Friday, April 26, 2013

Chore is Not a Dirty Word!

My goodness! The kids sure think so. You parents out there know exactly what I'm talking about. Some days you ask a kid to make a bed, or pick up a spray bottle and the looks vary from outrage to broken hearted, tears and all.
Nevertheless, we are a community, and we all need to be good citizens and do our part. So like it or not, at some point we all must pay taxes! Right?
Well that certainly doesn't help improve the reputation of chores does it?
Well, let's think about it for a minute. There are some pretty valuable benefits that taxes provide and the same can be said of chores. Let's take a closer look.
1.) Efficiency 
The most obvious benefit, of course, is that chores make a home more efficient. As in, more time to spend doing fun stuff because there is plenty of clear space to do it. Plus, no one is wandering around searching for that one critical component that always seems to get misplaced, i.e. the  remote.
Children's understanding of this concept is very relative to the fun factor of the activity in question. Normal daily functioning, for example, is simply not fun enough to motivate my children to eagerly engage in their chores. It might be enough for me. (Sometimes) But they don't have that level of appreciation yet.
So we must troubleshoot.
I have long been a fan of the idea that one must find a child's currency, and once that is ascertained, it's easy to motivate them by either the incentive of a reward or the deterrent of a loss of that currency.
In theory.
Sometimes in real life, with real kids, and real messes, this method can produce some pretty blah results. Other times it works wonderfully.
The problem that I have found is that children's currency changes rather frequently, and without warning. Sigh.
Right now we are in quite a lull in this regard. We can't seem to hit a homerun on the currency of either of the kids.  :/
It's been this way for a while, and I attributed their lack luster attitudes to all of the changes that were happening around here. That may have been true, but now it has either become a habit, or their currency has shifted again. Maybe both.
So while we still search for the right motivation, we are also trying some rearranging. This leads me to...
2.) Appropriation
Sometimes taxes must be reallocated in order for the community to gain the most benefit. This is what I spent a large part of Wednesday doing while I sat for hours rocking my feverish tot. That is, after catching up on quite a bit of reading.
One post in particular, really hit home, and set off several light bulbs for me. The author, a mother of six (!), concisely shared the tricks and strategies that help keep their home running smoothly. Mostly.
After reading, and mulling, and analyzing, I finally formed a rough draft of a new chore schedule that hopefully both lightens the load, yet also spurs an increase in responsibility.
I presented it to the family at dinner, and while there is still some ironing out to do, everyone was remarkably quick to jump on board! Maybe that has been a big part of the problem, things have just gotten stale, and they were ready for a shake up!
I plan on posting a more detailed rundown of our system as soon as it's finished, but here are two great guidelines we are incorporating.
· Give the job to the smallest person capable of doing it. This was a huge eye opener for me. As a result, Grace is now assigned to the trash, and Kitty Kat is in charge of feeding the dog. (With help, of course.) This resulted in really alleviating Zak of a very heavy load. Now his schedule consists of fewer, but larger, more time consuming jobs. Grace now has more chores than before, but they are smaller, quicker jobs. Both are challenged, but completely capable of handling their tasks.

· Put everyone on a laundry schedule. This was a totally new thought to me, but I immediately saw it's potential in our family. So, starting on Tuesday, Zak and Grace are now responsible for washing, drying, folding, and putting away their combined laundry. I have put a hamper in their room. On Tuesday, Grace is to collect any stray laundry from their room and closet and take the hamper to the laundry room, start the washer, measure the detergent, and load the machine. When the washer is done, Zak is to transfer the clothes to the dryer, and remove them when they are done. Together, they both will fold the clothes, and then put away their respective items. This should alleviate my laundry burden by about a third, which is a lot.

I really hope these work!
All of this hard work deserves a reward, and that leads me to...
3.) Compensation 
Everybody loves a refund! Yes, with all the time and energy we put into our home, we should definitely get something back. So, we are going to continue to use the reward system that we currently have in place, but hopefully with better success this time.
Each Monday, we make a simple chart with the days of the week for each kid. Every time they complete a chore they get a sticker. If they do the chore without being asked, they get two stickers. If they have to be reminded more than once, they get no sticker. They can earn extra stickers by doing extra jobs, and for acts of kindness.
At weeks end, we add up the stickers for the week, and they get paid 5¢ per sticker. So far the most we have ever paid out in one week is $6 or $7 total. (Zak's big chore bundle is separate, though he can still earn stickers for those, Victor pays him an arranged amount each month if he completes them all on time.) They must hit their daily minimum in order to earn movie privileges, and video games are only allowed when all school work is finished, on the days when they are allowed electronics, typically Thurs - Mon.

Note: This was a big concession for me as I have always felt very strongly against paying for chores to be done. I seemed to be in the overwhelming minority, though, and so decided that getting the work done was more important. I feel like we should all contribute to the maintenance of the home that we all live in (and mess up), and that living in a peaceful, decently clean home is our reward. Well, that, and chocolate.

I think we need a stronger incentive though, as a loss, if they don't complete their chores, have to be reminded too much, or have a bad attitude about it.  
Maybe we need to try a penalty jar. They could be charged 10¢ for each offense, including hurtful acts toward each other. I could also be penalized a dollar each time I yell. Then, at the end of each week, the money collected can go towards our trip to New York that we are trying to save for. 
We've never tried a penalty jar before, so maybe the novelty well help it succeed. We could always up the penalty amount of it seems not motivational enough. Definitely something to think about and discuss.
Part of their weekly reward could be a special outing also if they hit a certain goal for the week. Everyone likes a refund, after all.
So that is my social studies shpeal for today.
Have you found a system that works for your family? Please feel free to share it in the comments! 

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