The Summer of Hard Work

 My kids are probably the only ones in the world who hate doing work. They whine and cry and pout, stomp their feet, slam doors and are really good at dragging it out. Their number one complaint is "it's too hard," said in their best whiny voice. In my experience when something seems too hard, after a bit of practice it becomes a cinch. Let the practicing begin...

I set up a training program for the month of June. I made cards with all of the work and home school tasks I feel they are ready to do. Wrote out exact instructions, attached a picture and a star value, then laminated them for the long haul. The first three weeks of summer break I kept our schedule clear so that they would have enough opportunity to complete their daily assignments of three chores and 3 school tasks. Stars were awarded for completed tasks that were approve by Mom or Dad.

Once they earned 8 stars they got to choose a prize from the grab box, 18 set up a play date, 30 toy from the dollar store, 40 carousel ride at the mall, 50 late night movie with popcorn and 60 - 10 tokens at Chuck E. Cheese. Each week started over with the star count. All tasks had to be completed by dinner to earn stars and dinner could only be had if all tasks were completed before bedtime.

The single best piece of advice I have taken from the Love and Logic discipline series is that a time limit has to be set and a natural consequence has to follow. Just like you don't get a paycheck (which buys dinner) when you don't show up to work. I can't make my kids do the work I ask of them. It has to be done and I know it is easier to just do it myself. Yet I have a drive to instill a good work ethic in my children. I feel my dad did that for me and when I look around at the other people in my generation, I see that lack of motivation is a big hardship later in life.

The kids were excited to get started, especially Brik. When someone would ask him what he is doing this summer he would excitedly tell them about the work and the home school and the stars and the prizes. They both earned more that 50 stars the first week and enjoyed the rewards. By the second day of week two, Brik lost some motivation and missed his first dinner. I was proud of the way he handled it and though he cried some, he took full responsibility for his sadness. Week 2 Layne earned more than 60 stars, we were impressed with his drive.

In the third week of training, I met resistance. Lots of crying, whining, pouting, procrastinating and so on. Jarom thought this was the end, but oh, no, I am a fighter. I know a dinner or two was lost for the both of them and they earned few rewards, but we kept trucking on. It was nice to have Papa drop in for the weekend to give us all a reprieve.

Week four was the hardest yet. The kids each started a 3 week Monday through Friday summer camp. Brik attends 3 hours in the morning and Layne 4 hours in the afternoon. We bumped the work load down to 2 school and 2 work assignments. We added the option of bonus tasks that earn double stars that neither took advantage of. The kids had a really hard time managing their time and earned less than 30 stars all week.

There are two more weeks they have to learn to manage their time better, then they are off for a vacation in Iowa. We only have 3 weeks before school starts to finish up the training. Once they are in school I will expect one job a day with their teacher's homework assignments to be completed before dinner and three jobs on regular Saturday's.

Despite all of the distress this training program has brought, I am pleased with the many changes it has brought about. Sunday's prove to be a most relaxing day with no job assignments except dishes, which job we turned over to them more than a year ago, when they went through the same ugly process. Now they both do their dishes quickly when told without any hassling (hope that I hold on to). I love to see that they look forward to church and the quiet, relaxing day.

Another bonus is that the kids are not "bored" so they do not fight as much, they seem to play nicer when they are avoiding work. They have become more aware about dirt, clutter and where things belong. I love to hear them tell their friends to clean one thing up before they get another out, show their brother where something belongs and explain to others that when you touch a window it leaves spots. The best is when they call each other out when they see the other making a mess like "Layne, you need to fix this to the way it was" or "Brik, you have to clean that up because I had it all clean."

I have noticed that they are picking up on how easy maintenance is verses waiting until things get out of hand. Some things that were overwhelming and took a lot of time are now simple and fast. One of Layne’s jobs is to wipe his buggers off the walls. It was grueling the first time and he felt cheated that it only earned him two stars. Now he thinks before he wipes and anytime we can help impulsive Layne think before he does something, it is pretty miraculous.

The assignment that has brought me greatest joy this summer is organizing kitchen drawers. They have to pull everything out, vacuum the crumbs, wipe the surface and replace it all in an organized way. Brik especially is fantastic about it and neither mind doing it. It has been one of those deep cleaning things that I have been meaning to get to for more than a year. Now when I open a drawer that is clean and tidy, I can’t help but smile.

Work is good and it only gets easy after it is hard first.


Nancy Pitney said...

Your house sounds exactly like mine growing up! In the summers we could earn "Haynes Bucks", but we only got the money if the jobs were done before 11 am (that was after swim practice and all morning activities!). We had the same set up: buy items out of the prize box or save up for something bigger. Funny how I remember my brothers earning a lot fewer Haynes Bucks than I did! :) Keep up the good work!

kami said...

That is so great Kara! I am seriously bookmarking this for the future. I really want to instill a good work effort in my children. I was #8 and unfortunately, by the time I came around, my parents were too exhausted to make me do anything. Luckily, I don't feel that it has hindered me, but I do want to make family work a part of who we are. It is definitely easier to do things by myself but so important to teach my children to do their part.

When do you recommend starting something like this? Max is three and I can tell he is beginning to dislike doing chores. He used to be great at helping pick up and do other things but the resistance has started. I don't know that he would understand such a complicated system at this age, but perhaps I can create something for him that is more on his level. I'd be interested to know how you approached work when you had littler ones.

Kara said...

Kami, probably not until 5 or 6. It is working for my 5 year old, but he is easy going and has an older example that seems to solidify concepts. A three year old needs more immediate rewards. I used to think of a few things they could do for work each day and wait for them to ask me for something like a snack or to get down a certain toy. Then I would tell them I will do it after they do _______.

kami said...

Okay, that sounds good. That is what I do right now (for example Max just wanted a snack and he had to clean up his army guys before he got the snack). I really like this idea though for older kids!