Monday, August 26, 2013

No such thing as a free lunch... PART 2

So, to sum up... we've divided our house up into 4 work "areas" or "assignments."  We've given these assignments to our 4 kids.  I help the 4 year old the most and the 11 year old the least.  In theory, the whole house gets clean little by little and never has time to really get bad.  In theory... it doesn't always happen that way.  So what does that have to do with a free lunch?

   Well, that all started when my 9 year old decided that I was somehow being unfair and unreasonable. His desire to put forth the least amount of effort necessary started a fire inside him.  This was fueled by the fact that he was assigned to clean up the main floor areas - which typically is a difficult area to clean because it's where we spend the most time and therefor make the most messes.  It didn't take much time for the bubbling and brewing fire inside him to erupt into a huge volcano.  He began yelling and screaming at me.  The phrases I will share are the few that sent me over the edge and solidified his place in what my husband has now named "the system."  I have heard the scriptures use the terms "weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth."  I have now seen with my own eyes what that looks like.  My 9 year old did that as he yelled, "You make us work because you're lazy.  You just want us to be your slaves because you're too lazy to do the work yourself.  You don't do anything but sit at the computer all day while we work."  I know what you're thinking... some may read that and think, "that little ungrateful brat!" Others may wonder just how much time I spend on the computer and if he perhaps is right.  I would wonder the same thing if that same child didn't get to spend hours a day playing with friends and/or playing video games, if he didn't have clean clothes to wear, food to eat, and a mother who encourages him to read and/or do workbook pages daily during the summer.  Let's just say that I am comfortable with my efforts and confident that I am not "using" my children unfairly.  The path this particular kid was on has been a long time coming.  He has frequently exhibited signs of entitlement and laziness.  I had a long discussion with his teacher about before school got out.  He's a sweet kid, he just lacks motivation to work hard and feels like the world owes him... this was not something I could allow to continue.  How would you handle the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth?  I spoke calmly with authority, "Carter, you no longer live in my house for free."  That was it.  He quieted down and said, "what?"  I explained, "you no longer HAVE to do your assigned chores, you no longer HAVE to read or do workbook pages.  However, you no longer live here for free.  You can not accept free things from other people.  Food is not free, clothes are not free, electronics are not free, your bed is not free."  I then sat down and wrote out prices for him:
Place to sleep - $3/night
Clothes rental - $2/day (includes laundering)  Option to purchase $5 each piece, can reuse, but laundry costs 50¢ each piece (more money up front but may save money in the end)
Meals - $1 each
Snacks - 50¢ each
Drinks - 25¢ each
Electronics rental - $1 for 30 min.
Playing outside with friends - FREE!

I then looked up the amount of money in his savings account - $107.  Since the point of this was for him to work, I set a beginning limit of $10/day that could come from his account... this was slowly lowered until on the last day he could only take $2 from his account.

Then I looked up the current national minimum wage.  It's $7.25/hour.  Since he would hardly work for an entire hour, we needed to know the per minute wage, it came out to 12¢.  I then outlined things he could do to earn money.
His assigned chores
Doing workbook pages
Doing yard work
Playing with sisters (keeping an eye on them)
Helping with other needed work (special assignments)

Any work he did was paid out at minimum wage.  I was merciful, I rounded up to the nearest minute for the payout and allowed for "good attitude" bonuses.

Every morning, I took out money for clothes for the day and the bed for that night because I told him it was unacceptable for him to get to the end of the day and not have anywhere to sleep.  So, he started out each day owing me $5.  He almost always paid this money out of his savings account.  He would then start working for things.  There was no "credit"  I told him that the grocery store doesn't let me eat the food with a promise to buy it later.  I have to pay for things BEFORE using them, which meant he had to earn enough to cover what he wanted to do in a day.  We wrote down everything - what he earned, what he spent, everything.  If he went into someone else's house, I told him that I would assume they were playing electronics and I would write down what he owed that person.  Same with eating their food.  If someone has to pay for something(food, electronics, etc.) then he had to pay for it.  After a few really hard days, he finally came around.  He began working without complaint and doing it before playing around.  We did this from a Thursday night to Thursday night.  On Friday, he and I still tracked everything (what he spent and what he earned) but instead of needing it to match up to cover his expenses, he just had to do his regularly assigned work: Read for 10 minutes, 1 workbook page, and assigned chores throughout the day.  At the end of the day, I sat him down and we totaled it all up:  He had a $16 day that he was getting for $2.40 worth of work. I asked him if he thought that was unfair or unreasonable... of course he answered that it was not unreasonable.  I explained to him that if he ever complained about it not being "fair" that he was free to do the additional $14 worth of work to make it more fair for both us.

Please don't comment and tell me what a horrible mother I am and the psychological damage I have done to my child.  The boy had a lesson to learn and I believe he learned it - that is all I set out to do and it was the only way I could think to do it.  He is now the first to volunteer when I need someone to do something.  When I give him an assignment, for the most part he does it without complaint.  Is he perfect?  NOPE.  Then again, neither am I.

Friday, August 2, 2013

No such thing as a free lunch... PART 1

This lesson was a hard one for my 9 year old today, and he is learning it in a way that you wouldn't expect.

Before I tell this story, I have to give some background.  In my last post, you may have noticed, that we started yet another way of doing chores with our kids.  This way seems to be working the best out of all of them.  Here is a quick outline of how it works:  I divided all of the household chores into 4 sections.  The kids are assigned a section for the whole week Sunday - Saturday.  Here are the sections and the daily/weekly jobs associated with each one:

Morning - Start a load of laundry and empty dryer (if necessary - take it upstairs).  Afternoon - switch laundry (move clothes to dryer, start it), fold 1 load of laundry, put away clothes where they go. 
Before Bed - Tidy basement.  Gather dirty clothes from bedrooms upstairs.
Saturday - Clean basement and vacuum it.  Start any laundry left in laundry room.  Hang up and put away hang up clothes.  Straighten Mom and Dad's bedroom- if necessary.

Main Floor Rooms: 
Morning - Make sure there is nothing out on wood floor and that shoes are all in shoe basket. 
Afternoon- Make sure there is nothing out on floor in living/dining room and that there is nothing on the couches.  Bring in trash and recycle bins on Tuesdays. 
Before Bed - Clean up Family Room, vacuum if necessary. 
Saturday - Vacuum all 3 rooms and sweep entry way.  Also put away stuff from upstairs hallway and stairs, vacuum both.

Morning - Gather all dirty clothes and take down to laundry room from all bathrooms, make sure all toilets are flushed. 
Afternoon - Sanitize all faucets, bathroom doorknobs, and toilet handles.   On Monday, empty trash from bathrooms.  Take Recycling & trash out to cans and cans out to street on Monday nights.
Before Bed - Use wipe to wipe all white parts of toilet and make sure that everything is put away off of counters in bathroom and that all towels are hung up. 
Saturday - Clean inside of toilets, clean mirrors, sinks, and floors.

Morning – Wipe down counters and make sure they're clean and everything is put away, load or empty dishwasher, as necessary. 
Afternoon - Empty dishwasher or load it, as necessary, put away items on floor, sweep floor. 
Before Bed - Clear table, wipe down table, load or empty dishwasher, as necessary, wipe down counters. 
On Saturday: Make sure all counters are clear and clean, clean/sanitize sink and faucet, and sweep and mop floor.

We start the week with doing the jobs beginning Sunday evening and then they progress to Saturday jobs, which has them do the major jobs listed and the night time job.  They then get Sunday morning and afternoon off for church and related activities, starting their new assignments each Sunday night.  Does that make sense?  Hope so!  There are still occasional odd jobs here and there that aren't assigned, just asked to be done as favors to Mommy, and the kids still need to tidy their rooms frequently, but as of right now, this isn't regulated either.  This is what the kids are responsible for, however, Mommy helps them quite a bit, mostly based on age and ability.  In exchange for all of this work, we pay a monthly allowance: the same amount as their age.  We also provide them food, a place to live, and clothes to wear.  They can spend their money as they see fit, with Mommy having the power to veto (at one point they decided to save up for a dog, yah, that's not happening, I don't care who pays for it...).  So, there you have it, our newest chore assignments.  Stay tuned for the next segment to find out about the "not-so-free" lunch.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Learning and Growing

Last night, at Family Home Evening, my husband spoke with my kids about doing chores around the house.  We have tried different approaches to motivating them and we still get complaints and refusals... so far sounds normal for kids, right?  He began by asking them why we have them do chores - we got all kinds of answers: To help keep the house clean (11 year old); to be able to have the Holy Ghost in our home (almost 9 year old); because it's too much work for Mommy to do by herself (6 year old), because Mommy doesn't want to do it (4 year old), and because Mommy and Daddy are the meanest parents in the world (the answer suggested by my husband!)  Where all of these answers have some truth to them, except for being mean, according to my husband, they weren't the main reason.  Last night he told the kids a secret.  "We have you do chores because we're teaching you HOW to do them. Someday, you won't live at house anymore, you'll live as a grown up in your own house.  Mommy can't come and do your laundry, you have to do your laundry.  Mommy can't clean your room or bathroom or make your meals, you will have to know how to do all of those things."  He then said something that shocked the 2 boys.  "Spencer, you are more than half way to leaving our house.  Carter, you are about 1/2 way there!"  As most of the kids were fidgety, I wasn't sure they were listening.  Then, I saw the look on my 11 year old's face - I saw the light bulb turn on and I knew that he understood.  I felt at that moment that he would see chores differently and understand that his responsibility is not only to the family, but to himself.  I have high hopes that things will be different (at least for a while) with him.  I was thinking that he may be the only one that got the concept until my 6 year old raised her hand with something important to tell us.  "I know how to pour juice now, I learned how."  She understood, too!  She got that she is supposed to learn how to do these things on her own.  Phew!  2 kids got it... now whether the other 2 did or not remains to be seen.  I am hopeful that change is around the corner for all of them.

Last week was my daughter's birthday, she turned 6.  She loves feeling feminine and as most of her current friends are boys, I thought it might be nice to do something girly together.  I promised her a day of pampering, but we had not found time to do it until today.  This morning, after dropping sister off for preschool, we went to get mani-pedis.  She was so stiff at the beginning, but afterwards, she started to relax.  As we left the place, we called my mom to tell Nana about the manicure and the pedicure.  After getting off the phone, she turned to me and said, "now I know how to do TWO things for my kids..."  A wave of panic and laughter began to overtake me as I remembered our conversation last night and I thought, "oh, no! I've taught her how to pamper herself!!  That's all I need, a girl who now knows how to get manicures and pedicures."  :)  I was relieved when she finished her thought with, "... I know how to pour juice AND use a phone."  PHEW!  Yes, using the phone is a useful skill!  I'm a good parent after all.  :)  I'm pleased that she remembered the conversation from last night and that she recognized the importance of learning.  I'm excited to see what they will all learn next!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Trying to be better...

You know, I always hated how everyone made New Year's Resolutions and then by February they were done and back in old habits.  That's usually me, so for that reason I decided a few years back that I should make New Month's resolutions or New Week's resolutions or even New Day resolutions - something more realistic and with a shorter time frame for success.  I'm not in a "writing frame of mind" today so this makes this post especially hard for me, however, I had promised myself that I would write on this blog at least once this week.  There are a lot of things on my mind and wanted to get them out of my mind and onto paper, so to speak.
  The first thing I've been thinking about lately is how absolutely judgemental I am becoming in my old age.  No, seriously.  I look at people and, in my head, criticize things they do.  I have a million things that bother me and as I get older that list grows and grows.  I want to be less judgmental, but the problem is that I feel completely justified in my feelings - which makes it harder.  Maybe I will have a post on my most recent thoughts and hopefully get some feedback from you all on what to do about it, the problem with that is that I would have to air some of my grievances publicly.  Might be therapeutic for me.  :)
  The second thing on my mind is my current weight loss endeavors.  I started Weight Watchers in July and since then have lost 20 lbs.  Then we December, which entailed a lot of travel and sweets, not a great way to stay on WW.  Since then I have been steadily gaining weight instead of losing it.  Only by a few ounces every week, but enough that I am started to get frustrated.  Mostly because I feel hungry all of the time, have strong cravings for sugar, and cheat frequently to combat those 2 problems.  I need some willpower... any thoughts on where I can find some of that?
  Finally, I am teaching a Youth Sunday School class at church this year - the 12 year olds.  The students are a great age and so far (only 2 Sundays) it's been a pleasant experience.  Last Sunday we talked about seeing the Lord's hand in your life - Tender Mercies - when you know He has done something just for you that shows you how much He loves you.  I challenged the youth to look back each day and write down something that they saw.  I have been doing this, but I didn't write them down.  I wanted to take a second and write some of things I have seen this week and share my most profound one.  #1 - I realized what a great blessing technology is.  On Sunday, I was able to use my iPad to show the Sunday School class some videos and then later that day, my kids were able to video chat with their grandparents in a different state - pretty awesome!  #2 - I had the great privilege of having Dave's sister here for the past week... when she was gone, our house seemed empty, even with my 4 kids and 5 neighbor kids here.  We are lucky to have the family we do.  #3 - (This one is my favorite one) I took some dinner into my husband as he was getting some church work done at church.  He was using one of the empty offices there and when I walked in, I saw him with my spiritual eyes.  This was a great gift.  I saw who he is, spiritually, and was grateful for the gift of seeing him that way.  It's so hard to explain, but it really was an amazing experience.  So thankful to the Lord for the experience.  I needed a reminder of how amazing he is!  I'm so lucky to have him in my life.

So there you have it:  I want to be less judgmental, more iron-willed, and the Lord loves me.  :)