Saturday, August 01, 2009

Don't buck the system

The task of getting our children to complete their chores has long been daunting and frustrating. We've tried numerous systems--both reward- and punishment-based--and nothing has worked very well for very long. We've gone quite a while without a system, and the results were less than satisfactory. Oh, sure, we could get them to do some chores, with much cajoling, yelling, and/or threatening. Not ideal. And then, once the chores were begun, they dragged on FOREVER. Again, not ideal.

Aside from having a very hard time getting the girls to do their chores, they have also spent the majority of the summer hypnotized by some sort of electrical device: TV, computer, or phone. Let me preface, for those of you who may not know, that because I am working this summer, the girls are at our house most days while Aaron, who works nights, sleeps. Again, this is not ideal, but it's the way it's worked out.

So in any case, the chore situation combined with the overuse of technology came to a head last week when Chloe took 45 minutes to unload the dishwasher. I was talking to my mom on the phone and she was making suggestions for how to adjust our approach. I honestly don't remember which ideas came from where, but we now have a new system in the Maddox household, and I am venturing to say, one week in, that this system just might work.

So here's the deal: instead of doing whatever they want whenever they want, the girls have to earn their time by doing chores. And, instead of taking forever and a day to fold a basket of laundry, Halle now has to fold and put the clothes away in 20 minutes or less. If she does, she earns 20 minutes; if she takes more than 20 minutes, she earns nothing. Likewise, instead of taking 45 minutes to unload the dishwasher, Chloe has 30 minutes in which to complete the task. If she does, she earns 30 minutes; if not, nada. And the real kicker is, for any time left over (not spent) at the end of the week, they get paid.

I realize the true test of this system will be time, but let me just share a few success stories. Not only have the girls suddenly found the capacity to do their chores quickly and well--a feat heretofore thought impossible--they have also found great enjoyment in playing instead of vegging. They have chosen to play together and to do creative things instead of watching TV! Instead of getting phone calls at work about who's hogging the computer, I've called them to see what they're doing, and they've been playing Barbies, or doing art projects, or playing cards. It's phenomenal! It's spectacular! It's unexpected and wonderful! This past week, the girls have done their chores (mostly) willingly, have asked for extra chores to do so they can earn extra time, and have watched so little TV, I've got whiplash. They have hoarded their time, spending it carefully, and are each looking forward to getting paid this evening. They are, as I type, playing Go Fish, not watching SpongeBob.

I could not have asked for better results, and the great things is, they are the ones who are perpetuating this system. Truth be told, the downfall of most of the other systems was that I was the one who had to keep them going, and I struggle with consistently doing them. But the girls have enjoyed this thing. I hope and pray that this will continue to work. I'm sure we'll have to adjust it some once school starts, but I have hope we can tweak it as needed.


Chris said...

Amy, this is GREAT! I just have one question - how do they "spend" their time? I don't quite get that part.

Amy said...

They spend their time if they choose to watch TV, play on the computer, or talk on the phone to friends.

I forgot to mention, time can also be lost.