Although I have successes and failures when chores are concerned, and some weeks I seem to see progress in cleanup attitudes, I have found myself frustrated a number of times lately. My responses don’t seem to be making a difference in the lives of my children, and I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong or how to fix the problem. I guess that means it’s time to think through things more systematically.
In short, all the children have been consistently having a problem doing chores cheerfully and moderately efficiently. David does adequately most of the time, but I’ve been frustrated (i.e., angry) more than once when he’s taken inordinate amounts of time to accomplish a simple task, or gets distracted with an unpleasant task. Bethel still is having a hard time doing chores, period. She doesn’t like doing them, she’s easily overwhelmed and tearful, and even with help is extremely distractable and slow. I try to limit Laurel to single commands (nothing like “clean up your room” or even “pick up all the books”) but she’s not the greatest at obeying in this context.
When I work on a problem that needs to be solved, I first consider the normal development of my kids. Yes, the child who is struggling the worst is at an age (4) where life is overwhelming quickly. And her personality is intense. I also remember that my five year old went through a time where he was quickly overwhelmed, too, giving me hope that at least some of the difficulty with my younger child will probably go away on its own, assuming I respond correctly in other ways. Baby is still in that time of learning to obey, so I know that persistence is important with her.
Some practical changes may help:
- Establish routine. Yes, once again I’m learning that for children, routine is my friend. For the tasks that happen predictably and exactly the same time and way, they all do seem to do better.
- Limit mess. Yes, I’m learning that not letting things get out of hand is helpful for Bethel, especially. The problem is that anything she plays with involves numerous props and pieces. I can limit what she gets out, but often, it’s all a part of the game she’s playing. David can usually can keep his bedroom clean if I stay consistent with regular cleanup times. This is not an issue for Laurel since I have her do only one task at a time, and she is not usually the one who makes the biggest mess.
- Eliminate toys. Many parents eliminate toys as a strategy. I’m all for that, but lately the problem isn’t all the toys, it’s a stack of books taken to bed, plus clothes dumped out of the drawers to find a special shirt for naptime, and the pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, and so on that are a part of the “zoo game” or the “frog game.” None of these things are really possibilities for elimination. More storage doesn’t seem to be the problem, either. We have sufficient bins and shelves for all their belongings.
- Make cleaning a happy time. I struggle with this. I am not a game person, and when I’ve tried to make cleanup a happy time, it doesn’t seem to make a difference. I could start some chore charts. Putting on happy music does make a positive difference, and my children often will put it on themselves when cleaning. As well, I’ve been working on showing my kids how thinking negatively affects their willingness to clean. I think that’s helping, but then some days I’m not so sure.
- Examine how I may contribute to the problem. Here’s where I start to think about spiritual problems and solutions. Inconsistency may be a culprit, particularly with following through with commands. I know I can do better, particularly with Laurel. I do need more of the fruit of the spirit, and I do know that when I’m doing right, I’m far more patient, loving, and self-controlled with my children. Am I expecting too much? My attitude needs some work. I’m worried about my own tendency toward laziness infecting my own children. I’m worried and angry because cleanup seems to take up a huge part of our day. And lest you’re worried, I’m not a type A personality who is complaining about dust on the baseboards. I’m not expecting too much of the children, at least in the quantity of work to be done. I need to pray that God will help me to know where my expectations are inappropriate; otherwise, I’m going to frustrate my children with my discipline approach. On the good side, perhaps I’m more frustrated because I’ve been more diligent to make cleaning a higher priority and I’m feeling the current suddenly.
At the end of the day, making some environmental changes can help when the problem is simply developmental or non-sin related. But those changes don’t change a sinful heart bent on getting its own way. So how can I address this challenge (again) biblically?
That’s what we’ll talk about on Friday.
Laura Weimer says
This post could come right out of my journal. I’ve dealt with all of these issues and I’m just a few steps ahead of you. Mine are 8, 6 and 5. I have noticed a change in the 8 year old in that he is now more able to do things on his own, so that has eased a bit of stress, but with the 6 and 5 year old, it is still tough. I found that picking one child at a time and taking them through the steps I want them to do (whether it’s picking up the toys/books/clothes from the living room and putting away, or cleaning the bathroom one child at a time and I approach it as a “learning” time. Like another subject in school so I don’t get frustrated. I do it at a time when we’re not pressed for time or just before leaving somewhere or right before bed. I’ve struggled as well with the “fun” part and making it fun always seemed to make the task last 3 times as long as just doing it. I’ve tried fun music and having a playful attitude but found when it was met with the same scowls and whining and crying I would get even more frustrated. I have to remind myself that just because the 8 yr. old is capable of more, doesn’t mean I should assign him a LOT more to help myself out. consistency, follow-through, and pre-planning are my biggest sideliners. I do know that a messy house with things scattered all over cause all of us to be a bit cranky. Thanks for your insights.