Saturday, June 1, 2013

From My Point Of View - Kids & Chores...

Growing up, I was not the tidiest child on the planet.  My sister can attest to this, as we shared a room.  Fortunately, she was as bad (or good) at being messy as I was, so we were a match made in Heaven – or somewhere! 
My brother, on the other hand, was a perfectionist neat freak.  Bless his heart…I envied his organizational skills, but looking back I can certainly understand his paranoia whenever my sister or myself would get near his bedroom. 

Eric & Valerie - Probably 1986 - I love this pic!

All these years later, I still struggle with mess.  Typically it’s just clutter which I keep around for a reason.  I’m still trying to figure out the reason, but I know I have one.  J  Usually, my clutter mess is localized at my desk or my side of the bedroom, and I do have my limits.  Every few days, I take the time to organize and clear the clutter. 

As our children grew older, I struggled in my mind as to what I should expect from them.  Some of them are naturally more organized than others.  One is a hoarder.  How was I to draw guidelines, yet still allow them to function within their personality?  At what point should they participate in the upkeep of the home?  I’ve done a lot of reading, and I think I’ve seen it all – cutesy little chore charts, systematic timelines for different areas of the house, etc.- but none of what I saw really grabbed me.  I’m not the chart type, and I really don’t have the time or the patience to do the spreadsheets. 

Several years ago, my sister-in-law who had been an at-home mom went back to work.  Her two older daughters were probably around 11-13 years of age.  Of the several chores that she delegated to them was their own laundry.  That stuck with me, and for many reasons, I liked the idea.  Two summers ago, I followed her lead and taught the boys to do their own laundry.  They were 10 and 12, and they did their laundry that summer, and have continued to help with it (or do their own) from that time on.

The bulk of my “chores” struggle has been finding a healthy balance of what is age-appropriate and acceptable.  I’ve observed families where it seemed the kids were overloaded with chores while the parents were pretty lethargic and unmotivated.  My perspective.  I’ve also worked with 7th graders who had literally never swept a floor until they came into my class and had a small chore to complete each day after lunch.  Pathetic.  Again, my perspective.  J

I read an article by Michael Pearl (I wish I had a copy of it, but it was borrowed), and in it he talked about the benefit vs. the liability of a child to a family.  Keep in mind, his perspective is never fluffy or gooey, but practical and without a lot of flowery feel-good language.  The idea is that when children are small, they are a “drain” on the family, but as they emerge into toddlerhood and then grade school, they begin to shoulder their own weight.  By the time they reach the age of 10 or so (if I remember everything correctly), they become an asset and a contributor to the household.  Mr. Pearl’s logic made complete sense to me, and gave me a bit more direction than I had previous.

Rockin' with the
Since then, there are a couple of things that I have determined:

  • I won’t force my kids to have an impeccable bedroom.  It can’t be dirty (as in real dirt), but I will allow some flexibility. 
  • I will be sure that my kids know how to do all the typical household chores (age-appropriate), and they will contribute to the functionality of the household. 
Now the rubber meets the road, and their skills are put to the test.  Mom is virtually out of commission for a few weeks, and dad goes to work every day.  The two weeks following my injury, the kids were still in school.  I had to alternate keeping one of the boys home with me each day the first week because there was just too much risk for me to stay alone.  Whichever one stayed at home did some school work, and pretty much waited on me as needed.  The second week was full with their end-of-year field trip, parties, etc., and I went to work a couple of days.  Greg would come home from work and spend the evening catching up all the chores.  Although he regularly does laundry and helps with whatever needs to be done, he was literally working the entire evening until he would drop into bed.  Those were the weeks where survival was more important than everyone carrying their part of the load. 
No, she's not scrubbing toilets...
I'd prefer her to stick with sweeping,
dusting, or folding towels.  :-)
We’ve now been out of school for one week.  In between coloring pictures, watching DVD’s, working on their summer Bible reading, jumping on the trampoline, reading good books, soaking in the sprinkler, and mowing lawns, they’ve also been sweeping floors, vacuuming carpets, cleaning bathrooms, dusting furniture, hauling out garbage, loading the dishwasher, and preparing light meals.  They love it that I have a stash of chocolate that I will randomly share with cheerful, thorough helpers. 

Before leaving the hospital, I was repeatedly asked about the level of help I would receive at home.  I knew that my mom had a full work schedule, so it was up to the kids and me while Greg was at work.  I loved being able to tell the medical personnel that my kids knew more about housekeeping than most husbands, and that we’d be just fine.  One nurse said that she had taken the same approach and she was so happy with the self-sufficiency of her boys “who never brought their laundry home with them while they were away at college.” 

Gotta love the mis-matched sock basket!
Whether or not one feels overwhelmed with household demands, children should (for their sake) be taught how to properly execute tasks…and then be expected to contribute regularly based on what they’ve been taught.  It’s important to make the atmosphere light and fun, even to have everyone working at the same time to teach teamwork and cooperation (and of course, scrubbing toilets is more fun when you know your brothers and sisters and in it with you!). 

1 comment:

  1. How dare you say my side of the room wasn't always perfect? ;) We were two peas in a pod...good thing we shared a room and not with Eric!


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