I have three kids. They can be glorious and they can be assholes. They’re like most kids in that they don’t like to do chores; they don’t see the value or the importance in taking out the trash or emptying the dishwasher.
I get it — I didn’t quite like seeing my chore list screaming at me every afternoon when I came home from school. And no, I never stopped to think about the fact my mother was a single mom to four who worked full time outside of the home. I was only thinking of myself and my wants and needs, which didn’t include grating cheese for our taco dinner or cleaning the bathroom. I wanted My So-Called Life and fro-yo.
There was no way my mother could’ve changed my mindset, and I’m not even going to exert the energy to try to change my kids’ thoughts about pushing around the vacuum or mowing the lawn.
That doesn’t mean I don’t break out in lecture when they get sassy about doing the things I ask them to do. I want them to know I work hard and don’t enjoy watching them pile dirty dishes in the sink, complain we have no clean dishes, then walk away from a dishwasher full of gleaming flatware and glasses.
All they have to do is empty it — it takes under five minutes but, alas, teenage brain.
I realized when I became a single mother that things had to change. At that point, all my children had cell phones and the deal was that their father and I would pay for those three very expensive phones if they did chores we assigned them every week.
As far as I’m concerned, that cellphone payment is more than an allowance, so if they want more money in their pocket, they have to do extra things outside of their cell phone money chores — like help me weed the garden or rub my feet.
So I found a solution to the arguing, the repeated asking, and the bribing that came with trying to get my kids to do their chores, because even the best kids will try and wiggle out of their assigned jobs. I now schedule chores. Yes, that’s right: I tell my children when they are allowed to do their jobs. If they aren’t done in that time period, bye-bye, phone.
I noticed if I left it open and simply said, “The dryer is overflowing so it’s time to fold and put away the laundry,” the laundry pile would stay in the dryer until I raise my voice several octaves and the map of veins would sprout along my forehead. Sometimes this would take a few minutes, and there are also times it would take a few days to get to that level of pissed-offness because, life.
But, if I say, “The laundry needs to be folded when you see the dryer is full, and you have an hour to do it,” it takes all the drama (and the guessing about how long they can push my buttons) completely out of the game.
When I tell my son the lawn needs to be mowed every Wednesday evening after dinner, he just goes out and does it instead of convincing me it doesn’t need to be done.
And every Sunday evening, my youngest knows the garbage needs to be collected and left at the curb for the garbage man to come and get it on Monday morning.
I’m not saying it’s a flawless plan; there are still times when they can’t seem to get it together and simply don’t want to take care of the dishes in the dishwasher each morning. But for the most part it’s smoothed the chore-chaos over in our house, because instead of fighting with and taking me into letting them do it later (let’s face it, “later” means “I’ll procrastinate as long as you’ll allow, Mom”), they just do it.
They already have it in their mind that’s the time they need to get it done, and it’s allowed them to see that life is so much better if they just buck up and get the damn thing done so we can get on with it.
I do think it helps them compartmentalize, and leaves very little gray area for them to try to manipulate me into letting them live the life of luxury they feel they deserve. (They don’t).
I love my kids, and I want them to realize magical fairies don’t come down from the clouds and do things for them.
If I didn’t make them do chores, or let them talk me into putting it off — believe me, they’ve all had compelling arguments like: “I’m tired,” “I have my period,” and “I couldn’t remember where the trash bags were” — that’s exactly what they’d think.
Scheduling chores has saved my brain cells, it works as far as getting your kids to help out around the house, and I’m pretty sure it will make them better partners when they grow up should they choose to share a home with someone.
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