Monday, 29 May 2017

It's Time to Talk About Chores

It's been a while since I posted.  We've been busy with life in general, and it struck me that it's about time I posted about chores.

Well, I think it is.

My kids are aged 9 and 8.  They both are diagnosed with Autism.  They both absolutely do chores.

At the weekend, they were helping me (proper help, not play helping) weed the front garden.  Our front garden is mostly stones, with hedging round all sides and a rose bed in the centre.  Over the years, more and more soil gets washed in to the stones and therefore the weeds grow.  So out we go to pull them all up.   It's not an easy job as you are constantly moving the stones to get roots without ripping the matting, so it is hard on the fingers after a while.  There are the inevitable brambles and thistles that crop up, so we wear gloves.  And of course there are inevitably insects, which DD is not keen on at all!  So why do I make them do it?  Well, because it needs doing - and it is quicker for three of us to do it than one.  We only have to do it 3-4 times a year and we are usually done in an hour and a half, then we have so much more of an enjoyable day as we all feel we have earned out leisure time and simple things like an orange squash and a biscuit taste soooooo much better!

Other chores my kids do are the feeding and cleaning out of their own pets.  Yes indeedy, the whole caboodle, always.  DD has a rabbit and a goldfish, DS has a tortoise who has both an indoor and outdoor home. It was a battle at first, and they may need the odd reminder still, but they care properly for these animals themselves.

In addition to this they both know how to do their own washing, and put a wash on whenever they are asked.  I tend to hang it out on the line or put it in the tumble dryer, for ease as they find this difficult, but once it's dry and folded they also put their own washing away.

They tidy their own rooms - properly!  This not without nagging (especially with DS!) but they do do it.  Including hoovering their own rooms and stripping their own beds for washing.  I make their beds as they find it really difficult to tuck the sheets in etc.

They lay the table, when asked, and we all clear down meal times together.  Taking it in turns to load and unload the dishwasher, wipe the table and sweep up the floor.  Yes, after every meal.

Now comes the rub.  The bit where people say "I wish my kids would do that"! 
Well, I'll tell you a secret......They will.  Ask them.  If they are resistant simply explain this is your expectation.  If your kids are not doing these things, I'm going to venture that it is because you are allowing them not to do these things......

Do I reward them?  Not physically no.  I don't believe in it.
I tell them Thank You.  If they have done a particularly great job of something, or an especially tough chore, I take the time to tell them how I appreciate that and what it means that they helped out in that way.   Sometimes, for example clearing up the dinner things together, it means I have time to sit and read with them afterwards or play a game.  But this is never dangled as a carrot, they have come to realise on their own that if they help without complaining it gets done quicker and Mummy is more available for the fun stuff.

I have also instilled in my children that chores have to be done because they have to be done.  I love them with every fibre of my being, in ways I could never imagine it was possible to love another human being, but I don't always want to make dinner every night.  I don't dance with a duster in my hand into their bedrooms, picking over Lego and through magical creations.  I don't relish delving in to the washing basket a zillion times a week but we all want clean clothes to wear.  So, the simple fact is Stuff Has To Be Done and the sooner kids realise that, the happier and easier life is for everyone.

And I absolutely do not reward financially.  My kids get pocket money every month - at the start of the month.  This is to help teach them to save and to budget, and to not bug the hell out of me every time we go to the shops!  But their pocket money is not linked to chores, school work or any kind of coercion (which I just think is the nemesis of parenting - the slippery slope......)  On occasion they have lost their pocket money for particular misdemeanors but never earned it for doing something they simply need to do.

For us, this means that kids that respect both me and our home. Appreciative children. Not taking you for granted children.  And with real, proper, Life Skills.

My DD for example knows how to do the weekly shop online, if I ask her.  She knows our budget, knows how to shop for the most economical options, look for special offers and what products we will spend more on.  She's only ever done it a couple of times, because it simply isn't necessary, but she knows how to if she needs to.

And before you worry that my poor little mites are enslaved, let me assure you they have hours upon hours of free time.  They play, they laugh, they relax, they study.  They do all the things happy, healthy kids are supposed to do.  I just happen to believe that chores are one of those things.


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