Instructions are important, especially to children doing a chore for the first time.
When I was about six years old we lived in Daytona Beach, Florida. Sand was everywhere; on our floors, in our shoes and in our beds. I took it on my own to sweep up the sand now and then.
The first time I swept was fun and mom seemed to approve. I swept under the beds and furniture and gathered dust bunnies too. In a short time I had quite a pile of dirt, sand and dust – I was quite proud of my accomplishment. I looked around for a place to put the pile and the most likely answer was under the refrigerator. That seemed to be the place where mom put hers since there was so much there already.
A few days later I was coloring in my coloring book in the floor while I watched TV. The cat character was sweeping the floor and lifted the corner of a rug and swept the dusty dirt cloud under there.
I thought, “How silly of me – the dirt goes under the rug!”
You guessed it – I dug the dirt out from under the refrigerator with my bare hands and moved it to the rug. I then went back to my coloring book.
Later that day, as I played with my brother on the porch we heard mom scream. We ran to the open door and there she stood holding the rug exposing my work. Her forehead was all wrinkled and her face was red. She was not happy. Mom scolded me and swore I was being lazy – I was crushed.
This is not about teaching your children how to sweep; it’s about giving them credit for their efforts even if they don’t meet with your standards.
My mother had strict guidelines for things which I now consider to be unimportant.
Clothesline: Like items must be hung together with shorter items in the middle, all facing the same way.
Handkerchiefs: Must be ironed and carefully folded into a square that fits into a man’s pocket.
Washcloths: Fold it in half and then into thirds. The washcloth needed to be exact and should line up straight with all the others.
I ran my household less strictly but kept in line with many of her old, unrealistic practices. One day I asked Chelsey to fold towels and washcloths for me while I did other chores. I returned to find all the washcloths folded into squares rather than rectangles, like I and my mother before me folded them.
Stopping to think, I could hear the members in my Parents Anonymous group:
“Decide what is important.”
“Pick your battles.”
“Let it go.”
“Kids do not push buttons.”
Looking at the pile of square washcloths and then to a very pleased-with-herself Chelsey I said, “Looks like we have a new way of folding washcloths!”