Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Instilling Initiative Into Our Children

Getting kids to do their chores, or any work for that matter can often be a pain. We as their parents desire to see them want to help, want to learn, want to grow in maturity, selflessness and grace. We want them to take initiative and be intuitive. We want them to develop good habits. We want to raise willful children into caring, competent adults.

So when they're little, we give them chore lists according to their ages and abilities.  The list clearly states WHAT the chore is and WHEN the chore should be done.

They look at them, understand what's expected and everything is rosy. When they are little, moms tend to remind them when it's time to do a chore.

Even though this works, it's bad training.


Because the power of a law is only as strong as the penalty of the law. (Keep repeating that until it sinks in!)

If you give your child a list of chores with no deadlines or penalties, where is their motivation to remember to get their rear in gear? It's nonexistent. A nagging mom is not motivating. A nagging mom is a dripping faucet. And worse, it trains them to wait for mom's reminders.

Initiative cannot be exercised in the face of a reminder. It must come from an inner motivation to do right or pay the price.

And as any responsible adult knows, taking initiative is a BIG part of being an adult. So this is an extremely important part of training them up in the way that they should go.

The good news is that this problem can be remedied. :-)

If you train them when they are still little to be responsible for beginning their chores on their own initiative, you are saving yourself the trouble of doing that when they are teens. I wasn't as effective in enforcing the habit of initiative when mine were younger, even though they did do their work well and mostly with good attitudes.

But now that they are teens, I realized they are still dependent upon my reminding them — for far too many things. I decided I'm not going to remind them anymore so they will have to rise or fall on their own merits or pay the piper for their own good!

Last night I laid down one new rule. If the trash is not taken to the curb every Tuesday by 8am, the penalty is $5 payable to mom or dad.

This morning at 7:45am, all signs pointed to me being $5 richer. But then at 7:57am, I heard my younger son trudging in from the front door. He'd made it with only 3 minutes to spare, but he made it! I congratulated him, and my husband ribbed him.  This was a major victory and the first time the trash was taken out without any kind of reminder from me.

The weight of the penalty was motivator enough.

Both of my sons have part time jobs so a monetary penalty makes sense. If they were younger and had some money saved up, or maybe a way they are earning some extra money (I don't believe in giving children an allowance) I suppose I might still recommend a monetary penalty because it's very motivating. They will find the same principles in operation in real life (tickets for speeding, library late fees, late bill payment fees, etc) so they might as well learn it now.

I'm going to make a list of all the things that they need to do without being reminded and the penalty for not doing it by the specified deadline. I'm pretty excited about this. It means freedom for me and maturity for them - win-win!

Take out the trash by 8am every Tuesday or pay $5
Make your bed before coming out of your room in the morning or pay $1
Brush your teeth after breakfast and dinner or pay $1
Pick up your clothes from the bathroom floor or pay $1
Pick up your stuff at the end of the day or pay $1
Feed the cat every morning or pay $1
Feed the cat every evening or pay $1
Clean the cat litter every morning before breakfast or pay $1
Clear your dishes from the table and rinse them or pay $1
Change your bedsheets and trim your nails every Saturday morning or pay $1

If you have younger children, and can't or don't want to use the money penalty, then use an equally effective penalty.

Make your bed by 8am or go to bed 30 minutes earlier that night.
Sweep the kitchen after dinner or miss the next dessert.
Clean up your room before bed or get an extra chore the next day.
Pick up your toys each night before bedtime or no tv the next day.

If the penalty is not strong enough, it will not motivate. If you write it into law, you MUST abide by it or you have made yourself out to be a liar and untrustworthy in the eyes of your child. They have to face the consequence or they will truly never learn.

I'm thinking about trying an alternate course of action for my sons just for fun — a reverse fee system. I would collect for the penalties at the start of the week ($14) and put that cash into a mason jar and label it with their name and the date. Then each evening, if they were successful and didn't "break any laws" they can retrieve that day's fees back into their wallets. Otherwise, the money stays put.

This will serve as a reward or "getting paid" for doing well, even though it's their own money. In real life, I don't get speeding tickets and the $110 fine that I don't have to shell out is a big reward and reminder for me to be a good driver.

I'm adding some bonus reward money to their jars for a perfect record for the week. This represents discounts and incentives that adults receive in real life adulthood as is the case with auto insurance and the bonuses that come with maintaining "good credit".

The other thing I like about this system is that THEY are responsible for retrieving their "fees". In other words, I don't have to say, did you clean the cat litter? Did you make your bed? Nope. They will have to come to me and tell me they did x, y and z and how much they can take out of the jar at the end of the week. More initiative training! I love it. :-)

How about you? Do you have a system that is working initiative into your children? Do share!


Jenna said...

Interesting ideas! I am working on getting more routines and chore systems in place for my 3 and 5 year old. I really like your ideas for training young kids to take initiative rather than having me remind them constantly. I think I will use some of these, thanks!

Alyson said...

LOVE this!!

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