Follow The Apparent Parent by Email

Friday, May 27, 2011

Flashback to childhood: Why kids don't like chores

It's easy to take the easy way out when
doing chores, and kids know it.
As I was voluntarily doing the dishes tonight for my 9-months pregnant wife, I had a flashback to by childhood. Tonight, the table was littered with enough crumbs to feed all the mice in the long grass behind our house for a week. This is actually a normal scenario in my household with the two self-feeding tornadoes I call my kids.

But as I was finishing emptying the sink, I had a heck of a time convincing myself to wash the tables and counter down. First I thought my wife would think I had done enough because I already did the dishes. But I looked at the table, knowing I didn't want my pregnant wife to have to do it. I still had to actively campaign against myself to choose the right.

Even as I took the rag and began to wipe the table, a wicked little thought hit: I could wipe all the crumbs onto the ground and not have to carry a mass of bread mush back to the sink. The wife wouldn't be the wiser since she expects to need to sweep after every meal, courtesy our children.

As I had this wicked little thought, I flashed back to my childhood, when I always just did the lazy thing, brushing crumbs from counters and tables onto the floor where it was no longer my problem. I can remember countless discussions with my parents about how to sweep the icky-nasty crumbs into my palm to carry over to the trash (trash compactors didn't exist back then, to my knowledge.) I knew how to do it, but my child's mind just rationalized naughtily that if I continued to do it wrong, one of two things would happen: 1. Nothing. 2. I would stop getting asked to do that chore. After all, I was young enough that my parents could actually believe I wasn't capable of doing it right, right?

Back then, it wasn't so much about getting out of work as it was about touching someone else's food particles. The concept just didn't appeal to me. Especially since the moist rag would turn it into a mush that felt like gooey oatmeal inside the rag, which I then had to clean out in the sink.

Not to say I didn't have my lazy streak. We washed all pots and pans (the big dishes, we called them) by hand. Nothing coated with Teflon touched the washing machine. So when it was my turn to wash the big dishes, I did a really cruddy job. On purpose. Because I didn't like it. And knew my Mom would just do it if I didn't. I'm pretty sure I left greasy streaks, bits of meat and entire spaghetti noodles still stuck to the bottom of the pan in the dishes I pronounced clean. Then when I got confronted on the crapitude of my work, I used this incredibly valid excuse: "I don't know how to do the big dishes." This was usually followed by a lengthy lesson on how to wash pots and pans satisfactorily. I knew how to do it. I was a smart kid. Did my parents buy that I didn't know how? No. I'm sure of that, in retrospect.

But my good-natured mother just took over when I let some slack in the reins, and yes, even stopped asking me to perform the chores on which my performance was an enormous bit of theater performance.

So sometimes the kids don't want to do the chores for reasons they don't state, like me with the mushy crumbs. And other times, they will convince you they don't know how to do a chore they can do adequately just to wear you down.

Don't let it happen. The kids are smart, but you still probably realize what they're doing. Don't pretend like you're falling for the routine. You know your kids. Give them the benefit of the doubt, when possible, but don't let them feed you excuses that an elephant couldn't swallow. You'll get a kid that will more often do things he/she doesn't want to do just because you asked.

How do you keep your kids honest about chore performance?

No comments:

Post a Comment