Q: My older kids (9, 12, and 15) refuse to do their chores. Do you have any secrets for keeping your kids motivated?- anonymous, Covington, GA
A: If you Google chore charts or "how to make kids do chores," you'll find a ton of advice on the subject. If you search Pinterest, you'll find all kinds of clever ways for motivating, inspiring, and otherwise forcing children to do the chores you think they ought to do. When my Littles were younger, I often employed such shenanigans to help me help them do what needed doing. Some of those ideas may work for you as well, but I'm going to tell you what works for me now. I hope it helps, friend. Peace, B.
We are a dictatorship working towards a democracy in this house. What exactly does that mean? I don't have to motivate anyone to do anything. My Littles are expected to complete their chores to my satisfaction because that is what is expected of her. Doing chores is just part being in our family. Doing what is expected of you is a responsibility inherent to belonging to our super mega awesome fabulous clan.
Now, before I get emails telling me how terrible I am (and by all means, bring it), let me explain that I do not stand over my Littles with a whip and demand that they do their chores. I do not withhold praise. I do not work them like servants. I give my Littles chores to do and they are expected to do them well. We have always explained chores as a responsibility, a job. Completing your job means you are rewarded. In other words, clean rooms fuel cell phones.
You read that correctly. Clean rooms fuel cell phones.
You don't get the perks of being a part of this family unless you do what needs doing. Cleaning the kitchen on your night means you get to continue using that fabulous laptop of yours. Keeping your dirty clothes off the floor means Mama will continue to wash, dry, and fold your laundry. It's a give and take. I don't give allowances in exchange for doing what is expected. That's like giving an award for perfect attendance.
What can you do if chores have never been viewed as a responsibility, an expectation, in your house? You can start by making sure that you are the parent and the children are the children. That means, you set the rules and expectations. The rules need to be fair and consistent just as chores need to be reasonable. My job as a parent is to give my Littles opportunities to learn, grow, and succeed. Expectations need to be realistic. Children grow best when they are taught that they have value, when they know that they have worth, and when they are surrounded by love. Love is not the same thing as indulgence. I think it's high time we stop indulging our children (and ourselves) and start doing what needs doing.
Let's say you decide that you are going to have your child clean up after dinner every other night. That's reasonable. You can show him how to do it the first time. Model the behavior. If he is having trouble staying on task or completing the chore to your specifications, model that behavior again and control the environment. Is he wandering away because the television is on in the next room? Turn off the television. Is he not wiping down the counters because he doesn't know where the cleaner is kept? Show him where the cleaner is.
If he doesn't complete the chore to your satisfaction after you are certain he understands what is expected of him, you can remove some of his privileges. What works for one child may not work for another. For example, the most effective way to motivate the Teenager is to remove the privilege of a cell phone and laptop. I know, I know. Positive reinforcement is better than punishment, but honestly, friends, we don't look at what we do here as punishment. It's just a consequence of not doing what is expected. If you don't do your job, you don't get paid. Wouldn't it be a wonderful world if more children were taught this?
Every Little in my house has a responsibility chart (or a list), so she can be reminded of what needs doing on any given day. This isn't a suggestion. This is what is expected. I don't assign a value to each job or offer a three strikes and your out option. This is your job. Do it to the best of your ability. And that, my friends, is that.
"At this point, friends, you may be asking yourself why I don’t scream and yell and punish with harsh words and a heavy hand. That’s just not how we roll here at the Hallmans. We have good kids. Kind kids. Respectful, tolerant, smart kids. And they didn’t get that way because we beat them or made them fear us. They may also be kids that don’t do their chores, but I like the privileges versus responsibilities approach rather than the bully them approach to parenting. We’re a dictatorship working toward a democracy here. Not a monarchy, ruling with the divine right of God. "
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