1. Organizing a workable chore chart and allowance system. We’ve had multiple versions of chore charts and allowance systems over the years. Everything from, “You will receive a flat fee, according to your age, not because you complete a task, but because you are a productive member of the Cooper family” to “Twenty Five Cents per chore, per kid, period.” to “I scribbled a list and it’s sitting on the counter. Do everything on it and come see me when you are finished.” to “It’s been four months since I paid you anything because, as it turns out, I’m quite the slacker-mom, so to appease my guilt, you may pick out whatever you want from Toys R Us and we’ll call it even.”
My kids are now all old enough to do regular chores, and do them well. Even the 5 year old. In fact, they do regular chores every day (make beds, feed pets, set and clear the dinner table, straighten rooms), but I rarely keep track or pay them an allowance. I want to improve in this area for two reasons:
a. It’s important to me that my children know how to handle money well: to give generously, to save diligently and to spend wisely. It’s impossible to teach them to handle money, if they never have money to handle. Duh.
b. Many times when we are out shopping, they will ask for something that I do not want to buy for them. They are quick to respond, “Please Mom, I will use my own money!” To which I respond, “You have no money.” To which they respond, “I would if you would pay me an allowance.”
My parents were excellent at teaching money management. I grew up in a debt-free household, and it wasn’t because we were wealthy. My dad worked at a factory (sometimes working over-time AND working two additional jobs) and my mom stayed at home to raise seven children. Plus, they sent us all to Catholic schools. And paid for our college (without school loans!) for those of us who wanted to attend.
Thanks to them, I entered adulthood confidently understanding the value of money and the dangers of credit. I want to pass this heritage on to my children. It’s one of those things I’ve been meaning to do for years, but am just now getting my act together to implement it.
I’ve got a brand new chore/allowance system that I introduced yesterday. It’s not complicated—which is my tendency—to overcomplicate and then toss the plan because no one wants to maintain it. I don’t want to speak too soon, though. I’ll give it a few weeks to work out the bugs. If it works, I’ll share the details in a future post.
2. Having one Electronics-Free Day per week. Last week, I was having lunch with a friend, and she said when she was growing up, she was only allowed to watch TV on the weekends. That night, I mentioned this to my children, and they hissed at me. Literally—like a scary stray cat, they made a hissing sound.
It’s no secret around here, I am not a fan of electronics of any kind. Evidenced by the fact that electronics are the first thing to go when I’m punishing a child for bad behavior. I harp constantly about the distraction and brain-wasting that occurs when a child is glued to a screen as opposed to running, creating or imagining something. I would love to throw every one of them out the window (the electronics, not the children) and live like the Ingles family, all prairie-like. But that is unrealistic—electronics are here to stay and serve a great purpose, when used in moderation.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t do a better of job of managing them in my home.
So, last night at dinner, I made the following announcement: “Hear Ye, Hear Ye! From henceforth, one day per week will be Electronics-Free.”
And then I braced myself for the hissing.
To my shock and amazement, they shrugged their shoulders and said, “Sure, okay.”
I let them vote on the day, and they chose Sunday. But with one stipulation: That we make Sunday a true Family Day and do things like go to the park, the zoo, go bowling or roller skating. I wasn’t expecting that request, but I like it. A lot.
Jon and I will have to do a little schedule-switching on our part (he usually takes the kids to the YMCA while I write), but I love the idea of having one day a week, reserved just for quality family time. Writing can wait.
3. Reading to Elliana every day. *GASP!!!* What???? You don’t read to your daughter every single day? Isn’t that taught in Parenting 101, you novice???? What the heck is WRONG with you???
Well, I USED to read to my kids, how’s that?
Allow me to describe my gradual digression into the dark abyss of the Non-Reading Parent:
To Noah (Circa 1997), I read the Bible…chapters and chapters of the inspired Word of God, as I rocked him gently on my lap. That child heard more scripture in his 9 short months of life than I heard in the first 18 years of mine. No lie.
To Rebekah (Circa 1999), I read some Bible, but tons of books—books, books, books, every day and every night. That child knew entire books by heart before she was old enough to read. She still loves books to this day, and usually has 2 or 3 going at the same time—just like her Momma.
To Elijah (Circa 2001), I read some books, but MAN, life got so busy with a baby and a toddler. Before long, I was placing my sweet boy in front of Thomas the Tank Engine DVDs more often than I care to remember. I told myself George Carlin, Ringo Starr and Alec Baldwin were worthy reading substitutes—shoot, they were narrating our books verbatim. That’s almost like reading, right?
To Elliana (Circa, Holy Moses, what year is it anyway?), I’ve handed books to keep her occupied while I try to run my household.
It’s so hard with the last kid to keep up on all those things—I’m not beating myself up, because it really is difficult. Plus, I realize the baby of the family benefits in other ways that the oldest does not (I’m the baby, so I know). But reading one-on-one with my sweet girl is just one of those things I don’t want neglect. Not only is it very important for her brain development, but it’s also precious to me. The season of nighttime snuggling with a freshly-bathed, pajama-clad preschooler is coming to a close for me. I want to embrace every second of it before it’s over.
Q4U: What are you doing to improve as a parent?