, so I thought sure I’d never hear the end of how mean I was.
– Said pre-teen once again had a hard day. It was her turn for supper duty, and I took a hands-off approach this time. I was present for encouragement and advise, but refused to help her with anything. I assumed this would give her the message that I believed she was competent enough to handle this task, in turn bolstering her confidence. I was wrong. By the end she was slamming things around the kitchen and she refused to make anything else besides the meatloaf. “You said you would help me!” she fumed. “You helped Ryan!” At this point I realized my hands-off approach for her spoke of my lack of interest and love for her. She compared the fun Ryan and I had in the kitchen just yesterday and was jealous for my attention. We had a good cool down, and a big appology from me, while I explained to her that I could certainly see where her feelings were hurt. Her response? “I shouldn’t have thrown a fit. Sorry.”
(Lesson learned: She CAN, but this time her whining and anger was communicating that her heart was hurting. She just didn’t know how to express it differently. I need to look deeper sometimes so I can shepherd their hearts, not just their work habits. I can work along side my kids while instilling good work habits, and at the same time communicate how much I love being with them. In other words, I don’t have to be a Nazi.)
– Everyone forgot their beds this morning due to my hasty decision to let them watch morning cartoons. They were so excited about the cartoons that they rushed downstairs without a thought to the rumpled blankets left behind. You can be sure there was a lot of whining when I informed them I had taken a quarter from each of their jars. They begged to earn them back … but alas, its just not possible, and this they couldn’t fathom. It sure helped to make my point, because they haven’t forgotten since.
By day 5 I am learning that they LOVE helping cook. It’s their favorite “chore”. They argue over whose turn it is for supper duty. And knowing they are responsible for dishes that day somehow eliminates fighting over whose dishwasher shelf is whose, and eliminates any complaining about being asked to do it.
By day 6 I am noticing the complaining is starting to go away. Granted, I’m not asking them to do much. I mean making the bed isn’t super hard work and most people already do this every day. But somehow putting expectations on them has given them confidence and stability knowing what is expected.
I think by July I will be adding some more “confidence boosters” ….