19 March 2009

NOT a Lazy Mom

"It is a Lazy Mom who cleans up after her Children."

It was those words that greeted me when I walked into a class on teaching your children to work. And my first thought was, "Hey! Them's fighting words there!" And then I started to listen. This was, after all, a class on teaching your children HOW TO WORK. (Those can also be fighting words, depending on the house and the children.)

I learned to work at a very early age. I'm not sure WHAT that age was, but I have distinct memories of hiding in the grape arbor eating all the strawberries that I was supposed to be weeding and thinking that I was so smart because Mom couldn't see me shirking my work. What I didn't know at the time was that the second floor kitchen window provided the PERFECT view into the grape arbor, and I wasn't really hiding. Mom could see EVERYTHING. That little story aside, I am truly grateful that I got in trouble for not working and that my parents insisted that I learn how.

Having children of my own, the struggle comes in how do I teach them to pick their own toys up and help keep the house clean without feeling like the Wicked Witch of the East (I would say West, but I just went to see WICKED last night, and my view on her Royal Greenness has changed) vs It's a WHOLE lot EASIER to send them outside to play and just clean the dang house myself. Less fighting and less crying (yes, sometimes that's my crying that I'm talking about) and it gets done a whole lot quicker.

That thought about being a Lazy Mother just really got me though. I've never considered myself to be a lazy mom. That's almost the ultimate oxymoron. Mother and Lazy should not even be spoken in the same sentence! Until I started really thinking about it. I want my children to learn to work. Teaching them to do that is Hard! How many times does one really have to show someone else how to do something until that someone else can do it on their own??? (only about a bazillion, but who's counting???) And really. What mother has that kind of time? So it really is easier to clean up after your kids. BUT. What does it profit the kids, and think of the time you can spend doing things you really WANT to do if your kids are doing what you DON'T want to do, but end up doing anyway because no one else is doing it?

Here's my thought. Spend the time now teaching your kids, and then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labors.

How? It's really quite simple - and difficult at the same time.

Change your attitude. If your children see you griping and complaining about the work that needs to be done, they're going to gripe and complain. If you have to fake it until you make it - do it. Your kids don't need to know that you 're really a big faker. And, if they see you enjoying (even if you're really cursing under your breath), they'll start enjoying it too.

That's the first.

Second. Give them ownership of something. Make them totally responsible for something. And then, LOWER YOUR STANDARDS... DRASTICALLY. Remember how you used to shove everything in the world under your bed just so the floor LOOKED clean? They're doing the same thing. And to them, it's clean. You've grown up and are no longer hiding things under the bed because you don't want to clean up - they'll eventually figure it out. And if they don't, then start doing surprise inspections under the bed. It does wonders for getting things out from under the bed. This works really well for kids under the age of - oh, 20...

Third. Give them their own supplies. When you go to work, they give you everything you need to get the job done. Do the same for your children. Mine are seven and three. I went to the local discount store and purchased rubber gloves for the seven year old, cheap sponges for both of them, towels to make into aprons, towels to do the dusting with, and a bucket for each of them to keep their supplies in. Each bucket also has an individual envelope that has their chores in it - labeled with their name. Then - and this was for them the most important part - I had a friend make them some name tags. Now, when they do their chores, they're wearing their name tags to show that they're employeed by our family. And they LOVE IT! I had my seven year old doing ALL her chore in the same day because she was so excited to wear that name tag.

Fourth- use positive encouragement. Have your children inspect something that you're working on; and then use the same standards to judge their work. Whatever you do, DON'T FIX IT YOURSELF. If you give in to this evil, you'll spend a lot more time convincing them to do their chores. They'll get it into their cute little heads that "Mom will just fix it if I don't do it all." And that's a trap that you want to avoid like the plague.

Finally. Give them age appropriate chores to do. Each child is going to be different: My seven year old wanted the chore of cleaning the downstairs bathroom. Since that's the one that gets used the most, I was 100% willing to let someone else take ownership of that chore. And now... she's got it. In her little chore envelope, under "Clean the Downstairs Bathroom", she has a card that lists out exactly what I expect of her. I showed her what I expected, and now the chore is hers. No longer will I clean the bathroom. At the end of the week if it hasn't been cleaned twice, she's the one who will be up cleaning, not me.

While it can be a little discouraging for a long time - be patient with your children. The whole threat of "I brought you into this world, I can sure take you out of it too" lands mothers in jail when they act on it. Not to say that I haven't been tempted. But if I can teach my children to love work, I can truly turn into a lazy mom.

Now... where are the bon-bons? I want to sit and watch my favorite show.