I'm actually trying to stop feeling like a dragon-mom who is constantly breathing fire down my children's necks! Ok, so with a lead-in like that, who doesn't want to read this post? Right? In reality, this is a very serious topic if you're a parent (if not, you can go read another blog today). I've found that teaching my children to listen and be responsible while keeping my sanity is proving to be a hard thing to do. No kidding, right? I have struggled with this, as I'm sure all parents do (if you don't you're a lucky-duck of a parent), and I have found that I'm not happy with the way my kids are acting on a daily basis. I'm also not happy with the way my husband and I act towards them sometimes. I feel like I live with teenagers half of the time and toddlers the other half! (And not the responsible teen or the cuddly tot.)
By the way... my kids are nine and a half and five and a half. The struggle I have the most trouble with is getting the kids to follow directions (the first time!? - do any kids do this??? Really???)... that's my numero uno pet peeve. Numero dos is being a 'responsible citizen of the house'. Yes, another way to say that is doing chores, but I feel that doing chores is so much more than just getting things done and having a cleaner house. I feel that it creates habits and ingrains values while getting the house clean... it also helps kids have a love of good music.
Some background info: When I was a kid, my mom had two dishwashers... one named Emily, and one named Mary. We alternated weeks with that duty, and we also had other jobs around the house. When I was nine, Saturday or Sunday mornings were often spent sweeping the stairs/hallway and dusting the furniture (I love the smell of Endust!) to the soundtrack of James Taylor,Jim Croce,John Denver,The Beetles, or We are the World albums. We also had to vacuum, sweep the front walkway, rake leaves, or sweep the patio. I think the jobs just depended on my parents' mood or what needed to be done, there wasn't a 'chore chart' that I remember using to keep track of what we did. Mary and I did get allowances once we got old enough to want money to spend at McFalls (a drug store a little less than a mile from our house - we would ride bikes there), and I think that helped motivate us to get the job done.
I have tried doing that at my house, but so far nothing seems to work. I've had chore charts, motivational posters, sticker sheets for prizes, and just plain screaming, "You are a part of this house and NEED to help - I can't do everything myself!!!" (Not a good moment - Didn't really work long term, and only proved to raise my blood pressure.)
Since I was on winter break from my college classes at ECU recently, I thought I would peruse some 'mom blogs' and see if there were any cool ideas out there. Somehow (grace of God maybe?) I stumbled on a blog that hit the spot. Abby at A Feathered Nest had found a great idea of using puffy balls (1/2 inch colored puffs - craft store) to encourage her kids to do odd jobs around her place. I thought - Hmm... would that appeal to my kids' tastes? Couldn't hurt to try it... so I made my own chart and introduced the idea to the kids.
Taylor Anne thought it was awesome at first and couldn't wait to earn puffs for her jar - (she unloaded the dishwasher!). Anderson was a little lukewarm for a while, but then also got on board when I mentioned that he could earn money to spend at the Dollar Store or Target! The first few weeks, they didn't really earn many puffs. I honestly thought it might not work, but recently they have both found something they want to to buy, but it is something I don't want to spend money on. I tactfully reminded them they have the chance to earn money for a certain number of puffs, so they're off and running now! Tonight after school, Taylor Anne pulled weeds for 30 minutes, folded laundry, cleaned smudges off of the walls in the hallways, and took out the trash! Anderson helped her take out trash and clean the walls, then he 'recharged' the laundry on his own.
There's another interesting (and exciting!!!) thing I've figured out with this system. I can also use it as a discipline tool. As the kids can earn puffs by working, they can also lose puffs by talking back or disobeying. Right now it just takes a warning that they're about to lose a puff. The sassiness has cut in half at least! I'm not asking twice or three times or yelling near as much. "You keep that up, mister/miss, and I'm taking a puff!" is about all it takes. I think, "This is GREAT!!!" "But wait!", you're thinking, "How long do you think this will last?" Well, I really don't know if it will 'stick', but it has already lasted longer than the other methods I've used. I think they feel that they've worked hard to earn the puffs and they really don't want to lose them. (and I have taken some already - they are quick learners) So... now I don't feel like so much of a dragon (breathing fire all the time), and I'm getting some help around the house!