I really loathe the nagging me.
The me that craves a bit of order and beauty, despite the reality of a large family, and just believes everyone else should be a part of keeping that order and they should long for the beauty too, except when they don’t and I’m left nagging about chores half-done and a general lack of concern for the tidiness of our home.
My Dad always says, “You can’t expect what you don’t inspect” and that’s true. Once you establish a chore routine, that’s only half the work. If you don’t inspect it daily, quality will plummet.
But inspecting it wasn’t even enough. I’d still have to point out all the things that didn’t get done and address the overall apathy that is natural to younger children who just want to get on with the day. My diligence speech wasn’t going very far.
And then, after 22 years of parenting, I finally had a stroke of genius. I’m serious. This worked!
I ran to the dollar store and grabbed a hefty $4.50 bag of the mini-packs of m&m’s on sale half price after Halloween. (Note to self: next time grab 2 or 3.)
I gathered my children around and told them that in life there was a general principle: diligence is rewarded. Not always, not always immediately, but usually in some form. And I told them that from now on, every day after chore time, I would inspect to see who was the most diligent in their chore and the winner would get a pack of candy.
You wouldn’t believe how my children cleaned. Deep cleaned. Mopped. Vacuumed under cushions. Moved furniture. Like “wow” cleaned.
Interestingly, they were having fun, probably because they were competing. I soon figured out though, that I don’t think it’s fair to only award one child. After all, the principle is “diligence is rewarded.” If they are all diligent they should all get a reward. But I didn’t want to lose the effectiveness of their going above and beyond, so I decided to pick one winner who gets 2 packs of candy.
I realize this may fizzle out soon, or I may have to up the ante or change the prize. Your children may not get very excited about candy but rather have money. Or if you are organized enough to keep up, you could give each one a sticker or some mark for each day they are diligent and then reward the ones who get a mark every day with a weekly outing for ice cream. The ideas are endless.
But the principle is important. Be sure that I’ve stressed to them that diligence is also its own reward. But if we are trying to train their character for success in life as adults, I think teaching principles like these is important.
I was also sure to thank them for their work and brag on their individual efforts. My 5 year old, whose chores are still small, volunteered to clean up his big sister’s room since she is sick. He caught the others’ contagion and ran with it.
Each day I remind them, again, that the Bible speaks highly of diligence and that as they grow up that trait will serve them well, no matter what they do.
And they eat their m&m’s, nod, and talk about how they are going to win the prize tomorrow. I hope they heard the “diligence” part of the speech.
Today Brooks won. (Do you see all the furniture moved out? And he mopped too.) And it goes without saying that between their fun over competing and the results the clean house has on me, our mornings are simply happier and more pleasant.
Try it and tell me your results! Or if you’ve had good results with another strategy, we would all love to hear about it.