For as long as I have had children, I have measured my success as a parent against the endless list of things I did for them, from making three separate meals multiple times a day to cleaning everything, going everywhere, pleasing everyone.
After baby #3, I realized this was setting us all up for failure.
For me, I was burning out at warp speed.
For them, they erroneously thought the world would serve them anything at any time.
I chatted with some friends and read some articles and I decided my first change was to create a chore chart.
It was basic but it was something I could put on my fridge and point to every week when I couldn’t see the rug by the door because of the shoe mountain that magically appeared, or when the bathroom counter was a minefield of toothpaste dribbles. I would yell, the kids would kick it in a bit and sloppily do their chore hoping that I would just take over and do it for them.
The bargaining was exhausting and it just became easier for me to do it myself. But of course, I began resenting the fact that I was the only one trying to keep us from being featured on an episode of Hoarders.
Then, three things occurred to me.
First, my kids will only do the bare minimum to keep me off their butts and if they can get away with it, they will avoid chores all together.
Second, they are going to grow up thinking that some magical fairy will appear at night to clean their messes and organize their stuff because they really don’t understand how it all gets done.
Third, they are highly capable when they create something on their own.
One week early this summer, I consistently and proudly recognized their talents and skills in areas that mattered to them like their soccer games, dance classes, homework assignments and craft projects. I explained how proficient and hard-working they were doing all kinds of activities and how much care they took completing projects and assignments. They were feeling pretty proud by the weekend. They took extra pride in showing me how much more they could do in various ways, and I cheered them on like a groupie!
On Sunday morning, the bomb dropped.
The chore chart was gone and a new chart was launched.
I called it DINDIR: Do It Now, Do It Right.
This new chart was really a spreadsheet for their chores, detailing every task with the 10-20 steps required to successfully complete it with the proper order: counters before floors, dry dishes before stacking. In addition, there was an approximate amount of time listed for how long it should take them if they worked diligently, and of course a deadline for when it needed to get done.
No more vague language.
No more wishy-washy deadlines.
No more mama taking over or negotiating/bribing/begging for their help.
No more letting them off the hook.
They were the mess-makers so they needed to be the ones to clean it all up. Essentially, I removed all the wiggle room!
I thought about adding in a consequence if they didn’t complete their chore, but I decided that they don’t get a choice to opt out.
There was immediate backlash, of course, but after pointing out how capable they were now, and how many years of training they had received, the panic subsided just a touch. Oh, and a quick reminder that I would no longer be available for any taxi/chef/shopping services until all daily chores were done sealed the deal that things were changing.
I was worried that it would be a parenting nightmare to manage the implementation, but early the next morning I heard the rattling of plates. I walked towards the kitchen and could hear my daughter and youngest son emptying the dishwasher while discussing the new plan and how it sucked, and how it was unfair, and how none of their friends had to do so much work, and how they were just kids who should be watching YouTube instead of being all Cinderella and stuff.
All I could do was smile in the shadows knowing that at the end of the summer, they would be laundry/dish/vacuum/recycling experts and they will know what it takes to clean their own nest when they fly away. It has now been a couple of weeks, and my oh my, the house is looking pretty good!
Are your kids part of your clean-up crew at home?