Monday, October 19, 2009


I bribed Silas to rake the front lawn yesterday. Five bucks. That's big money in our house. And I tried to keep my expectations low: I remembered Swistle's excellent comment about when her two bigger kids help out: they are not very efficient or effective, and if they were a tool from Target she would totally ask for her money back, but the little bit that they can do is helpful. Plus, I reminded myself, there's the "building character" factor, although I've never been clear if this factor is negated if you pay the children. I vote no. Because as much as I wishity wish it, my kids aren't going to help out just from the sheer joy of contributing to the household.

But: he did it. The lawn actually looks raked this morning. Not, er, well-raked, but still: raked. Most of the grass is visible again. And there's an enormous pile of leaves in the back, covering up the half of the yard upon which grass does not grow. I haven't figured out a good way to measure Si's character, but I'm confident that it is bigger, or shinier, or whatever happens to it when it gets "built."

These are the kind of chore in which Si excels, anyway. Big, fun, messy, and--most important--limited. Bribery is like antibiotics to this kid: you can't prescribe it too often, or it loses its effectiveness. We tried paying him to mow the lawn (with a nonmotorized push mower, CPS people) last summer, and it worked great for about two times. Then he couldn't be bothered. Same with loading the dishwasher. "Again?" he wails, which I totally get, but still can't really sympathize. And of course we make both kids pick up their crap and put away their laundry. But overall, we're having less success with getting helping out around the house to become part of the daily routine. Chore charts are effective, but again only for about two weeks, and then we all start forgetting to fill them out. As much as I have always admired color-coordinated family chore calendars ("Joe washes the dishes on Tuesdays and Fridays, Ruth on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and Karin and Katey on Saturday and Sunday," etc.) I have never been able to actually write one out. It makes me feel a) controlling and b) like a total dork. And no matter what sort of chore arrangement we have as a family, "nagging" always seems to be my job.

What about you? How do you handle household chores?

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