Put Your Kids to Work!

For the record: my kids are no angels! They try my patience, drain my stores of energy, gnaw at my sleep, and keep trashing the space I’ve been trying to organize for months.

Kids driving you crazy?

I adore my sons. I write about them often. They do me proud, they challenge me, they have good hearts. My elder has already been “launched,” and this past year with him away has tugged at my heartstrings. I was delighted when he came home from school, and again, after his two months working and traveling overseas.

But after yet one more night of partying during which my 18-year old did not adhere to the requisite decibel level for reveling (he and his friends woke me three times during the wee hours), you could say I was not happy with his behavior.

And trust me – the next morning? He knew it. As if that weren’t enough, the meager square footage I worked so hard to clear and organize this summer has been usurped by teen luggage, duffel bags, unnameable crap, and six (yes six) reeking heaps of dirty laundry – just in the den.

Can you spell E-N-O-U-G-H?

Welcome to my new mantra: Put your kids to work! It’s a simple principle, right? Not punishment, though my tipping point was certainly the noisy night and realization of my own over-accommodation. Chores are part of life, and reinforce the fact that kids are part of the household team. Expected to contribute in ways they can.

The organizing To Do list (and more to come)

Here’s what the list comprised:

  • Paint the hall walls and ceiling
  • Repair the ceiling fan in the den
  • Install tiny wall shelves I’ve had for two years
  • Help with the six loads of laundry on the den floor
  • Do the dishes, take out the garbage, run errands
  • Help move a bookcase from the basement up into the house
  • Clean aforementioned bookcase and install it in his brother’s room.

Organizing kids rooms

This was hardly the workload exacted of a chain gang, but what my son accomplished in a matter of 6 or 7 hours (with an occasional  assist from his brother) would have been impossible for me.

There is also the dilemma of additional spiffing up and organizing for my younger son, who has been on a cleaning, sorting, reconfiguring streak of his own for the past two weeks.

(I love it!)

He is designing the mural for his walls, has cleared shelves, found a perfect spot for the re-purposed skinny bookcase, rearranged his furniture, and is organizing his study area. It’s a very small space, requiring that he think through its usage and plan accordingly. Great exercise for a young man who wants to be an architect!

Chores – Too much or not enough?

When my boys were little, their dad would give them chores I found arbitrary, and at times, far too tough for little guys. He literally had them hauling logs up a wooded hill, and I would watch them struggle and cringe.

I’m a believer in responsibilities that kids can comprehend – where a punishment is clearly separate from a chore, and where each is reasonable. Yet I adhere to the premise that working hard teaches the value of what you earn, and contributing a hand is important, at every age.

  • Do you put your kids to work on a regular basis?
  • How much latitude do you provide when it comes to their rooms?
  • Do you cut them too much slack when school schedules get tough?

My elder leaves this weekend, and I’ve got a list of remaining errands and small projects for him. He’s happy to help (and I think he enjoys the repair work). He also knows the result is a less frazzled mother, the car keys, and a good dinner.

Meanwhile, there’s more laundry. Those six piles? That was only the start of it.
© D A Wolf