My Children, My Chore

An artist’s rendering of the girls.

Online source, modified by me

My kids are spoiled, entitled, lazy, brats.  And it’s our fault.  Despite the fact that we say no, put our foot down, and don’t allow them to get away with shit, we’ve still managed to foster an environment in which one minute our children will be complete angels, and in the next they will be complete and total assholes. (I will say to be fair to Zoë, she does have Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which I’m sure half of you will say is a made up disorder that is simply the easy way out from disciplining my child. To you I say, Bwahahahahahahaha! Oh, shit; you’re adorable!)
One of the ways in which this lazy brattyness manifests itself is through whining over chores. We have told the girls to help by cleaning their rooms, the living room, the basement where they have their playroom, emptying the dishwasher, feeding the cats, and putting away their clean clothes, but not with any regularity. On the rare occasion they follow through without the wailing and gnashing of teeth, but their marching orders are usually met with stomping, screaming, “Why do I have to do everything?”, (a personal favorite) and whining at a pitch that makes me surprised that the words “Some Pig” aren’t woven into a spider’s web at the tops of their door frames. These reactions are increased ten-fold if we have told them to turn off a screen in order to carry out these chores, at which time their screen privileges are threatened, and they shut the fuck up for awhile.  If the task involves cleaning a room, they will stand in the middle of the room, survey the damage, and then suddenly forget what anything they own looks like. Furthermore, they will flail about because they have temporarily lost the use of their arms and hands. The force of gravity will increase on their butts, and we will find them playing 10 minutes later, often having made the mess worse. When they are discovered by Mike or me, they will immediately jump up and plead for their lives by saying, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I got distracted!” Oftentimes, one will throw the other under the bus and say that it was their sister who had distracted them. It is also at this time that they will take the opportunity to ask for a snack, because they are absolutely dying of hunger. They, having done nothing and it having only been 10 minutes, are denied their request. This will set off a great and deep wail of hunger, in which they writhe around on the floor as though they are dying from demon possession. They are told that the sooner they finish, the sooner they can eat.

                                                                Image source

This process goes on loop for the next 1-3 hours, depending on who gives up first. Sometimes I stay with them to help them stay on task and, lo and behold, Rachael is able to remember that books do indeed belong on bookshelves. Sometimes I end up cleaning it up with them or for them because it’s easier and less exhausting than keeping them on task and yelling at them. And sometimes we hear them playing upstairs together nicely for the first time all weekend, and decide that’s more important that following through on being able to see carpet to walk upon.
And then, I had this amazing idea! I put my psychology degree to use and thought, What if we created a set list of chores for the girls to complete on a regular basis, for which they receive monetary reinforcement upon completion each week? I’ll call it, a Chore Chart! I can’t believe no one has thought of this before! I’ll take it to all the parenting magazines and blogs! It will revolutionize parenting and how children learn responsibility!

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…………………………………….. Ahem.

So far, Rachael’s like, Fuck yeah, I’ll do chores for money with a good attitude! We’ve tried rewards for chores before, money and candy, but I guess having it laid out for her helps Rachael understand and value what she can earn and how she can earn it.

Image via Pinterest

Zoë, on the other hand, took a lot of convincing. Once she understood that she would be saving money and be able to buy things she wanted that mommy and daddy didn’t want to buy with their own money, she thought it was awesome! However, when it came time to actually do said chores, I would have preferred my chances with an angry gorilla. Zoë’s funny, (in this case, funny uh oh) in that when she decides that she wants to do something, she’s a fantastic helper! She will actually do a good job of cleaning her room by herself, (sometimes of her own volition) if she’s in a good, amenable mood. When she’s not, there is no positive reinforcement, no bribe, no negative reinforcement, nor any punishment in the world that will move her to do what you want her to do. You could offer her a kitten party, on the beach, with all the ice cream and lemonade in the world, followed by a week at Disney World if she would just put away her clean clothes, and she would tell you, Yes, please! I would love all those things so very much, BUT I’LL NEVER, NEVER PUT AWAY MY CLOTHES BECAUSE I HATE HATE HATE IT SO MUCH! The way I managed to get her to put away her clothes yesterday was by staying with her and naming an animal for each letter of the alphabet for each item she put away. 27 items took around 90 minutes. She made up an extra letter called ölazella, and it makes the “biz” sound. No, I didn’t have anything else to do. Why do you ask?

I feel like I did have a small bit of genius by making weekly bonuses available. Each child will earn an additional 25 cents for each room if their bedroom, living room, and basement does not require cleaning at the end of the week. Each child will earn an additional 25 cents each week for a good attitude about their chores. This means that they do their chores without having to be asked or do not complain or have to be told multiple times to do their chores. Rachael suddenly became very eager to do all the household chores, including those which were not assigned to her.

So we’ll see if this helps with the lazy brat attitude. It already helped me this weekend; the kitchen stayed cleaner because Rachael stayed on top of unloading the dishwasher. This intervention is long overdue. I actually apologized to the girls this weekend for having a part in creating their shitty attitudes, right before making sure they understood that that doesn’t excuse their shitty behavior. In the meantime, maybe I should make a parenting chart for Mike and me. Gold stars for not giving in to girls’ whining! Rainbows for following through on punishments! Laser cats for less screen time!

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In which Zoë is an evil monster and destroys ballet forever

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Deviant Art

Today, after centuries of existence, Zoë destroyed the art that is ballet. As the gaggle of eager ballerinas gathered around their teacher, Zoë carried out her devious plan. As the girls performed their butterfly stretches, Zoë struck. Her wings spread, wide and menacing, wrapping the room in her darkness. She moved quickly, plundering the joy of the day and replacing it in their hearts with pure horror. The teacher did her best to protect the young ones from this foul beast, shielding them with her own body. But it was no use. No one was any match for this deviant creature who desired nothing but souls and blood and entropy. This machination, this evil intrigue, took us all. And we perished as the light went out and the last feather fell.

Yeah, okay, so this is seriously what happened. Zoë had her first ballet class a few weeks ago. After that, the teacher got sick and cancelled class, and then there was no class because of spring break. So today was Zoë’s second official ballet class. In the first class, she was fighting a cold and hadn’t eaten well. So, naturally, she had a hard time staying on task for the full 45 minutes. The teacher basically asked Mike to take her out for the rest of that session.
Today I explained to Zoë that if she didn’t want to leave class early again, she would need to stay with the class and listen to the teacher. Zoë still remembered having to leave early in the last class and didn’t want that to happen again. Unfortunately, all bets were off within the first few minutes. During stretches, Zoë would flop or roll over during leg stretches. Finally, she just got up and took to running around the room. (By the way, I’ve officially declared mirrored walls to be the natural mortal enemy of 3 year olds.) Because of the way the room and the vestibule outside the room are configured, I didn’t see what happened next, but it was bad enough that the teacher came to get me to deal with Zoë. Through her thick accent and heavily applied perfume, she admonished me to make Zoë listen to her. She bemoaned the fact that Zoë had knocked down the pile of the teacher’s coloring sheets. (They were situated on a floor punching bag. I didn’t see if Zoë purposefully knocked them over, or if it happened on accident while trying to look at them or maybe while she tried to climb on the base of the punching bag.) I apologized, hoping to express my humility and embarrassment, and picked up the sheets. The teacher continued to berate me about Zoë’s behavior and that I needed to talk to her and make her listen to the teacher. At that point I had already apologized and was about to take Zoë aside and talk to her. Annoyed with the level of drama, I pointed out that Zoë is 3. The teacher simply doubled down and snottily told me that all the girls in there were 3.

Don’t get me wrong. The sun, in no way, shines out my child’s butt. I KNOW she can be a handful with her seemingly endless supply of energy. But seriously, what do you expect from a group of 3 year olds? Constant attention and perfection, especially when you’re not really making it fun, isn’t going to happen. Most of the other girls did well, (except for one who had a complete meltdown) but they had also been in structured classes like that before. This was not their first dance class.

So, I did the best I could. I pulled Zoë aside and told her if she didn’t listen to the teacher, we would have to leave and wouldn’t be coming back. I sent her back to the the group with fingers crossed. And, as you would expect, she wasn’t perfect. She made silly faces in the mirror. She tried to climb the mirror with the assistance of the balance bar. When her leg couldn’t physically reach the balance bar, (which all the girls had trouble doing) she flopped down and pouted. But at least she wasn’t disrupting the class. Eh, I guess that’s not totally true. She did disrupt the class for a few seconds when she tried to give her sashay partner a hug. She did try to edge away from the group a few times, but the moment I began to step inside the room she cried No no no! and ran back and paid attention. The rest of the time was fun and she tried. She is definitely not nearly as well-coordinated as the other girls when it comes to skipping, leaping, and tumbling, but she was trying to do what was asked of her.

I guess we’ll try again next week and see what happens. I won’t force something that isn’t a good fit, but I also don’t want to give up right away. She’ll never learn to be in a structured class like that if she isn’t in a structured class like that. If it doesn’t work out, I could always take her to Rachael’s old ballet studio. At least there, the kids learned things while having fun and the teacher knew that ballet for three year olds is really not that serious.