If you can't make it better you can laugh at it. ~Erma Bombeck


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Damama's Use It or Loose It Advice on: KIDS, CHORES & CONSEQUENCES

Lucille over at Who's Going to Tell You posted about wanting a garbage man to keep from having to take out the garbage. Again. Mass quantities of it because her Hubby did the smash-and-stack trash handling technique while she was sick with pneumonia. I TOTALLY agree that he should do a better job of helping out - not only while she's sick, but all the time. However, in my humble opinion, her problem is just a symptom of a larger issue that has bugged me for years: Kids, Chores, and Consequences.

As moms, we all to often do things ourselves because it is, well, just simpler. Less hassle. More efficient. We want things done a certain way, and the kids / hubby / a housekeeper / God Himself just couldn't do it as well as we can. Heaven forbid that someone might think that we are not perfect June Cleavers because the pillows on the couch aren't positioned a just so; there are newspapers on the floor by Hubby's chair; the kids beds aren't made; or the kitchen looks even remotely used.

For those who agonize over every speck of dust that drifts through the air in their spotless, pristine abode, life can become unbearable for everyone in the house. Mom is always on edge because NOBODY CLEANS ANYTHING (the way she thinks they should). The kids are miserable because Mom is always nagging. But then, on the other hand, they often ignore the nagging because they know if they hold out long enough, Mom will get fed up and just do it herself. Yes, there may be some meaningless consequence like losing TV or game privileges for a few days, but hey!, eventually she'll quit nagging and just do it herself in the first place because it's easier for her in the long run!

I have a friend who solved the problem by using a thing called natural consequences. She had 3 kids of an age that should be able to handle their share of household responsibilities, so she made up a duty chart. As often happens, trash duty became a major sticking point. So she got creative and instituted a new rule:

On trash day, if the responsible party hadn't emptied trash cans, then everyone else got to put said trash (in a bag, of course) in the shirker's room where it stayed until the shirker could take it out - whether it took until the next trash day or whenever. Catch: Kids were not allowed to leave their rooms to do anything fun, TV, games, sports, shopping.. NOTHING FUN if their rooms weren't clean. They couldn't just pile it on the curb either, because trash pickup only happened on Wednesdays and Saturdays. And they couldn't put it out on the normal holding area if the next trash day would be a sibling's trash duty day because then that sibling would be doing part of their job. So if the timing was wrong, they were stuck with it in their room for at least 2 days.

One of her sons decided to heck with it because, hey, he didn't have anything fun he wanted to do anytime soon. And he figured he could just sit in his room and read. Mom would eventually give in and give up on that stupid duty chart thing. After about a week it smelled so bad that she was tempted to give in, but instead she just put a fan outside his door FACING IN so that the stink kept being blown back inside! Bonus: The fan also discouraged the FLIES from leaving his room. It became a huge standoff situation.

About 3 weeks later, he finally decided to clear out his room. By then, his clothes and bedding all smelled like rotten trash. The only reason the rest of the house didn't smell was because of the fan plus Mom had spent a fortune on air fresheners and sprays, but she said it was worth it when she watched him finally drag the bags to the curb and then have to wash his stuff himself because she refused to enter his room with it smelling like that.

The other two learned a valuable lesson: Mom's not gonna give in so we might as well just do it! It wasn't always easy, but she'd succeeded in making believers out of them and they balked much less. Her kids are now in their early 30s. The two boys make great husbands because they don't think anything at all about just doing whatever needs to be done. It finally just became a habit.

Too often we let our kids get off easily because we don't want them to feel unloved or overpressured. More often it's because it's just easier to get it done and over with ourselves. But if God loves us enough to impose rules, responsibilities, and consequences shouldn't we love our kids enough to do the same?

Peace, Blessings, and Positive Natural Consequences to all.



    That is an excellent post and I agree with you 150%.

    I do hold my 6-year old accountable for chores. My dear MIL has passed and I never met her to thank her for doing EVERYTHING for my dear hubby (insert sarcasm here)!

    BTW_Love the Use it or Loose it - that might be a good second or third blog for you.

    Go Damama, go!



  2. If only my MIL would have done that to my husband, I wouldn't be trying to train him (still) 7 years after marrying him. Thank goodness the Toddler is good about cleaning up (when I make her).

  3. Not sure I could do it...but hey, whatever it takes!

  4. I am one of those moms, much o my moms and my hsbands ambarrassment, that doesn't need my house to be spotless. I have 7 kids, and if someone comes over, and the house is a mess (which it usually is) and they dont like it, or they are offended, they can do one of two things. 1) not come back over, or 2) start cleaning. My mom hates it because she has always been super strict on cleaning the house, and my version of a clean house, is her version of a big mess, LOL. I do love when she comes over to visit or babysit because my house is always extra clean when I get back.

    As for the kids and chores. I am one of those MEAN MEAN MEAN moms. I make them do chores. All of them. The two older ones have alot to do. The younger 5 do to. Well not Levi. Lana, who is 18 months, she is in charge of putting stuff in the trash. She likes to do that. Johan, who is almost 3, he has to make his bed, put the toys away, and he straightens the couch cushions. He also helps me with the clothes during the day. Mickey and Isa prganize the toy buckets, and they are responsible for keeping their rooms clean. Their beds have to be made, and they have to pick up the trash and put it away, and all dirty clothes to the laundry room. Mickey will change the clothes from the washer to the dryer and reload the washer if anyone will let her. Jordan does the clothes after school, loads and unloads the dishwasher, wipes the counters, sweeps the kitchen, and vacuums the steps and downstairs laundry room. Andre vacuums the living and dining room upstairs, cleans the main bathroom, the hallway, and the trash. He helps out with the clothes during the day if I need to too. He also does whatever else that needs to be done. I am told all the time how mean of a mom I am. But they all have responsibility, and even if they gripe about it, it is teaching them stuff.

    ok I have written a book here, so I will shut up. This is a sore subject for me though, LOL.

  5. Lucille - Thanks Blis! Glad you approve. See - I could never be mad at you. And that 'nuther blog thing - nah. It's hard enough for me to keep up with this one. And the other one that I tried didn't go much of anywhere. Glad you like the concept, though! xoxoxo
    BBM - I'm so grateful that Hubby's mom wasn't a housekeeper at all. He puts up with my clutter most of the time, but I've gotten better over the years. My boys learned how to clean and do stuff early on, too, so Bug is good at helping out. Makes me so proud!

    Too bad we can't all have Natural Born Cleaners like your Toddler! ;0) xoxo
    Michelle - I guess I missed seeing how old your children are. But trust me when I say that when they turn into teenagers you sometimes have to get very creative in getting the "I'm still in charge" point across. But then you are very creative, so you'll do just fine!
    Jennifer.. BREATHE, honey! I've seen videos of your house when you thought it was messy - I was amazed that you could see floor, and individual toys, and furniture and everything! It is obvious that you keep things picked up, and with 7 kids you are very smart to be teaching them to help out. And if anyone calls you mean again, threaten to let them come live with me for a week... they will be begging to come home and follow your rules with a smile!

    And if your mom has a problem with it, she can continue to do what she does - grab a rag and go to town.

    Keep up the good work, Mom. You are doing fine.

  6. Amen to that. However, I am not so sure I am strong enough. I usually end up naggin and then doing it myself. My 6 year old is a big help, but my 4 year old is as receptive as a brick wall.

  7. Angie - you can choose to take a stand now while it is easier to mete out consequences or continue to bash your head against a brick wall that only gets thicker as they get older.

    Parenting is a tough gig, huh! Nobody wants to be called the mean mom, but in the end your children, their spouses, and your grandchildren will bless you for your strength.

    Hang in. xoxoxo

  8. Wow - every mom should read that post. I don't know if I would have the same tenacity with garbage and smells but I stand in homage of this lady. The last part, comparing God with parents is so perfectly true.

  9. I've been trying to come up with reasonable chores for my 6 and 4 year old. The pediatrician always asks them what their chores are, and they say, "We don't have to do anything!" Nice.

  10. Wow! I'm not sure I could hold out with the smell and all, but I'm glad she was able to! It certainly got the point across! Thanks, I'll try to keep this in mind.


  11. Very well said! Thanks for reminding me to keep my backbone! I'll need it when Little One misses her schoolbus again and I make her take a taxi to school.

  12. Motherwise - Thank you. I consider that high praise considering the source!
    Heather - reasonable chores don't have to be fancy. Simply being required to ensure that their own dirty clothes are properly put away at bedtime and that their PJs are properly stowed in the morning is a great place to start. Stars on the calendar for doing it each day. No star for forgetting. Then at the end of the week, each gets paid a quarter a star. Or come up with something else they can earn for doing well. It really becomes self-reinforcing once they get a taste of success! Oh - and next time he asks, you should ask the doc what HIS chores are at home? I wonder if he takes the trash out! LOL!!
    Kathy - Good luck. I'll admit that it is a lot easier said than done. But if you aren't even thinking about it, it won't ever even get started.
    Angela - We have to get really creative with kiddos like LO. If you want some help brainstorming offline, please email me. You've been in my prayers and on my heart so much lately, but I haven't wanted to be pushy. You know I'm here if you need me. xoxoxo and (((((BIG BIG BEAR HUGS))))

  13. I love it! I do hold both of my kids accountable for their chores and they too have natural consequences. Case in point, tonight, Busy Boy refused to clean up his cars. The cars got taken away...1 day for every one that was not put away. So far, he is only up to 2. He then threw his toy Jeep at me instead of putting it away. He said, throw it away. So...I did. LOL He was not happy and I told him if he wanted it, he had to get it out of the trash. BOYS!

    Thanks for all of your advice on my blog. I would never not listen to you! :-)

  14. AZMom- You are much nicer than I'd be. I wouldn't have let him dig it back out. Now, when my boys were young I would have, but from the perspective of age, if I had more kids now - NOPE! Ya wanna play that game? Guess what: I WIN! LOL!

    Keep me posted on how Little Bug does on her testing, please. xoxoxo

  15. Woah, boy...if I got going on the chore issue, I'd be commenting all dang day. That's why it's got its own chapter in my perpetually in-progress ARE THEY ALL YOURS? AND OTHER FAQ'S OF LARGE FAMILY LIFE.

    But I'm liking your blog, Damama! Mind if I blogroll you?

  16. Kalynne - Wow, thanks. I'd be honored to be on your blogroll! As long as you don't mind me linking back to you, too!

    I haven't read it all yet, so I'm looking forward to getting back over to your corner of the blogverse to check out ARE THEY ALL YOURS? AND OTHER FAQ'S OF LARGE FAMILY LIFE. Or is that a book that I need to watch for so I can buy?

    Have a great day!

  17. Yeah, I agree. My daughter is responsible for doing what I ask. Normally she doesn't give me any problems. My son loves to clean, especially dust and windex. My hubs will help if he wants NOOKIE but not much otherwise. I have learned not to sweat my house and if it isn't perfect, OH WELL.

  18. GOOD FOR YOU KRISTI! Responsibility is important, but so is teaching balance and moderation in ALL THINGS - including neat-freak-mania.

    Thanks for stopping by. I'll be back over to check up on you soon.


  19. I am proud to say that since your comment on my page my boys have learned to make homemade mashed potatoes and how to separate laundry. They've already gotten into the habit of keeping their rooms picked up and have even made their own signs to hang saying, "please do not get everything out."

  20. This post was very helpful. As you know my little guy G can be a handful at times, and as he gets older, I think this stuff might be helpful

  21. Susan! Wow, how did you get them to do that so fast? Did you threaten to send them to live with me for a while?? ;o) I know I must have just missed it somewhere, but how old are your kids?

    I'm so glad you've started popping in here. And I'm TOTALLY HONORED that you added me to your blogroll!

    I'll be back over to check on you soon.
    Hi Gracie. I'm so glad to see you here. I did a real stupid thing and deleted a section of my favorites and had lost track of your blog! DUH!

    Anyway - when I come back from my forced march through military school preparation hell, I'll be over to check on you.

    Hug the boy for me.

  22. Since reading this post my oldest has learned to do the laundry, my middle child can now make mashed potatoes and my 15 month old helps me vacuum. And they are now cleaning their rooms (dusting, stripping beds, etc..)weekly along with their daily straightening. All of your reasons for me doing everything are absolutely dead on so I'm teaching myself to overlook the little details until the kids are gone to school and then I go behind and get what they've missed. My husband read your post too and immediately looked at me and said, "See, I told you so."

  23. My older kids are responsible for picking up and sweeping the first floor every evening. They run the washer and dryer and attempt to wash the dishes. They are usually still greasy, at least the plastic stuff, so I rewash them ones that need it.

    Once my new dishwasher is delivered, we'll go back to the kids load, run and unload the dishwasher, putting dishes away where they belongs (or at least close enough to where they goes.)

    I sort the laundry, as the little kids have no clue what clothing belongs to whom. The big kids are cleaning up the house, helping with their younger siblings or doing Homework. the kids rarely put their clothes away, as they follow hubby's bad example. I don't care if they wear their clothes from the clean laundry basket, as long as they don't spill the other clean stuff on the floor.

  24. Mommee - Sounds like you run a pretty tight ship. When IS that dishwasher comin' in, anyway? Hand-washing that many dishes must take forever. =8-0


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