At the beginning of this school year, I had a couple glaring parenting flaws. One, my expectations for my kids were too low, and secondly, that I nag too much. The second was probably a consequence of the first, and I decided that I still had time to fix it. I'll sound like almost every parent when I say that sometimes, it's just easier to do household tasks myself. But its an actual parenting goal of mine to raise men who don't depend on women to take care of them. I want them to be able to pick up after themselves, and clean, and cook and be self-sufficient.
When I look at my siblings' families, I realize that our generation is pretty cool. Moms aren't the only caretakers, and dads aren't the only providers. Cory and I have a pretty traditional relationship, and there are maternal roles that I carry well, and Cory has many strengths as a dad. But we're really a team. Where I am a pushover, he is strict. Where I am weak, he is strong, and vice versa. But he supports me as a woman, and a human being, and not just as a wife and mother. And I support him as an individual, with dreams and hobbies, even if I don't share all of them. I find that one of the strongest components of our relationship. My hope for my kids is that they don't expect their wives/husbands to take care of only the traditional roles, but the roles for which their skills and personalities are best suited. Therefore, in this house, the boys will learn all household skills, as will the little girl.
I was finding that I wasn't keeping that goal in focus. It was easier to put away their laundry, and pick up their toys, and cook and do the dishes, and when I would ask them to pitch it, it was met with whining and fussing. And I'd get frustrated, and found myself nagging them. WHICH I HATE. So I came up with two separate systems.
I bought a white board, a couple Mason jars, and some decorative rocks (marbles) and implemented my plan. And it has worked pretty well. WAY better than then non-system I was using.
Each boy has daily activities they don't get rewarded for (well, they don't have to buy groceries or pay rent. That's a pretty good reward.). Matthew and Jack have to set/clear the table, and Cole has to do the rest of the dishes after dinner. They have to make their beds, brush their teeth, put their clothes in their laundry, and put away their own toys/homework/projects. But on top of that, each day, I put a chore on the whiteboard. They are fairly easy (20 minutes to complete or less): clean the livingroom, vacuum, sweep the floor, clean the entryway, put away laundry...etc. They come home, understand clearly what the expectation is and get on with their day. The implementation was a lot smoother than I imagined, and I found it startlingly easier to keep up with household chores. Huh. Who knew? ;)
The second thing I did was for a specific purpose. I was finding that there was so much negativity flying around in the form of nagging. In order to keep them on track, I was focusing on the things they had to do and the things that they were doing wrong. I wanted to actively focus on the positive. So I started marble jars. I don't know how many it'll take to fill them (a lot) but when it reaches the top, they get $10. That's a lot of money for my little rugrats; our version of their allowance. But it's fairly easy to get marbles. I give them for all kinds of things, to remind them that they do a lot of things well. They get them if they give the baby a bottle, or do a chore without being asked. I've given them for treating each other well. If Matthew plays a game with his brother. Or Jack was particularly polite. One day they were at the table, doing projects and I said, "I'm going to give you each a marble. Just because I love you so much." The specific purpose was to interject positivity into our day-to-day lives and I am finding it very successful. It's hard for them to be patient to fill them up, but they are really enjoying getting them. The little tink of that marble falling into the jar always makes them smile.
It's a long road to adulthood. But I look at Cole and realize that it comes faster than you think it will. And these lessons, they have to be intertwined with everyday. Because waiting for a special opportunity to teach them is a risk I'm not willing to take. Parenting is hard. It's tiresome. But if I don't do this job well, nothing else will matter. This system is working well for their current ages, and I hope I can remember as they get older to tell them how wonderful they are, so they remember that every day of their life. This is so much bigger than that little marble.
And I won't know the real results of this process for many years, but I'm trying. And in the meantime, I get to remind my rugrats that they're good, and kind, and special. That, my friends, is a reward for me.