Sunday, March 2, 2008

Typical interactions

I was speaking to a friend a few days ago and discussing the kids and their chores. We are in a bit of a conundrum here. Because of the arthritis, I can't do the house work alone. Because I hate cleaning up after the kids who are too lazy to clean up after themselves, I won't do the housework alone. However, because I am busy with work, school, friends, errands, and laundry, I forget to "remind" the kids to do their chores. And by "remind", please know I mean, beg, plead, cry, yell, scream, and do physical harm to myself. It's ugly, frustrating, and not healthy for anyone involved.

This friend told me that at their house, allowance is entirely based on chore completion and it's all or nothing. Your chores have been done all week or they have not. You receive your money or you don't. No part way. All or nothing. Considering, it is possibly the only thing on the planet that I have not tried yet (and the tickets were a complete disaster, FYI), I felt the urge to put it out there. I'm regretting that now. Let me tell you why.

I have 2 girls in this home who are highly motivated by money. One starts calculating the difference that money will make in her bank account and the other promptly spends it, in her mind. She can calculate a month's worth of allowance in a split second, even if it is an odd number, and in the fashion of The Price is Right, tally every last item that money will buy, figure out the tax, and silently spend the remaining money on candy. It's a talent. The talent she does not possess is to actually do the chore. Because the bottom line is that she really really really WANTS the money, but she really really really is not fine with doing the work. Maximum reward for minimum effort. And she has it down to an art form.

So, I was actually doing pretty well. After all, even though they signed the "contract" regarding this new plan, I can't say that I really expected great things. Even an attempt would have worked for me. And they all picked up an item or two, so I guess they can claim an attempt. But, that is not what made me want to tear my hair out. It was the exchange between the two girls. Rebi knew that Ellie already owed her money, so she made a deal with her.
"Ellie, if you do my chores for me, I will forget the money that you owe me. And, you can also do your own chores and earn your money, and we will both be better off."
(I will leave out the 10 minutes of Ellie clarifying every little point possibly relevant and quite a few off topic. Let's all just know that she agreed to the deal.)
I was worried about this deal. These deals have gone south before. I chose to say nothing.

Time elapses. More time elapses. Still more time goes by. But, I am not nagging. I did remind them just once of the logistics of the deal, but only because I wanted to be sure they understood.

At 9:45, it suddenly becomes obvious to Rebi that not only is Ellie not going to do her chores, Rebi is not going to have enough time to get them done on her own. And now, as can be predicted, all hell breaks loose. Rebi points out to Ellie that if they don't both get to work, no one will get paid and Ellie will still be in debt to Rebi because she has not kept her end of the bargain. And then they start bickering. And Rebi starts getting nasty. And Ellie freaks out and the tears flow and the flopping face down ensues and the sighs and the shrugs and the refusing to make eye contact all make an appearance. And I can feel my headache worsening. And I have to try to calmly point out to each of them exactly what they are doing to make things worse, all the while getting heaping spoonfuls of attitude at every point. I just couldn't find my inner Ghandi. I was nothing resembling calm. Why do the bangs over the face to avoid eye contact make me want to shave her bald every single time she does it?

And poor Ellie, at one point screams at me, "But I really WANTED to do her chores when I made the deal!" And it's true in a way. She really WANTED to be out of debt, something I predict she will struggle with for the rest of her life. She WANTED to spend the money. She WANTED to say, "I did my chores and Rebi's chores" in a semi-snotty voice to Evan. Unfortunately, what she didn't want to do is actually work. In any form. Maximum return, minimum effort.

Finally at 10 pm, I had to give them the 15 minute warning. Amazingly, Ellie kicked her butt into high gear and got both hers and Rebi's chores done, thereby missing the consequences. It really didn't even take her that long. And as she was going up to bed, she said, "See, I can work fast when i want to."
I replied, "Yes, Ellie. I have never questioned your ability. It is the desire that always seems to be the glitch."
To which she says, "You know why I did it this time? I didn't want to be know as someone who doesn't do what they say they will."

So, even if it doesn't last, she learned something. For a moment. And I think Rebi also learned that it's easier to do it yourself that try to get a good result out of bribing a sibling.

P.S. PLEASE let these be those lessons that last!


Anonymous said...


Christina said...

They'll last. For about a week. Two if your lucky.

They will remember the lessons very well when they have children of their own.

frizzlefry said...

Isn't that the truth!