I definitely spare the rod with my children. As a child of an abusive Mother who regularly used physical punishment for every infraction, I was determined to end that cycle. Other than a playful slap on the booty on their way up the stairs or a stern smack on the hand or arm if they are about to do something harmful to themselves, I am a hands off kind of parent. I am ashamed to admit once or twice I have hit them out of anger – nothing big but still made me feel like crap for days. I wish I did not yell as much – that is something I constantly work on. Daddy was so patient he never raised his voice. He was a saint and I am not worthy.
When the kids DO need a reminder in humility I use difficult chores as a “punishment”. I do believe rewards and praise works best for most humans and they are TERRIFIC kids. I am very pleased with their manners, their homework habits and the like. However, ONCE IN A WHILE they get “full of themselves” and just need a push in the right direction. They can get disrespectful to us parents and to each other now and then.
One day, after reading a blog, I decided to follow the writer’s method of giving her children dirty chores to do if they fought each other. They both have everyday chores -making beds, putting away dirty clothes and the like. They also have weekend chores – changing sheets, vacuuming, putting clean clothes away, emptying trash bins, etc. Those never stop. I believe they make my kids learn how to be independent and also contribute to the running of our household. They do not get paid for weekly chores. If I ask them to do chores above and beyond their “duty” like mulching, I pay them an agreed upon amount of money to divide in their three banks – spend, save and charity.
I do not make them wash dishes. We have an automatic dishwasher and I have a bad taste in my mouth from having been the family dishwasher for YEARS. While other kids played I had to wash sink fulls of dishes every day. That taught me very little other than I was free labor for my mom. I promise I will teach both girls HOW to wash dishes before they leave the nest as everyone needs to know how to hand wash dishes but I am not asking them to do that particular dirty chore FOR me out of principle. I also do not make them clean toilets at this time.
My favorite dirty chore to give them when they fight is cleaning the baseboards. First, no one has time to clean baseboards, two it is hard to get on your hands and knees and scrub anything when you are 53 with bad joints. So, I hand each of them a bucket of hot soapy water and they use wash rags and toothbrushes and clean EVERY.SINGLE.BASEBOARD. in the house. Yes, I know magic erasers would make the job easier but don’t forget the reason behind this cleaning job. LOL They usually go a whole month without fighting after these lessons. If the fighting or bickering starts up again all I have to do is point to the baseboards and they get quiet fast.
Once, after being given a dirty chore of cleaning the kitchen floors with a scrub brush and bucket the youngest one proclaimed it was SO EASY! Yeah, she had not learned humility yet. I had her scrub the vents with a toothbrush next. She tried to argue that she ALREADY did a chore. I nodded and pointed in the general direction of the vents. She was plenty tired afterward and said that was a really tedious job. My goal is not to BREAK them. In fact, we always have talks along with the punishments. I tell them that I would rather use positive reinforcements but if they continue their negative behaviors they force my hand and I must try to instill some sort of balance in their minds. They agree following direction the first time is much easier. I am proud to say these punishments are getting fewer as the years roll by.
I never humiliate them and I do not berate them. Instead, I thank them for a job well done when deserved and I constructively give them criticism if they missed spots or what not. My goal is never to make them feel less than. The youngest one almost always comes in for a hug afterward and mentions how she might not want to be a mom because moms have to do chores like that all the time. LOL The oldest one mumbles that she’s not having kids because kids are stupid and repeat mistakes over and over. I remind them that they are the greatest accomplishments of MY life and yes, they do not have to be a mom or have children. I hope they obtain careers that make them so rich they can hire people to do ALL their chores. However, I will not allow them to be nasty roommates or housemates. They must pull their weight.
Parenting and adulting is hard, yo! I know I’m not doing a perfect job in either category. However, I sleep well at night knowing they are never abused and I tell them often how much I love and appreciate them. Once in awhile though, I also tell them that they have procrastinated too much and have been disrespectful. I don’t know all the answers but I hope one day they will look back and think they had a pretty okay mom, considering.