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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