It’s been brewing up for a while. Rather like the tooth fairy who ‘magically’ appears overnight to collect teeth and leaves behind her a coin or two – or Santa, who, for those who have been extremely good and well-behaved during the year, delivers a sackful of pressies to expectant kids on Christmas morning; I’ve come to the conclusion that most kids just assume there’s a whole ensemble of elves who ‘magically’ make their beds, draw their curtains, pick up entire heaps of clothes that have been unceremoniously dumped on the floor, remove dirty cups and plates that are festering underneath beds or awaiting collection from the dining room table longing for a luxurious soaking in the kitchen sink or dishwasher. And don’t get me started as to how on earth dirty clothes are adept at getting into a washing machine, transported to the tumble dryer and unbelievably, find themselves in a tidy pile waiting to be put away back into drawers and wardrobes. You may detect a degree of familiarity with some or all of the above. And the list could go on ……..
After 18 months in Canada, I finally flipped. The volcano erupted. I declared – in no uncertain terms to my pack of 3 kids who were casually lounging on the sofa – that contrary to popular belief, this was not an extended holiday. We may be in an entirely different country, but we were not residing in a hotel and there was a degree of expectation that everyone in the household had to pull their weight. Not used to witnessing an emotional outburst with such heartfelt passion and conviction, all 3 kids sat in stunned disbelief. I was on a roll. I continued ……. and each kid would be receiving a list of ‘mandatory requirements’ that they would be expected to fulfil on both a daily basis, and each week. Sensing the need to instil an incentive to encourage the behaviour change (all my work skills were being put to the test …….), I offered a monetary reward which would be determined once every week based on the level of commitment visibly displayed.
Now, trial and error has determined over the years, that the best way to instigate new changes in the household is to sow the seed and just leave it to germinate for a day or so before moving onto stage 2. Day 2 brought with it a significant interest from each of the 3 kids as to ‘what would be on the job list’. I would even go so far as to say that there was a newfound enthusiasm which caught me out somewhat – rejection, grumbling, general lethargy I’d anticipated – but if I’m honest, I’d never expected to witness eagerness or a bubbling excited anticipation. My middle kid even offered the use of her ‘special’ colour pens and posh drawing paper on which I could construct the job sheet ….. now if only my husband demonstrated similar traits when faced with a job list I’d have it made ……
So, we now have 3 job sheets – one for each of the kids. It may be only the second week in, but the level of adoption and completion of the basic tasks (nothing too exciting – make the bed, draw the curtains, put dirty clothes in the wash basket…….) has been whole-heartedly embraced. In fairness, I hadn’t factored in sibling rivalry which has seen a healthy competitive element emerge between all 3. In fact, it’s become self-policing too as the other sisters ‘helpfully’ ensure each other is accurate in their assessment that the task is complete before ticking it on their list.
I even threw in some extra tasks and suggested that each kid needs only to complete 4 of these a week – but extra recognition would be given to those who performed over and above this. Things like – ‘offer to help in the kitchen’, ‘make Mum a cup of tea’, ‘put the pots in the dishwasher’ were just some of the activities suggested. Let’s just say, I’ve not been disappointed with the several cups of tea that have been made for me in the last week plus the dishwasher has actually been opened and filled by hands other than mine …..
Now I’m not totally naive. I know its early days – but the concept has been well received and behaviours are starting to change. They’re not bad kids, but like their father – they’re easily distracted and are want to get sidetracked on more enticing and attractive activities at the drop of a hat – so much so, that I’m going to have to come up with various strategies just to keep things fresh, interesting and motivation levels high. In the meantime, I’m making the most of creating new job opportunities for a willing workforce. My next task is to expand the concept and introduce my husband to the approach. Something tells me the resistance level may be akin to the response Margaret Thatcher experienced during the early 1980’s ……