I have a bit of a confession, a failure of mine as a parent: I’ve maybe, sort of, kind of spoiled my children. A little bit. Okay, maybe a lot. But I’m fixing it! Like, I went to the store and bought poster board, magic markers, stickers, the whole she-bang.
And you know that can only mean a couple things: serious school project, epic chore chart or, in some parent’s cases, a sandwich board to publicly shame your young shoplifter. Since public shaming ain’t my bag and at 6, 4 and 1, my kids aren’t involved in any science fairs yet, my poster board purchase can only mean one thing: CHORE CHART.
Ok, wait. Let me go back.
I’ve ruined my kids.
Not totally or anything. They’re still redeemable, hence the chore chart. But up until now I’ve been doing all my kid’s chores.
Even saying my kids have chores is a stretch. They don’t. I just randomly ask them to do things and they kind of wander off and 20 minutes later, I notice their stupid shoes/toys/crayons still litter the floor and I ask them again to clean up their mess.
Then I get busy again and 20 minutes after that, I notice they still haven’t done the ONE thing I’ve asked them to do but by that time they’re playing nicely together in their room and any parent worth their salt knows just as you never wake a sleeping baby, you never mess with kids playing nicely. So I end up just doing the damn thing myself.
Go ahead, laugh if you want.
But mama ain’t got enough hours in the day to beg my kids to do things a million times, I just need the stuff done so that I can relax already.
After a full day at work, the last thing I want to do is spend my evenings badgering my children. Because if you look at it this way: it takes hours of badgering my kids to do a task vs. 5 minutes of doing the thing myself. I usually opt for the latter because, well, it’s easier.
And it looks like I’m not alone.
According to the Wall Street Journal, only 28% of parents make kids do chores while 82% had chores growing up. Why is that?
The article says the reason most of those parents don’t force children to do chores is because they prefer their kids to focus on extracurricular activities like the Chess Club and other activity-based things that bring about “success.”
Well, that’s all well and good but the reason my kids don’t do chores isn’t nearly as aspirational.
My kids don’t do chores because I’ve raised them to think Mom and Dad do the cleaning.
My bad, I know.
I’ve really got to buckle down and show these kids a thing or two about cleaning up after themselves, right?
My plan: Bribe them. I find it a most effective tool. And before you get all judgy McJudgerson on me you, that “allowance” you pay your kids for the chores you’ve been having them do since they were toddlers because you’re the most amazing parent EVER? That’s bribery, too. Or “motivation,” whatever you want to call it.
Over the weekend, I got my chore chart game up to speed and now, hanging in my kitchen, is a huge, white poster board with my son’s name on one side and my daughter’s name on the other.
I let them pick out their favorite stickers and whenever they follow instructions or take the initiative to clean up something or I just want them to freaking brush their teeth already so they’ll go to bed and I can watch my shows, they get a sticker. Ten stickers equals a prize.
And OMG, YOU GUYS: Why didn’t I get my chore game on point sooner?
My kids are practically begging me to do chores.
“Mom! Mom! If I clean my bedroom can I earn a sticker?”
“You already cleaned your bedroom, Henry.”
“Well, what else can I do?”
They’re straight up high on chores. Sticker junkies.
And I’m just sittin’ on my couch with my glass of Malbec, watching The Slap like I don’t have enough family drama in my own life. But other people’s drama is so much better than your own anyway, amiright?
I’ll keep you posted on the chore chart situation, but for now I feel like we’ve struck solid gold.
Monica Bielanko is a mom of three who writes about relationships, her personal experiences, and co-parenting with her ex. Her writing has appeared on The Huffington Post, Yahoo!, and Mom.me. For more of her writing, visit her website, The Girl Who.