Saturday, August 28, 2010

Chores and Allowance

The topic has come up a lot in my life lately: Chores and Allowance. Should children be expected to do chores? Should they be paid for it? What happens if they refuse to do chores until they get paid?

I decided to ask real moms what they thought. I received some great responses. The opinions are fairly diverse and come from moms with kids of varying ages. I'll go ahead and let you know what these moms are saying before giving my own thoughts. I removed the names of their children for the sake of privacy.

First of all, what kinds of chores are kids doing these days?

Cheyenne, mother of a 10 year old and 11 year old, had this to say:
[11 year old]: Unloading the dishwasher, wiping down the entire kitchen. He vacuums, starts and rotates laundry, careful NEVER to touch my clothes which are air-dried only, he wipes down the dining room table, which is really a craft and home schooling paperwork disaster, wipes down all media, both computers/desks, empties waste baskets throughout the house, and empties and re-lines the kitchen garbage can. (The wiping and garbages can be done by either kid.) He gets an extra few bucks for giving the toilets a cursory wipe down in between my manic cleanings, and he sweeps the back porch, where we enter the house.
[10 year old]: puts the silverware away because she has total OCD about exactly how it's stacked and insists no one else can do it correctly, she makes sure all the shoes we kick off upon entry are stacked perfectly on the shoe sorter, lest I trip and fall and break my neck. She also dusts, wipes, and has to lint roll all upholstered furniture and my prized suede ottomans, mostly because I need it to be that way but I blame it on her dog. She uses the hand held Dirt Devil to vacuum all four bath mats because they are expensive and have to air dry for 13 years, so I keep them vacuumed. She re-stocks paper towels, t.p., napkins, etc., and sweeps and Swiffers the kitchen floor.
Both kids have to straighten their beds, keep clothes off the floor (not a problem, they've been doing it since birth), and put all their stuff in their own rooms, and bring in the recycling and garbage every week. I write chore lists every night or morning, and they are free to sleep in and start in when they're awake, but they can't wait until 4pm.

Karen is a mother of a 3.5 year old and a 6.5 year old:
At 3, getting dressed morning and evening, brushing his own teeth, feeding the dog breakfast, and putting his shoes in/near his cubby are all that I ask.
At 6, all of the above (except he does dinner for the dog), makes his bed every morning, takes the dog out once a day, and cleans up toys when asked (even if it’s not his own mess).

Heather has four children aged 14, 12, 5, and 2:
Older two help me with whatever I ask. They do dishes, help with laundry, mow the lawn, keep their areas clean, take out the trash, etc. The younger one cleans his room, clears his dishes off the table, and picks up his toys. The youngest one picks up her toys with assistance.

Emma shared what chores her 5 year old completes:
He clears his own plate from the table, puts his dirty clothes in the hamper, and is expected to help tidy when asked. He fixes his own snack and can get things for his sister. He helps to do laundry, and helps to put away laundry. He used to hang all the wet socks and underwear until our little line broke. He makes his own bed. He helps in the garden. Simple stuff like that. When he wants to, he mops the kitchen or bathroom. At 5 there aren't that many "chores" he can do totally unsupervised other than clean up his toys or make his bed, so I take the approach that he works with me when I am doing things.

Erin is the mother of 2 teens that are active with jobs and sports:
[Daughter] unloads the dishwasher every time it's clean. And [Son] takes out the garbage. They are expected to clean up after themselves, and put away their own laundry, I usually fold it, but sometimes I have [Daughter] do that. [Son] gets wood for our woodstove (we heat with it and heat water all year long.) I don't expect a lot, but I expect them to do it when I ask because I don't expect a lot. I don't have a lot of expectations for lots of reasons, but mostly because I want the focus to be on schoolwork during the week, not the 5 chores I have to do tonight. And [Daughter] works, plays softball and does a play at school and [Son] plays every sport known to man. I give them extra stuff to do on the weekends they are home, but I really want homework and extracurriculars to come first.

So, it looks like there are a lot of kids out there that have a list of things to do around the house. You can mention that to your child the next time they believe it's unfair that you ask the dishes be clean! However, are all of these children getting paid for their efforts? The answers were divided. Some parents believe that children should always receive an allowance; while others believe that “chores” should not receive compensation and only the “above and beyond” should be paid out.

Cheyenne: I do support allowance because it introduces helpfulness, an awareness of what it takes to run a household, a work ethic, and the satisfaction of earning their clink. Also, even kids need a few bucks, so it's a win-win all around. I don't believe kids should just get spending money every week for nothing.
The allowance we give is for chores. If we fall behind as a family, they are not punished. If they slack, they will bust their asses to make it up by Friday. Do the work, doing your best, 'cause I will have [Daughter] re-sweep if she misses corners, and you'll get your ca$h. Period.

Karen: When children become older and are responsible for much of what their parents hired out when they were younger, yet see no monetary gain, they become very resentful. In my opinion, if a child is responsible for laundry, cleaning the house, yardwork, or younger sibling care, they should be paid 50% of what you’d pay a professional to do the same job.

Denise is the mother of a 23 month old: I feel they should EARN an allowance, not just have it given to them. I think if they earn it then they can understand the value of money and learn to value hard work and be prepared for the real world.

Heather: We reward for going above and beyond, IE I will pay you $2 to clean out my car. But to me, pay is all commission.

Erin: I don't do allowances. I have always given them the money they need it to go out with friends or to a movie, and tell them the things they do are because they are a part of our household. If they do something I consider out of the norm, ([Son] gets $10 to mow our grass, and [Daughter] gets $5 for cleaning out the whole fridge, etc.) I pay them a nominal amount. That way they have the option to do more than expected to earn money, but we don't fight about the expectations. I want them to know that money does not grow on trees, but not have their world revolve around it, you know?

Focus on the Family reminds parents: First, recognize the difference between a chore (an ongoing task that benefits the household) and a life skill (an activity that children should know how to do before living on their own, such as managing a checking account).

The number of chores for each child varied by family. The consensus, however, was to refrain from overloading a child. The moms I spoke to believe in quality over quantity. Cheyenne sums it up by saying: I'd rather have a child do three things that really do help than 10 chores that are half-done. Burning them out serves no one. Just gotta gauge your own kids.

What about those kids that just REFUSE chores? Well, most of the moms use the natural consequences approach. Usually the consequences for not completing a chore are natural consequences: You lose the time for doing whatever you wanted to do next. Or maybe, a toy gets cleaned up and put away in the storage closet. But usually its more like, we'll go to the park when this is done, or something. -Emma

Well, what do I think?

I'm still figuring this one out. However, I'm leaning toward the belief that children shouldn't get paid for doing something that helps the household run. So, things like laundry or dishes don't get an allowance. If you do something above the daily chores like mow the lawn or wash the car you should be compensated accordingly. Also, if you do an especially good job of a regular chore (like, I ask you to clean the kitchen and you clean out the fridge in the process or I find you scrubbing the floor instead of just wiping) I'll give you a little something more.

Yes, my son is only 16 months old. So, what do I know, right? Well, children WANT to help us. Notice I said “children” and not “teenagers” there? My son doesn't view “helping Mama and Daddy” as chores. He views it as fun!
Right now he does several “chores” with help:

  • Puts his clothes in the drawer (I have to take them in there, but he puts them in the drawer)

  • Picks up toys and other messes

  • Puts up folded towels

  • Unloads the bottom rack in the dishwasher

  • Wipes low surfaces (well, sort of. He wipes a small area, but I believe it's the effort that counts)

  • Empties out his potty chair

No, I'm not some crazy slave driver that forces her small child into a life of labor! All of these things were done on his own. He started taking silverware out of the dishwasher while we unloaded it so we started saying “Thank you, Franklin!” and taking it out of his hand. He quickly learned that we wanted him to give it to us. Recently he started taking it out and lifting it into the drawer. He can't get it in the silverware divider, but he knows that the drawer is where it goes. He picked up a folded towel out of the blue one day and started walking to the bathroom with it. If I say, “Help Mommy pick up” when he's poured his snack all over the floor he'll come over and help me pick up the pieces. He's also much more thorough than I might be. He'll pick up the teeny tiny pieces that I plan to leave for the vacuum.

I really liked the information on the Focus on the Family website:

What do you do if you have teenagers that didn't develop the “chore” habit? First of all, you need to develop a line of communication. Sit down in a family meeting and find out exactly why they hate chores, if they feel they should be paid (and how much!), what chores do they find fair, etc... If you come in and start forcing chores on them they'll just dig their heels in even more. Everyone needs to know what's expected of them and why.
I do believe that teenagers be expected to help out around the house. If for no other reason than developing good habits and skills. Trust me, I went to college with 18-20 year olds that had no idea how to do simple tasks like laundry. This kids (for lack of a better word) were at a severe disadvantage. They don't need a lot of chores, but they do need basic skills.

I want to thank all of the moms that helped me with this project! I hope that this blog has helped you gain some perspective. If you have any additional thoughts or questions please post a comment!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's . . . Clean

Thank you to my mother-in-law! She came and helped me get on top of my house again. That meant hours of laundry, numerous trips to the garbage, and enough vacuuming to seriously flatten some carpet.

Now it's up to me to keep it that way.

So, a few things that we came up with to help.

1) The bins with diapers are in the hall closet. Franklin can't pull them out if he can't see them!

2) The laundry is under control and I'm back to doing a load or so a day.

3) I made a list for Stefan and I with "Things to do before bed"
     - Dishes (unloaded if they're clean. Sink empty)
     - Floor picked up (toys up and laundry picked up)
     - Dryer empty (folded and put away)
     - Pick up trash (brief sweep of the room to throw away unnecessary crap)
     - Kitchen clean (wiped down and leftovers away)

4) We need to buy a little handheld vac thingy for small messes. Part of the reason things got let go was due to having to lug out the big vacuum each time.

5) We've started doing disposable plates more often. No, not good for the environment or anything...but it's good for my sanity.

So, my biggest piece of advice? Enlist some help and get on top of things! Get your family involved!

Family update

The results of the ultrasound confirm that we're having another boy! We were kind of hoping for a girl, but girls are really are in my husband's family and it IS up to his chromosome! We have NO names picked out and we're still discussing the circumcision issue.


Update on Franklin: We're working on potty training. Right now we're hitting 50/50 catch/miss. I figure that for a 16 month old that's pretty awesome. It's funny because when you do early potty training (or EC) and have a miss most people react with, "Well, that's because it's too early! S/He can't understand!" However, when you start at 2 or 3 and have a miss the common reaction is, "Oh, that's potty training for you!" In my opinion, there is no difference. My son realizes when he has to use the potty most of the time. Sometimes he realizes too late and we're too far away from the potty. However, we are able to make it to the potty for 95% of his poops and for more pees each time. He's started standing in front of the potty to pee in it...which is fine by me. As long as it makes it into the potty I don't care!!!

He's also started putting the towels up! Well, grabbing a folded towel and walking to the bathroom and letting someone lift him up and help him put it away.

So, chores Franklin does with help:
- Towels away
- Unload bottom rack of dishwasher
- Pick up dropped food or toys

Those are the family updates. Stefan's hours are getting better. There's not much to update on him or me at the moment...he's still Air Force and I'm still pregnant!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Are My Standards Really THAT High?

This is not what I strive for...honest.

I've been told recently, by family and a variety of terms, that I need to lower my standards. My house can't be THAT bad. I have a child to take care of and I'm pregnant. A few dishes is no big deal. Laundry can wait to get folded. I need to put my feet up and paint my toenails. I need new expectations. I need to stop stressing over the "little things." Hopefully, some of you that have said these things (or even thought them) are reading this post. 

There's also the other side of the coin. I put up a "To Do" list on Facebook and, on a really really good day, knock some of it out...and I inspire people. Can I just tell you how much of an inspiration I'm NOT? We all have good days, but mine are very few and far between as of late. 
So, I decided to take a few photos of what my house looks like on a typical day. I hate doing this. However, maybe, just maybe, it will help everyone see things through MY eyes. 

*Deep Breath*
This is one view of my kitchen.  Yes, I wake up each and every morning to a sink with dishes and crap all over the counters. 

The cutting board is filthy. That pan? It still has soy paste residue in it from dinner TWO nights ago. The smell, however, is sickening to me so I have avoided touching it.

Another view of the sink. (Ignore the brown package. That's thawing for later)

Why not just clean up before bed? Well, after running around after a toddler all day, spending time in the kitchen during the day making breakfast and lunch, and then spending MORE time making dinner the last thing I feel like doing is spending even more time in the kitchen in the evening. Stefan gets home after his 11 hour day (I hate you, Flight Chief) and he doesn't want to do anything either. *Rolls Eyes* we make quite the pair.

The kitchen is one of THOSE places for me, too. I'm picky about kitchens and bathrooms. If I clean nothing else in a house it's those places. A bad kitchen or bathroom will cause me to turn down an apartment. So, when my kitchen looks like this (or worse) I will actually avoid entering it because my anxiety gets going. I've been known to sit on the floor of a kitchen and cry because the mess was overwhelming.  

 That is a FULL SIZED Pack-N-Play full of clean laundry. This is what happens when the laundry "can wait" or whatever. My husband hates to fold laundry to the point that he won't do it. I can't fold during the day because my son wrecks folded piles. The only time I have to fold laundry is late at night...and after a long day who wants to do more chores, really?

Normally, I'd fold some laundry and put it on the dining table...the same table you see above. The stuff on the floor? Probably 80% dirty laundry that has yet to find its way to the laundry room.

More open space with random crap on the floor. If I could show you the state of the carpet I totally would. However, in order to vacuum there needs to be room to do so...and obviously that's not possible.

My entryway. Yeah, so even coming home is a disaster area.

An overall shot of the whole sha-bang. Diapers, laundry, toys, chairs, etc...

This is the entrance to the bedroom on a mild day. Sometimes there's several days worth of clothing on the floor. I recently picked up the rest of the room so it's not as bad as it was. (Think: Living room in the bedroom)

The Master Bathroom. Towels, clothes, baby toys...this is on a good day.

The first person to say, "A place for everything and everything in its place" will get a virtual smack in the face. We don't have that kind of storage. Yes, we have draws and cabinets...however, they're all at child level and he's in the "pull everything on the floor" stage of his development. "Well, just babyproof" right? Yeah, we have 3 drawers that will not work with drawer catches and cabinet catches are expensive. Roughly $15 for 2 locks (because we can't install them so they have to be the strong sticky kind) We would be locking at least 8 cabinets/drawers. That's $120 on cabinet/drawer locks and 1 very unhappy baby. He likes to climb in and sit with me while I cook sometimes. It's like a little chair for him. He's also putting items in and out of different drawers which, apparently, is a great way to learn spatial reasoning. (What size items fit best in which drawer kind of thing)

I don't strive for Show Home status. I used to, and then he got mobile. Right now, I'll take livable...and this isn't it.


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