The other day I had “a moment.” I’m not proud of this moment, but it’s relevant, so here goes.
Sam, my four-year-old, and I were spending time together. I wanted to do something “school” related with him.
The spring semester of the “preschool” I teach at home was pretty much non-existent due to the flu and my miscarriage, and I was afraid he would forget how to hold a pencil or something. I gave him some crayons, and a coloring sheet of Lightning McQueen.
You would have thought I was making him drag buckets of coal, in the snow, up Mount Kilimanjaro.
The weeping, the whining, the moaning. And finally – the apathy. (This was were I lost it.)
He was learning down on the table like a limp washcloth, hand barely holding the crayon, making little scrawling scribbles that – honest to goodness – my seven-month-old niece Katie would make if she were at the table.
He got an earful. I can’t remember everything, but the basic gist was: WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THIS? THIS IS JUST HORRIBLE. THIS IS A HORRIBLE DRAWING. YOU NEED TO DO IT AGAIN AND TRY HARDER.
(At this point I started to think that, definitely, I got it wrong when I thought I was called to be a homeschooling mother.)
Well, I eventually gave Sam a hug, and a happier talk about how God wants us to work hard, and how he needs to be a hard worker so he can grow up and have a big-guy job. I think he got the picture.
Later when I was discussing with my husband, I said, “I can’t even believe it, but I honestly feel like Sam is a little bit…lazy.”
We both had to gulp over the word a little. Because see, our kids are actually awesome. Perfect, almost. They are hilarious, athletic, brilliant, pleasant little ones, and the idea that I am raising lazy, less-than-perfect children is difficult to swallow.
And to top if off, they DO work hard…when they want to. Puzzles, towers, forts, digging holes: they’ll work for hours! But if they don’t like a job, well, they don’t want to do it.
And there’s my tentative, young-mother working definition of laziness: only doing what you feel like doing in life.
So apparently my kids aren’t perfect. Who knew.
Well, if you realize your kids need to work on their work ethic, as I did, what do you do?
I’m not an expert on this. I’m sure there are moms of eight grown kids who write books on these things. But for me, here is what I have learned.
- When you’re ready to work on work, strap on your seatbelt…because it might be a bumpy ride. I view it like potty training. You’re trying to change a behavior that’s as old as the kid…It will not be fun at first, and it will take time. But it’s worth it! You just might have to gear yourself up for it!
- Expect resistance. If your child is not in the habit of making his bed, expect him to look at you like you have four eyes and have launched from Mars when you tell him he can’t come out until he’s helped you make the bed. Just keep re-enforcing that yes, this is what it is expected. One thing that’s helped me is our daily schedule chart: (Don’t laugh at my drawings.)
I followed a visual daily schedule similar to the one at Keeper of the Home. For chores, it’s much better when there is a third party involved. Don’t blame me, it’s on the schedule! The schedule says it’s time for chores! Better listen to the schedule!
- When you pick the jobs, decide ahead of time what is appropriate for your child, and do these things daily. I like to think of “work” for young kids in these four categories:
- physical activity (unless they’re sick) – riding his bike, running around, throwing a ball with me. For my child, this is usually not a problem. All kids, whether they want to or not, should have some level of physical activity. That is appropriate for you to expect that.
- mental/academic. This applies even if you do NOT plan to homeschool. Because guess what? You’ll spend a large portion of the next 18 years getting your kid to do his homework! So we all better get used to the idea of making our kids do academic work they may or may not feel inclined to do at the moment. My kids are two and four, so “school time” is very limited and extremely informal. Mostly it’s fun and they enjoy it. But for Sam at four years old, he knows now we do it whether he “feels like it” or not.
- personal care – I recently heard, “Don’t do anything for your child that she can do for herself.” Are you doing things for your kids they can do? Can they take over their dishes? Put on their shoes? Clean up their rooms, or make their beds?
- household jobs – These are the “chores” you might typically think of. I’m still learning about implementing these, so I’d love some input for what you’ve done with your kids. Currently my four-year-old feeds the fish, empties the silverware, helps to fold washcloths 🙂 and dusts. Any other ideas?
- YOU work hard, and make it really obvious. My mom gave me this idea. Throughout your day, as you’re working, draw attention to highly tuned work ethic. Look at me! I’m scrubbing these dishes! Wow, this is hard work! I’m tired, but I’m not stopping! Wow, it’s fun to work hard! Warning: this self-flattering narration kind of gets addicting, and it’s a little awkward when I do it in public, but oh well.
- Rejoice like crazy. Again, think back to the potty training. When that little one goes on the potty, you dance, you sing, you jump up and down! And they love it. Anytime I think of it during the day, I praise Sam for what a good, hard worker he’s becoming.
- It still counts if they’re pretending. My son is at the “imaginative” stage in learning. All day long, he’s someone big doing something important. Instead of interrupting the play, I will sneak the chores into the pretend world. “Hey, big fireman! I need you to put away these dishes so the other fireman can eat when they get back from fighting the big fire!” Does this work? In a word, YES!
The point is, set small, reasonable chores for your children, and don’t back down. It will click soon, and they might actually like work!
What kind of chores do your kids do? Do you sometimes find it difficult to get them to work?
This post is linked to www.wearethatfamily.com, www.raisinghomemakers.com, http://proverbs14verse1.blogspot.com/ and http://milkandcuddles.com., www.raisingmightyarrows.net,
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