This is adapted from something I wrote to somebody else a few years ago in response to a question about how to handle bad attitudes about chores.
Reading it makes me wince a little because I think I did this much more successfully with my first two, with much less consistency with the next two, and hardly at all with the youngest two (The Cherub is a category, parenting story, and delight all her own).
First think about your goals and your reasons for those goals. Here are some of ours:
Do everything without grumbling or complaining. (Phil 2:12-15)
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, (Col 3:23)
The best way to get this cheerful attitude from your kids is to demonstrate it yourself, to work alongside them showing them your own diligence and cheerfulness, and to make it fun. I totally fail at this myself, although I have tried, and even occasionally tried with some moderate success. I mopped the floor with my then 2 year old oldest child while singing “We are scrubbing Mommy’s floor” to the tune of Jacob’s Ladder, for instance. A friend of mine would write down all the chores she wanted done that day on slips of paper and the kids would draw a slip and race to compete their chore, then draw the next piece of paper- all of them running around in a race against time to finish all the chores in record time.
In addition to modeling the behavior and attitude I want:
Grumbling and complaining
are should be immediately and consistently rewarded with more work to do (usually a toilet to scrub). This word consistent is often a discouraging word, isn’t it? But let me share that if you aim for consistency and fail you will still have far more successes than if you throw your hands up in despair as soon as you see the word and decide not to even try. That sentence was for me, Gentle Readers.
Cheerful, uncomplaining work
is should also be rewarded, with a smile and thanks. In the past when I realized grumbling had become the norm with my first two, I made up a list of short rewards the children could choose:
Sing a song with mom
Read a short story with mom
Play on the piano for five minutes
You get to choose the vegetable we have on the side at supper time.
talk on the phone for 5 minutes
Listen to a song you like
And so forth. I forget everything on the list and so do they, but I wish I had written them down and saved it. At any rate, when I saw them accomplish their chores with good cheer and as much speed as they could, then I told them to choose a reward from the chart. All the things on the list were things they really liked to do, but didn’t take a lot of time or money to do. We literally did not have a spare three dollars to take somebody out to the store or go to a fast food place, and I didn’t even have a good thrift shop available when we started this. I am old enough that when I was a young mother, there weren’t even any dollar stores. Quit snickering or I’ll tell you the story about walking to school in the snow uphill both ways and how we used to sharpen our quills.
Anyway, whenever somebody was especially cheerful and uncomplaining they got to select a reward. I also gave them nickels occasionally for good attitudes. They were young and nonmaterialistic and didn’t know the value of money then, and I needed them to have a good supply of nickels for reasons I shall reveal in the next paragraph. I also had a list of rewards that took more time- like a list of fifteen minute rewards, and a list of thirty minute ones. They had to save up their five minute rewards for these or wait until I both had the free time and was impressed with a long stretch of good attitudes and told them they could have a thirty minute reward. This more time consuming rewards list included activities like play a board game, bake cookies, fix Mom’s hair, look through the jewelry box, look at a photo album, paint, play with play dough.
If they weren’t quite grumpy enough to be sent to scrub a toilet or some other extra chore, but weren’t as cheerful as I wanted them to be, they were instantly fined one nickel (which is why I had to give them some nickels as a reward from time to time. This way we kept the nickels recycling).
We also made a silly and fun game out of their responses for a while. If they responded with that sort of glum, gasping death cry of Oh, Mom… I would say something like “What? I didn’t hear you. I think you meant to say, “Oh, Yes, my dearest and most delightful and honored above all other Mothers, you wish is my command, you have but to speak and I obey with alacrity. I live to serve! I leap to grant your every wish and nothing could please me more!” This ‘script’ changed a bit each time, but the idea was the same- it had to be silly, stuffy, ridiculous, and over the top and they had to repeat it. They would usually grin and respond more cheerfully.
We did do other things from time to time, but this general outline might spark some creativity in other households. What you do need not look exactly like what we did. What my children considered a treat won’t be the same for your children (I can’t see The Boy getting quite the same charge out of getting to look through my old jewelry box).
I chose scrubbing the toilet because all they had to do was take the long handled brush and give it a brush a few times. I didn’t require a full deep cleaning. They didn’t even have to use the cleaners. So it wasn’t a hard or chemical laden task, just one that they thought gross. I had very clean toilets for a few weeks, as I recall. Cleaning hair brushes, scrubbing the sink drain edges with a toothbrush, cleaning out a small wastebasket, dusting a lampshade, sweeping out under a piece of furniture that often is forgotten- these are all tasks that might be just as suitable. The idea isn’t to degrade them, just assign something distasteful enough that they will remember to keep a firm hold on their good cheer next time.
Visit the other Four Moms and see what they have to say!
Raising Olives, married 15 years, mama to 11, homeschooling graduate herself-
Connie at Smockity Frocks, married 25 years, mom to 8. We were blog buddies for a year or two before we realized that we had very dear mutual friends in real life. How cool is that?!
Kim at Life in a Shoe, homeschool grad, mama to a family of 13
Me, DeputyHeadmistress and former Zookeeper (I gave up keeping a zoo when coyotes and coons killed our chickens) of this blog, The Common Room and our cooking blog, The Common Kitchen; married 30 years, mom to seven plus unofficial foster mom to two little boys, Mama-in-Law to two, and Grandmama to four blessings under 3, with number 5 on the way, and yes we are very proud.=)
We four moms also wrote a book together, and you can buy the Four Moms parenting book, which you can get as a Kindle or as an e-book document:
See my other Kindle books, too:
101 Answers to the Summertime, “Mom, I’m Bored” Blues; help your kids use their free time creatively and productively. Give them ideas that will help them use their time and energy to create, to learn, to grow- to contribute. This is not your average ‘keep the kids out of your hair’ book.
Required Poems for Reading and Memorizing (annotated); Charming collection of older poems that you and the kids just might love.
Ten Low-Carb Snacks and Quick Meals Okay, actually, there’s a little more than ten, and they aren’t merely low-carb, they are also sugar-free, grain-free, gluten free. NOT dairy-free.