Friday, December 6, 2013
Homework and Chores.
First, let me say that nobody around here, myself included, naturally gravitates towards those tasks. At any given moment, there is disorder and dirt in various sections of the home, and we do not manage to do homework, or even 20 minutes of reading, every day.
Still, sections of the house--and key things like underwear and spoons--get cleaned regularly. The homework packets get done weekly, and if you average across the week, we more than meet the reading requirements. All of this happens without any serious drama. Occasional whining, sure. But no tears or fights. I've been around other families (and read enough parenting books and blogs) to know that we are lucky in this regard.
This is how we make it work. "Sure, you can borrow my iPad--once your chores are done." "Yes, we'll have dessert--as soon as you've done your homework while you sister helps with dishes."
At first, it may sound like bribery, but it's actually a version of the "Yes, when..." statement our therapist taught us to make way back when we first met her. Our kids get 15 minutes of screen time on weeknights and an hour on weekend days. (Ignore the fact that we also let them watch movies on weekend mornings so we can sleep in.) This is pretty much a given, although there are days where we are busy enough that we skip screen time--it's not something I prioritize as much as they do, oddly enough. They also get dessert most nights. That may not be a good thing, but I want dessert most nights, and it seems unfriendly to not share. So it's not, "I'll give you candy if you do the dishes." It's more like "Let's get our work done before we play."
There have been times when the kids lost computer time or missed dessert because they didn't get their stuff done in time. These are consequences that mean a lot to them, but (from an adult point of view) aren't remotely harmful to them. I've remained calmly sympathetic as I moved into the bedtime routine. Tomorrow is always another day--do your stuff tomorrow, and screen time and sweets will re-enter your life. After the first time or two, they became philosophical. "I guess I'll have to do two pages of homework tomorrow night, but at least I'll get dessert." The routine of it helps, and the way we tie a less appealing routine to a more appealing one. Nobody's getting picked on; this is just what we do.
I suspect there are some other factors at play. Special one-on-one time is, I've read, meant to be child-led. Still, if we each grab a wastepaper basket and carry it out, then each haul a bin to the curb, it weaves a subtle connection between us. I wash, you dry, we wind up laughing and singing together. I fold the clothes while you fold the flats. I clean the kitchen while you practice reading aloud to me. You stir the meat on the stove while I make sure your sister knows what she's supposed to do for her math assignment. None of us are going to put "doing chores" on top of our fun list, but once we've started, it turns out we do have fun.
Last Sunday I wouldn't help them clean their rooms. About once a month, I take an active role, and really get things organized for/with them. Otherwise, I just ask that they clear enough room for me to vacuum their floors. They headed upstairs, and on the way, Oak said, "Hey, I'll help you clean your room if you help me clean mine."
Bingo. A chore shared is closer to fun.