A friend of mine and I were talking the other day about the chores we have our kids do and the nature of how that is organized. She was looking to have a more habitual schedule other than the “do this now because I asked” game plan.
My kids are kids, and so there is no perfect chore plan, procedure, schedule, etc. But there are two main things I have gleaned from other older and wiser women that have served me well. My friend seemed to think they had a lot of wisdom behind them too, so I thought I would share them with all of you!
RULE #1 – DON’T ASSIGN CHORES, ASSIGN JURISDICTIONS
This was gleaned from Michelle Duggar. I’m not usually one to read books like “19 kids and counting”, but it was recommended by a dear friend of mine years ago, and she loaned it to me for free, so it seemed like a good idea to read it. It was a pretty good read. Especially this particular gem of information. So, here is what I mean by “chore” versus “jurisdiction”:
You know when you tell the kid to go pick up the bathroom and you walk in and they picked up basic things off the floor but didn’t hang the towels up, replace the toilet paper, empty the garbage, collect the bath toys, wipe the toothpaste off the countertop, etc.? And then you are frustrated? It’s because you gave them a “chore” and not a “jurisdiction”. In other words, in their little mind, you gave them a single task to complete. You said pick up the bathroom, which to you meant “make the space neat and tidy”. They heard “Pick up anything directly on the floor – if it is big – and if it isn’t too gross to touch.” Let’s say instead, you decide to assign them the “Bathroom Jurisdiction”. Here’s the part where you say “What is a Jurisdiction?” I am glad you asked:
Here is how I explained a Jurisdiction to my littles:
Me: Can you tell me, who is the boss of the United States?
Kids: the President
Me: Right! The President is responsible for making sure everything in the United States is where it needs to be, and as good as it needs to be, right?
Me: So the President has a Jurisdiction – an area he is responsible for. He is responsible to watch over and try to correct anything that happens in the United States. So, who is in charge of Wisconsin?
Kids: The Governor
Me: Right! So as the governor of Wisconsin, his Jurisdiction is Wisconsin. If the roads are bad, he has to make sure they get repaired. If people need clean water, he has to make sure he can get it to them. He is responsible for the area of Wisconsin. If anything is broken, dirty, out of place, etc. he has to make it right. So, If I told you that you were assigned the boys bathroom jurisdiction, what do you think that means?
Kids: We are in charge of the Boys bathroom area.
Me: And what would that mean you had to do in that area?
Kids: If anything is not where it needs to be or if something is broken or dirty, we have to fix it.
Next you show them how this works: Bring them into the bathroom when it is already clean and tidy. Now point out all of the things that make it tidy – a clean countertop, a clean toilet seat (and floor beneath it if you have boys), a shower curtain pulled shut, an empty garbage can, towels folded and/or hung correctly, and then tell them that this is a clean bathroom. Their new job is to make sure the bathroom always looks like this. If ANYTHING is out of place or in the room that is not supposed to be, or dirty, they need to get the room back to the way it is now – when it is clean and tidy.
Now, RULE # 2 : RESIST THE URGE TO TELL THEM WHAT TO DO
This rule works hand-in-hand with Rule #1, though I learned them separately. When used together, they make both soooooo much more effective!!!
The next morning, (we have to have all chores done to eat breakfast in our family), when the child that was assigned the boys bathroom jurisdiction wakes up and wanders to the kitchen to eat, you can ask, “Is your jurisdiction complete, and are you ready for me to check it?” (you always have to inspect it – Every. Time. For the rest of their life with you. You just do. Accept it.) 🙂 And of course the child is going to say it is done. Bring the child into the bathroom and quietly survey the room. If ANYTHING is out of place, tell the child the room is not done. There are some things that do not bring it back to clean and tidy. DO NOT TELL THEM WHAT THEY ARE!
Here is the logic – if you tell them what is out of place – the shower curtain needs pulled shut, the garbage needs emptied. Their brain says, “Clean the bathroom to whatever level I think is enough, and then do what mom tells me I still have to do.” This type of instruction actually encourages the child to do a worse job because they know Mom will tell them what needs fixed, and so they wait for it. And after a bit of time, they begin to do less and less and you don’t want to fight with them to tell them 5 more things they should do, so the quality of cleanliness in the bathroom continues to slide downhill, and you have a battle every morning.
INSTEAD – If you do not tell them what is wrong but only say it is not complete, and leave the room, something different has to happen in their brain. Rather than their brain telling them “when Mom tells me to do something, I clean it,” they are forced to look around the room and try to understand what makes it not complete. So their brain says, “the garbage is full, it should be emptied,” or “the towels need to be straightened.” That is a totally different thought process. In addition, if you come back to inspect and it still isn’t right (which it won’t be the first few times – they are kids, of course they will try to do the bare minimum!) you look around the room again, say “I am sorry, it is still not complete,” and walk away again. When you do it this way, they begin to stop doing the minimum because they don’t want to be called back fifteen times. They will look around to see if there is anything Mom will say isn’t right and try to do it first so that they don’t get called back.
Rule #3 – PRAISE GOOD EFFORT.
I am not very good at this one. No one praises me for folding laundry or washing those pots and pans really well, so sometimes it is hard for me to want to praise a kid for taking care of the basic things I have asked them to. But when I do praise them, it makes a big difference. This is one area I am working on this year.
What things are you working on this year?