Nothing makes me happier than when all the major retail stores start rolling out the school supplies and the fall clothing.
Sure, I live in an area of the country in which we will not see fall temperatures until approximately November 14th, but I am still Fall’s biggest fan.
As we begin to prep casa de phillips for the 2016-2017 school year (coming at us in ONE WEEK. Summer, where did you go? Oh yeah, I decided to write a book this summer. That is where you went.), I start to evaluate our chore system.
Or our lack of chore system, as things seem to have gone as of late.
I cannot tell you how many chore charts I have crafted over the years. I have had “check off the box” systems, match the cute icon systems, fancy chalkboard systems, and “For the love! Someone just pick up a dirty towel!” systems. No system seems to linger too long and often I wonder why I cannot manage to create a simple chore chart that works for our family.
I have a masters degree.
I paid big money to take courses on Behavior Modification.
Surely my brain could configure a chore chart that works.
This speculation causes me to dive deep into the root of the problem. The problem is not that I have yet to create the perfect system.
The problem is that I have yet to create the expectations.
Often times we set the bar low for our children. I look at their sweet faces and see toddlers rather than the nine and eleven year old standing before me. No longer do they possess chubby little baby hands useful for only grabbing Cheerios. Nope. Those kiddos can WORK and it is time for me to set the expectation for them to do so. I do not have to deem myself Cinderella (pre-glamorous makeover and missing shoe), busting my booty attempting to do all the chores while the children simply do their heart’s desires. It is time to have them earn their keep around the casa.
High expectations move children forward, providing a sense of responsibility and pride in their abilities.
Low expectations fuel a generation of entitlement and a belief that life is served up on a silver platter.
We are all out of silver platters over here, kids. It is time for us all to bust our booties.
How does one establish expectations, especially when one’s children only expect access to Minecraft 12 hours a day and a constant stream of entertainment?
This morning I drug myself out of bed at 4:30am and got myself to the gym. Friday morning’s exercise regimen involves a total body conditioning class taught by a perky instructor who must live on caffeine and puppy hugs. As she cheerfully ran us through a tough workout, she reminded us that our planks (with a froggie burpie combo, mind you. No one should ever combine the two, in my opinion) only improved with training. Apparently if I do train my body to do planks at any given moment, my body will not complain so much when it is time to hold said postion for two horribly long minutes.
The same theory applies to our children and chores.
When we train them on how to do chores, we provide them with the muscle memory to do those chores on repeat.
When we train them on what is expected of them, they learn to rise to the occasion.
The expectations we set forth for our children must be realistic. This is a delicate dance between being real about what they can accomplish and setting the bar high enough based on ability.
For example, I have one child who is extremely creative.
Want to know what goes along with extreme creativity?
A trail of paper and glitter and half-completed projects that are always in some sort of work-state.
Keeping her room tidy is my Everest.
However, we work on keeping floors clean and containing her creative space to her desk top.
That desk top might not ever see the light of day while she lives under my roof. However, I am being realistic about the cleaning I expect of her when it comes to her personal space while allowing her spirit to shine.
Clear and Consistent
Remember that perky gym instructor I mentioned?
Every Friday morning she is quite consistent with those elaborate planks.
When we are consistent with our children in regards to chores, they understand that we actually do mean for them to get those chores done. Expectations have to be consistent.
The best way to establish consistent expectations is by setting the example with our own actions.
The Phillips’ Family budget is not set up for us to have a housekeeper come on a regular basis. Therefore the children and I set aside Friday mornings as our cleaning time. This is a consistent time we have established to clean our home. Although some people around here pretend to act shocked when I mention that once again we must pull out the cleaning supplies and get to work, in their little hearts they are expecting it.
Want to know what warms my little heart?
It makes me feel like I deserve a big gold start for the day when my husband walks through the door at night and proclaims that the house looks nice.
He does not need to know that thirty minutes prior to his arrival lunch crumbs were still on the floor and a science project was scattered through the living room.
When he acknowledges the work I have put forth, I feel like I have won wife of the year.
The same philosophy holds true for our kids.
Recently I read how it is important for our children to know the positive impacts they have on our lives. I have been trying to put praise in tangible terms, rather than muttering a “Great Job” as I fly through my day.
Saying things like “You really blessed Mommy’s day when you unloaded the dishwasher and put the dishes away” recognizes their effort and shows them that said effort mattered.
If we want our children to take an active part in maintaining our homes (and we do, sister!) then we must acknowledge their work and the effect their work has had on our families lives.
Team sports were never my thing because I am not what one would call “athletic”. (Just ask that perky gym instructor). I did swim competitively growing up and would be on the occasional relay team for meets.
Those relay teams would be their most successful when we would all work together, figuring out the best configuration of swimmers to ensure a positive outcome.
Chores have a purpose. They are the mastermind of adults just wanting to make kids miserable.
When our children understand that as a family we work as a team toward a common goal (Not having the family home featured on Hoarders) they can adopt a team mentality. As mentioned, we do big cleanings on Friday mornings. The kids know that when our cleaning is done, we get to move on to more enjoyable tasks. We work together so we can play together.
As you stock up on three-pronged folders with pockets (Bless that requirement.) and search Pinterest for a cute back-to-school Teacher gift, do not feel like the solution of Back to School sanity lies in the perfect chore chart.
The solution is found in the expectations you establish for yourself and your family.