I once had a life before my name was permanently “Mom” and my occupation was “Jill of all Trades.” In that life, I taught preschool. All the children in the preschool, from toddlers on up through the kindergarten class, had “chores” they had to do. (Don’t worry, we weren’t breaking child labor laws, we were teaching responsibility)
Each week, the snack monitor helped pass out snacks, the lunch monitor helped pass out lunches, etc. Everyone helped clean up the classroom, putting the toys away and sorting the art supplies into pretty, colorful bins so they would be easy to find the next day. The kids liked their “chores”, and they earned a sticker a day for doing them, and I don’t recall ever having to talk to a parent because their child wouldn’t participate in “chores”.
Fast forward a few years, and, wonder of wonders for my husband and me, we got to have our own little bundle of joy. Of course, my home was going to run exactly like my preschool classroom did, because I knew kids, I was comfortable with kids, I knew exactly how to get kids to do chores. There would be no whining or screaming or arguing, like I saw with my friends and their kids. My daughter would happily put her toys away and then help me put lunch on the table so we could eat and sing and have fun and get a sticker, just like in the preschool classroom. After all, I had five kids there, and only one at home, so how hard could it be, right? Yep, I bet all of you are laughing at me. Dreams really get kicked around when reality gets in the way, don’t they?
I began the Clean Up song one day when my daughter was 2 (it had worked before) and my daughter looked at me and said “No.” I pasted a smile on my face and sang louder. She crossed her arms and said “No.” I stood there with my mouth open and wondered what to do. Time out? Sure, that sounds good.” The proper amount of time in a time out is equal to age” that’s what my textbook said, so two minutes of time out. But after two minutes my daughter still wouldn’t pick her toys up! Now what? I was in a near panic. Call my mother! Yes, what else do you do when you are in a panic, right? Mom said to keep telling her to do it, and leave the toys un-picked-up until she did.
That was the longest afternoon of my life. It would have been so much easier to have just picked the toys up myself and gone on with life. But then my daughter wouldn’t have learned that sometimes you must do things even if you don’t want to. That’s part of being responsible.
It’s been a lot of years since then, and we’ve had lots of long afternoons when the house was a mess and my daughter was screaming because I was a mean bully and a terrible mommy. We have also come up with more effective, imaginative ways than singing (or screaming) to get the chores done in a fun manner.
We’ve used an old remote to play “robot” (My daughter being the robot who picks up when I press a remote button). We’ve played “hide the pennies” where there were an undisclosed number of pennies hidden in the mess and my daughter had to pick it all up to find them. But mostly, we’ve learned that our actions have consequences. If we want to do fun things and get our allowance, and a sticker, we must do our chores first.