Sunday, October 19, 2008

Chore: duty, work, task

After all of these years of parenting (we're 22 years into it) it would be nice if we could master the concept of shared responsibility for household chores. Before I rant begin,

1) I'd rather clean 1,000 poopie bottoms than have another conversation about chores. I know we have one more conversation pending - we've made an appointment to start "Family night" with a conversation about chores and expectations. How fun is that?!? Maybe by Thursday I will have found a way to make that conversation our last (on the topic of "chores").
2) Our youngest is a good kid, but he's 14 years old and there's not much any of us can do about that.
3) Chores are necessary, but there is no magical way to make chores fun.
4) I have not found a magical way to make teenagers accept # 3.

If anyone has answers, send me 1,000 poopie bottoms and I'll trade you my next chore-conversation.

Expectation in this household: Chores are assigned, everyone does their part. Unfortunately for our youngest, with each older sibling's departure he's picked up more responsibility. Since he's the only one using "the kid's bathroom" it's not unreasonable that he's the only one having to keep it clean. We keep the house ~clean so most of the housework involves running the vacuum. We can go a few weeks without vacuuming but after a while the carpet of cat hair on top of the berber is hard to ignore. In the absence of a conflicting commitment - chores are to be completed by ~noon on Saturday. So....

This week (Saturday): We were expecting company mid- to late afternoon. Our son spent Saturday morning on the sofa, watching TV and playing on the notebook computer. Tension built during the day (at least for me!).

Meanwhile: I had comp tickets for something called the Maker Faire, and we had told "T" to invite a friend for a Sunday afternoon exploration of crafts and inventions. At some point during the day Saturday, we let "T" know that Sunday plans were at risk. After company arrived, "T" tried to finish his chores. We didn't talk about the situation directly. Sunday morning "T" and his friend helped at Church, and were VERY conciliatory. That's all well and good, but it's not the same as getting your chores done, is it?

After church (Sunday): T asked "Are we going to the Faire?" "No," I say, without elaboration. Pouting began immediately. Within the space of a few hours we'd ridden the emotional roller coaster on rails that can only be produced by teens. Temper and tears. I tried to keep my contribution to a minimum (as an alternative to my old style of lecturing-to-death), but I intervened when the shouting began (hubby/son). My point? Why am I to be punished for this situation? a) My house wasn't clean when company arrived. b) I didn't go to the Faire (admittedly I could have, but half the fun would have been missed without the boy). And now c) I was having a crappy attitude onslaught. And what was my crime?

By the end of it, T finished his chores, did extra chores, and cooked dinner for the family. All with a cheerful disposition.

My takeaways:
1) Set expectations.
2) If expectations change, agree to new expectations.
3) If expectations are not met, make sure consequences are clear and understood by all (before hand!).
4) You (parent) should not be the one paying for unmet expectations (at least in the case of chores).
5) Be consistent.
6) Love, love, love. "We love you." "I love you." "You are loved."

I definitely don't claim to have it figured out, but I'm sharing in hopes that between us, we can develop some wisdom. Surely I'm not the only parent who expects their child to contribute to the household maintenance. And if I'm really an idiot, and lots of you have the recipe - only the first one to submit a winning response can send 1,000 poopie bottoms.


1 comment:

dallasdiva said...

FYI Still hate chores. Still save everything up way past when it would be easy to do so that it really sucks. Sigh. I need a maid.