Children and chores – no rewards, no punishment

My husband and I have two children, aged 11 and 12. We have always, from a young age, encouraged independence in their day-to-day lives. We try to be firm and set boundaries, but without being dictators about it.  When it comes to chores, we have faced a similar issue to other parents – how do we encourage them to contribute to the household (picking up after themselves as well as extra stuff) without having to resort to bribes, rewards or punishments? Or worse, shouting, tears and slamming of doors?

We don’t want to bribe them because I want them to want to do it (yes, I know, I don’t want to do it so why should they? But at the least I want them to want to help us). We don’t want to reward them because I don’t get $2 or a chocolate for making my own bed, and we want them to be generous and grateful for what they have and not be always expecting some sort of payment for everything they do. And we don’t want to punish them because we don’t believe in a punishment-based discipline system.

So somewhere in all that muddle of trying reward charts (yes, went down that path, failed), checklists to be completed before pocket-money would be dished out (also failed), asking nicely 3759 times (for the most part that worked eventually but who has time for that?) and barking orders randomly (got stuff done but built resentment and we felt mean), we sort of fell into a system that is working well for us, so I thought I’d share it.

It’s based around expectations.

We expect that a certain minimum standard of contribution be met. That minimum is a tidy (not spotless) room, with a made bed and (almost) everything in its home (we are somewhat relaxed because they often like to carry games and activities on for a few days so that is happily left strewn all around until it’s finished), and nothing that belongs to them hanging around the living areas and not in its home.

That minimum needs to be done before we consider allowing privileges. Privileges are things like playing on screens and devices, watching TV, going to play with friends, heading to the park, going for a swim, having a friend over. Basically anything fun ;). So the minimum standard becomes a pre-requisite for having those privileges.

In addition, there are sometimes jobs that also need to be complete before the privileges kick in. If the dishwasher needs emptying, if they have clean clothes to put away, if the table needs setting or clearing, if their bathroom is grotty, or even sometimes even if they need a shower (yeah, they’re still in that “But I showered YEESTERRRDAAAY” phase), then that also needs to be done before the privileges kick in.

I was explaining this to my clients recently, with their 12 year-old present. Of course, she wasn’t overly excited. She didn’t like the idea of tidying her room daily (although she craved order and wanted to be helpful). Her dad explained it well. He said “You know how you can’t go to school until you change out of your PJs? Well, what we’re going to all do is the same – it’s just a pre-requisite, not a punishment”. Another analogy you can use with your kids is “going up a level”. It’s like a game – you can’t get to the next level until you complete the first.

Since doing things this way, I have noticed quite a few positive outcomes.

Firstly, my kids are complaining less and less as time goes by. This is because they expect it. They don’t always want to do it (hey, who wants to clean a bathroom?!), but they know they have to if they want to move to the next (fun) activity so it’s no surprise. I have a real pet hate about complaining – to me it just is evidence of ingratitude and that frustrates me because I want my kids to know just how privileged they are. I recently told my son we are amongst the 4% of the wealthiest people in the world and he was shocked (because we’re not at all wealthy by our neighbourhood standards!) and said “Wow, there are a LOT of poor people”. Yep – that’s why I want you to be grateful. Anyway, I digress…

Secondly, I have less work to do around the house. Most of the detritus that clutters up our living area is kids’ stuff (what’s with all the SHOES?), and when they clear it, Mick and I have little tidying of our own to do.

Thirdly, they have less work to do each time. The more frequently they tidy their rooms (it’s at least daily), the quicker it takes. This is teaching them a valuable life lesson – small steps make for large benefits.

Bathrooms don't clean themselves!

Bathrooms don’t clean themselves!

Finally, I have to think about it less. I have to remind them less about their room and their “stuff” hanging around. It’s less mental work for Mick and I because it’s not in our heads. There are no charts to remember to fill out, no adding up, no negotiating. It just happens.

My hope is that they will develop a habit of getting the minimum stuff done every day so they don’t have to remind themselves, they don’t have to think about it, and they don’t have to worry about it building up. I once told my daughter (when asked “Why?” during a complaint session) that it’s my job to raise kind, generous, and balanced adults. And this is part of it. I also hope to improve our son’s short-term memory. He would forget his head if it wasn’t attached to him (a genetic gift from yours truly) – hopefully by putting basic tasks into his reptilian brain (where our habits are) he’ll be more focused on “the now” and a little less forgetful.

Before you ask, we still haven’t worked out pocket money so they don’t really get any unless they do some bigger jobs like a load of washing on their own, or some admin, or mow the lawns. We’re thinking that soon enough, they’ll be consistent at this habit and we’ll just automatically transfer some money in for them each week as a thank-you for not making us shout at them 😉

 

 

Weekend Weightlifter – the utensil drawer

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This week – the utensil drawer. This is where stuff that won’t fit in the cutlery drawer goes. And it can get rather messy!

  1. Lay out a towel on the kitchen floor.
  2. Pull all of the stuff out of the drawer and sort it into like groups (ie “cutting” “scooping” “storing” “making” “decorating”) onto the towel
  3. For each item, ask yourself:
    • How many of these do I have?
    • How often do I use it?
    • If I got rid of it, would I be able to find a way to still do what I need to do if the need arose (the answer is almost always YES – there is more than one way to skin a cat, as the old saying…rather grossly…puts it)
    • Will I use it again more than a couple of times a year?
    • Is it still in good working order?
    • Can I live without it (that’s me being facetious – unless you have a dialysis machine in there, of course can live without it).
    • Does my bestie/mother/sister/neighbour have one I can borrow if I do need it again one day?
    • Does it even belong in the kitchen? (there will be rubber bands, bits of broken toys, coasters, orphan bits of sets, the odd hair band, a few receipts, stamps, paper clips, bandaids or bobby pin and the like that should be re-home completely)
  4. Cull everything that doesn’t make the cut
  5. Put the rest back in the drawer in its groups.  You may need to use ziplock bags to group the small stuff together, and drawer dividers to keep it all from getting too jumbled again.

 

How to ditch your ironing basket

I used to iron most of our family’s clothes. I didn’t bother with underwear, sleepwear or linen, but ironed pretty much everything else. My friends used to tell me they never ironed, and I couldn’t believe it – I expected they’d be all wrinkled up, but they weren’t!

I would spend around 3 hours a week ironing, and I hated the ironing basket. It was always full and always there, staring at me and reminding me I had to do something I hated doing. However, I was compelled to iron because the clothes were always so creased. I could not conceive not ironing.

Then my life changed when we went on a 4-week family road-trip style holiday. We lived out of suitcases the whole time, frequently moving and therefore frequently packing and unpacking (and never hanging anything). I realized that we didn’t look all wrinkly all of the time, and that it wasn’t so bad, this No Ironing Thing.

So when we returned home, I repurposed my laundry basket (it’s now our shopping bag basket) and never looked back. I got hints from my best friend, who had some great ideas (thanks Kym!) on how to prevent creases, and I’ll share them with you now.

Firstly, I still try not to use the dryer. It doesn’t rain much where I live, so we dry outside on the clothesline most of the time. We do this to save on electricity usage, mainly – cheaper and more environmentally friendly. When I do, I just apply the same rules as below, essentially (except for the drip-drying).

– I set my spin speed on my washing machine to the lowest spinning speed that I can
– I often don’t spin at all (especially in summer) and instead drip-dry the clothes
– I give them a good shake when they come out of the machine and hang them on the line as soon as possible
– I smooth them out on the line and leave them as smooth as I can to dry
– I always peg socks together in their pairs (this isn’t an ironing tip but it saves time later)
– As I get them off the line, I put them in the basket in this order: undies, socks (paired immediately), sleepwear (folded), shorts & pants (folded), things that don’t crease (folded). Then finally I lay flat out over the top of the basket the clothes that usually crease a little like t-shirts dresses and shirts (hanging stuff).
– Once inside, I take the hanging clothes off the basket and lay them on the back of the couch. I put the most creased pieces on the bottom of the pile. I smooth them out individually as I add each one to the pile (sort of like ironing them with my hands)
– I put all the other stuff away in the wardrobes
– A few hours later I hang the hanging items – they have ironed themselves on the back of the couch (sometimes I lay them flat on the bed, too).

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Sometimes I’ll get something out of the wardrobe to wear and it’s a little creased – so then I give it a quick iron, but this is rare.

I have also learned that your body heat will also smooth out wrinkles once you’ve had it on for a little while, too.

It’s also useful, of course, to buy clothes made from fabrics that don’t crease easily!

Finally, ditch your perfectionism – no one will notice, trust me! And you’ll be a changed person!

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