Ok, this book has got my mind going in 20 directions at 100 mph! Even though I began the book feeling pretty good about what my kids have already learned to do around the house, the complaining and the whining had recently begun to drive me crazy. And Cleaning House has been a great way to evaluate how the teamwork is going in my home. I really enjoy Kay Wyma’s style of writing- both conversational and entertaining- while provided me with lots of serious stuff to chew on.
For those who haven’t read the book, Kay has an epiphany one day about how far her five children had traveled down the road to entitlement, despite her efforts with community service, and trying to teach them that “stuff will never really satisfy you,” coupled with realizing they really had no idea how to do anything around the house. So she decides to embark on a 12-month experiment, where each month has a different focus, and all 5 of her kids (ranging in age from 14 down to 3) will have to work as a team around the house, instead of leaving everything to their Mom, and her helper.
Chapter 1= Month 1 The first task Kay assigned her kids was to make their beds and keep their bedroom/bathroom floor tidy.
My first thought: SCORE! My kids have been making their beds every morning for years!
Second thought: Whoa… do we need to work on the bedroom floor part!
I decided that I wanted to do a little mini-experiment of my own, less intense because they already know how to do a lot- they just aren’t always doing it. However, I politely disagreed with the motivating factor Kay chose to use with her kids. She placed $30 in a jar for each child, and for each day they did NOT do the new task, she would remove a dollar.
For starters, even with only three kids, I couldn’t afford that kind of incentive. (Especially not every month for 12 months!) Second, when we tried tying the kids’ chores to an allowance, any time we asked them to do something, came the big question: “Am I getting paid for this?” So we changed to a “no one is ever going to pay you to clean your room, or wash your own clothes etc,” and “we are all a team here, and everyone who lives here has to help out,” type of system. Because we want our kids to learn how to handle money, we have done some kind of small allowance in most seasons. And the older kids (who do more work) get more than the younger. For us, this ended the idea that someone should get paid just doing their fair share around the house.
However, when we are working on a new habit, we do use rewards. For example, if we were working on getting the beds made every day, we would set a period of time, and then use check marks, or stickers or whatever to track the number of days. When the goal was met, we would celebrate together in some way planned ahead of time, such as getting a new movie, and some treats, to celebrate our hard work together. (Or go out to a movie, etc)
I couldn’t start my experiment with the bedrooms though, because there was something else that was more important in my mind… Chapter 2: Cooking!