I just love all those helpful tips in all those best-selling books written by all those well-meaning experts on how to raise all our flawless children ... (hang on ... I'm looking for the emoticon that conveys sarcasm ...).
Beth Falkenstein: One of my favorite suggestions (insert sarcastic emoticon) is the concept of a Chore Chart. You know, the grid that lists all the household duties each child is responsible for, with a space next to each where you can put a gold star or a smiley face sticker when your child has completed his/her task. What those experts don't tell you is that maintaining that damn chart is just about as much work as doing the chores yourself.
Another problem is that my kids don't seem able (or willing) to remember what's on the chart (and frankly, neither am I -- but that's another issue). Those experts have seriously overestimated the appeal of gold stars as a motivational tool. Gold stars have zero street cred in middle school. I've tried substituting cash, and even gone the way of using punishment instead of rewards, but the hand washing remains piled high and the hamster cage remains uncleaned.
So I have to pester them to get the jobs done -- which often takes longer and uses more energy than if I did the chore myself. Then, when they do manage to accomplish one of their chores, it's usually done in such a slipshod manner that I wish I had done it myself. I'd say this was a clever ploy on their part, but I've seen their report cards.
That's why lately I have taken to a new method of getting my kids to help around the house: real-time responsibilities. That is to say, instead of assigning duties with some arbitrary future deadline, I tell them what I want done ... now! This eliminates a whole lot of hassle, and actually ends up getting me more bang for my smiley face bucks.
For example, while I'm making dinner, I might ask -- a euphemism for "order" -- them to set the table. Or when I hear the garbage truck, I might "ask" them to take out the recycling. Or when I'm sitting on my butt doing my morning sudoku, I might "ask" one of them to reheat my coffee.
I admit it's a bit like having a servant, only cheaper. And at least things are finally getting done around the house. Besides, my kids are loving being so productive (insert sarcastic emoticon).
|Beth Falkenstein was a sitcom writer and freelance contributor to "Self," "Redbook," and "YM" magazines before taking a full time job in her kitchen. She loves her new bosses (ages 13 and 10), and is grateful that they approve of inter-office romance, because Beth thinks her co-worker (Jim, age 45) is really hot.|