The wheels have been turning around here as we begin to switch gears into a new (and hectic) back to school routine. I had a light bulb moment a couple of weeks ago around the time that the girls were complaining that "we never have fun" and "we're bored." We can't have fun around here because I have too much on my to-do list. Now, normally I would say...put down the to-do list and play with the kids! Get outside and enjoy the fleeting Summer sunshine. The thing is, when I put down the to-do list the house turns to shambles...not just a couple of dust bunnies here and there. I mean comes-to-a-screeching-halt kind of shambles like: we can't eat dinner because there isn't any silver wear clean and mom I'm down to my last pair of clean underwear. I don't like to see the house get to this point, the truth is, that if I'm not doing a load of laundry a day, running the dishwasher and picking up stray toys and dirty clothes then it seems like within 8 hours we are well on our way to the gears jamming around here.
SO on to my light bulb moment. Why am I trying to do it all myself? Jim has a few jobs around the house reserved for him, but he works many days well into the evening hours and many Saturdays too, so when he isn't here to lend a hand, all the household chores fall on me. The kids pick up toys but I consider myself lucky if they get through it without an ever persistent whining and alternate threats and raised voice warnings on my end. Many times I find myself saying...it just faster/easier/better when I do it myself, but I'm beginning to wonder if that's true?
Growing up we always had chores to do around the house, in fact we had a full blown chart/calendar that we followed to a T--we even had our own "off" day built in, where we could relax and slack off for the whole day. The thing is, I always thought of myself as a teenager following this particular chore chart. Before my teenage years I have vague memories of a sticker star chart and clear memories of my Mom asking/pleading/bribing/threatening/yelling while I lounged lazily among an ankle deep wading pool of toys and whined. (I feel like I am right in the middle of those days right now, but the roles are reversed). I can't really remember when/how I learned how to do chores. At some point I went from shoving toys under my bed in one fell swoop, to washing and drying dishes and vacuuming and taking out the garbage on a regular basis.
I was reading a few blogs last week and came across this post over at The Happy Housewife. I thought, wait a minute! I have a 4 year old, 5 year old, and 7 year old. and I never thought to even attempt to ask them to do half the chores on this list! Could my 4 year old pull clothes out of the dryer? Could my 5 wipe down the sinks? Could my 7 year old vacuum? There was only one way to find out!
I set about creating a list of chores that my girls would be responsible for each day and I told them that those 6 things would be their daily contribution to running the household: Making their bed, getting their dirty clothes to the hamper, picking up and putting away toys, setting and clearing the table for meals, and putting clean folded clothes in their drawers. Then I creating a long list of extras. These I called Helping Hands. I won't list them all but here are a few: Feed the dog, Help with meal prep, Unload the dishwasher, Dust. Every time they complete a Helping Hand from this list they are given a token called a High Five that is worth 5 minutes of computer time (they LOVE to play on the computer). When they have accumulated at least 15 minutes they can cash out. We are in the development stage of this reward system. As we progress I think I will add other rewards that they can "buy". I'm thinking they can "buy" a meal out, or "buy" some extra time to stay up, or "buy" a day off from chores, or cash out at the end of the week for a small allowance etc. I have to think it through some more.
So far, so great. The girls have really surprised me with their enthusiasm! We'll see how it's going in a month! HA!
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