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Chores That Are Fun? Can It Be Done?


By Christina Millard

You've seen it happen a hundred times. Your children are full of energy. They are laughing, playing, and jumping around. You mention that it is time to do their chores and suddenly everything changes.

Right before your eyes, your children morph from young, happy butterflies into giant, sick slugs. They collapse to the floor their legs apparently no longer able to sustain their weight. Their eyes roll around in their head. Their voices change from high-pitched squeals of joy into pitiful and annoying whines. What's happened to your children? Are they hurt? Are they sick? Did they just miss the ice-cream truck?

The answer is no to all of the above! Instead, your children are suffering from an extremely common condition, an allergic reaction to the word 'chores'. And I must warn you, 'chores' is not the only word likely to cause this type of reaction. I have seen similar reactions to 'help out', 'help mom', 'do a few things around the house', 'wash the dishes', 'make your bed', to name just a few.

However, the most severe reaction I have ever witnessed happened one fine summer day when my oldest was six. It was after breakfast and we were sitting at the table talking. Somewhere in the conversation I mentioned that my daughter needed to clean her room. It was like my daughter had been stuck with the dart from a poison arrow. One moment she was smiling and chatting animatedly and in the next moment she had fallen from her chair, onto the floor and was flailing her arms and rolling around! I had been trained in emergency medicine, so I immediately thought she was having a seizure of some kind. Before I could get on the floor and secure her (to keep her from hurting herself), she banged her head into the corner of the kitchen cabinet.

This stopped the rolling around so I was pretty sure she wasn't having a real seizure. Now, however, she was crying and holding her head which had started bleeding. Ten minutes and two Barbie band-aids later things had settled back down--although not the lump on her forehead. It lasted for a couple of days.

But I counted myself lucky. I had learned a valuable lesson: "There are just some words that shouldn't be said around children!"

Try these ideas for stimulating your pint-sized task force to help around the house:

* Get word wise. Be creative in what you say. Don't call their jobs 'chores', instead call them 'missions', or 'preparations', or 'games'. Sure the kids will eventually catch on, but maybe by then you will have them hooked by how much fun they are having!

* Make it like a game. Huddle up and share the game plan. "Davy, I need you to get the clothes out of the dryer and into the basket. Then Alice, you take the basket to the bed and dump it out. Both of you then sort the clothes into piles, one for each member of the family. Last, fold the clothes in each pile and deliver them to the appropriate rooms. Ready? Hands in. Go team!"

* Beat the clock. Try timing the 'games' to see how long it takes to finish a job. Set a time goal. Write it down and try to beat it the next time. Penalize for sloppy work by adding on time.

* Do it like the military. To get children used to keeping a clean room, have an inspection time each day. Have an inspection routine that you follow. This might include checking under beds for toys, donning a white glove and running your finger over the tops of surfaces, and trying to bounce a quarter on the bed. Make this age appropriate and more fun than strict.

* Make expectations clear. Children like to know what is expected of them. If they have daily chores, make a list and hang it in plain view. Better yet, use a chalkboard so that chores can be checked off when finished.

* Extra chores = extra cash. For the summer, week-ends, or anytime when children will be at the house a lot, make an extra chores list. This could include things like cleaning out the car, pulling weeds from the flowerbeds, washing windows, anything that is not done on a daily basis. Beside each item, list the amount of money you are willing to pay to have that job done. Let children select which and how many chores they will do. Enterprising children will seize on this as a way to earn extra cash.

* Great toy round-up. If you have younger children, you probably have toys scattered all over the house. Getting younger children to pick up toys and return them to their rooms can be difficult. Get a pull cart--a small wagon is ideal for this. If this is not available try attaching a short piece of rope to a sturdy cardboard box. This is the garbage truck (or the taxi, delivery van, moving van, whatever works for you). Help your child pull his 'truck' around the house, filling it with toys. When it is full, return the 'truck' to the child's room and unload all the toys.

* Go fish for socks. If you do laundry, you have to match up socks. Get the entire family involved with this version of Go Fish. Give everyone in the family a box or opaque container and 7 socks. Put the rest of the socks in a deep box in the center of the table. Have one person begin by holding up a sock and asking if anyone has a match. If there is a match, he gets to ask again. If not, the asker must draw a sock from the box in the middle of the table. Play continues until the middle box is empty and all possible matches are made. The winner is the one with the most matches.

* Sock free-for-all. Same dilemma: lots of unmatched socks. Different game: Sock match-up free-for-all. To play, dump the entire pile of unmatched socks in the middle of the living room floor. At 'go', everyone begins rummaging through the pile looking for matches. The person with the most matches wins!

Christina may be contacted at http://www.christinacarol.com or mmillard@dbtech.net.
She is an artist and a writer, who lives in central Alabama with her husband and three young daughters. Her writings revolve around the themes of family, faith, creativity and self-understanding.

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