Something happened to me recently. Maybe it was that brawl with my husband about doing chores. You know, the typical male/female war about who's responsible for what when running a household? When we got married, I asked what his expectations were of me. He said, "I just want you to do what makes you happy because I love you." So, I've pretty much stuck with his line of thinking these past seven years or so, and let me tell ya, the man has changed! He is no longer ok with me just laying around eating bon-bons and twittering. I'm not sure what his problem is, but now he has expectations. I don't know where they came from and I don't like em!
Regardless of my feelings, I am a stay at home Mom now, and the guy thinks that my position involves a whole slew of "jobs" that I was not previously aware of. *Looks around* Nobody believes me when I say that. Hmph! So I've got this mental list of JOBS (that if I were to ever write them down, I'd never finish!) and it sometimes overwhelms me, to be honest with ya. Things like floors, walls, sheets, brooms, laundry, homework and dinner all tend to get lumped into one pile, and I just pick from whatever crawls out the top and looks most demanding. Or menacing. You decide.
A few days ago, I sat down with my trusty Excel program and whipped out charts for each of the four kids that live here, my husband, myself and the dog. (Don't kid yourself, it took hours) Some of the jobs are things I'm expected to have done - so I passed the joy along to my kids. (Oh come on, kids can wash their own sheets!) Some of the things are everyday stuff like BRUSH YOUR STINKIN TEETH! And then, knowing full well that the dog does a terrible job washing sheets, and yet a moderately good job at tearing apart pillows, I scratched his name off the list right away.
The kids lists are finished. They are a constant work in progress though, and I can't emphasize how much I stress the word FLEXIBLE (to myself and to them). My dear husband and I had grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of direction and the lack of motivation that our kids drove around with every day (not that they drive cars, thank goodness). We are hoping that this will solve some problems and make communication and relationships a bit smoother around these parts. I'm quickly learning, that my own list consists of doing my stuff while the kids are at school, and then following them around the whole time they are home to make sure they're getting through their lists. It's ok, it will be a habit soon, right? Right??
The lists are written in half hour increments. From the time they wake up, to the time they go to sleep, they have something they should be doing. These lists are something I would have cringed at if my Mother had shoved one to me, but strangely, my kids are not all that opposed. The other weird phenomena, is that they aren't begging for cash, or a treat, or any sort of reward, they are just moving down the list and checking things off as they go. I think their favorite part is when I actually schedule in FREE time because it means I'll leave them alone for at least an hour a day. I gotta tell you, it's a bonus for me too, because they are more inclined to move along the list faster just to get a longer free time. If they don't get through their basic chores, it cuts into free time. No bribing and no arguing, just natural consequences. It's a beautiful thing.
I have this huge problem with paying my kids for doing their chores. I'm not sure what it is exactly that bugs me, but I guess I'd get offended if someone wanted to pay me for staying home with my children. It's not that I wouldn't TAKE the money (Oooh, don't get me wrong there!) but I do it because it's the job God gave me. I am a part of this family, it's my responsibility as a family member to care for others in our "unit". I hope our kids grow up with that feeling too, instead of, "I am an employee of this family, and I will work when I get paid and I will protest and picket outside in the front yard when I do not get paid enough!"
Allowance is a tricky topic around here too. I pretty much just give the kids an allowance each month and I don't make a huge deal of it. I do it so they will learn how to manage funds, and to make them feel a sense of responsibility for paying for things that they want or need that are not in my budget (that I'd have to figure out how to pay for anyway). When we went on our cheap-o vacation last month, each kid pitched in fifty bucks. Of course I had to do a little convincing to get them to voluntarily fork it over, but they got the picture. We all helped with our family vacation. (Good thing too, since our vacation budget got stabbed multiple times by the new tires we had to buy along the way).
Our kids don't get a large allowance. I've read what the going rates are, and our family is far below poverty rates as far as weekly allowance goes. I'm more like the MONTHLY allowance type, and I move it straight into their savings accounts so no cash gets lost or spent on a whim. Just yesterday, my oldest came to me needing a chunk of cash for some volleyball gear that I couldn't squeeze out of our budget, so she got to pull it from her own account. Boy, do I like that! And let me tell ya, she'll treat those belongings a little nicer too since it was her own money that bought them.
Overall, I'm not ok with just throwing money at my kids. I do expect that they will do chores because they are asked to, and not with the expectation of a paycheck. On the other hand, I expect that they will pay me if I have to do their chores for them, and I really expect that they will tithe as well as save for the future.
Now on the other hand REWARDS are fair game. This morning, I slipped into my youngest son's lunch a mini-bite-sized pack of the smallest chocolate cakes known to man, all the while announcing (to the whole household) that he was getting cake in his lunch today because he was the only one to get his entire list finished yesterday. Boy was HE excited! And all I heard from the other kids was, "What?? CAKE??" and then the wheels started turning in their minds and I didn't have to say a word.
Halleluiah. Bribing the kids is history. (Well it is in MY dreams anyway)