If you’ve been reading this column for any time at all, you know my preoccupation with getting the kids to do the chores around here. The chore wheel, the points auction, the list goes on. So many systems that the kids say: “Well, that’ll last about a week before you forget all about it.” Well, this time is different. I give you: the work crew.
The work crew came about from actually listening to the kids. I noticed I was getting a lot of “feedback” anytime they were working alone. Let’s say I asked Kid #3 to empty the dishwasher. Rather than this being a fairly simple task that literally takes 2.5 minutes, I had to hear speculation about what everyone else was doing. It was better when there were a couple of kids at work, but then I had to make (improbable) assertions that I would get to those others who were currently sleeping “later in the day.” I was hunting down people multiple times a day to do things and still doing way more than anybody else.
So now, we have the work crew. We started with yard work. I rounded up the kids and announced we would all be working outside. One person would mow the lawn while the others did other things. When the lawn was done, we would be done. This magically got Kid 1 to mow the lawn cheerfully because the other jobs were even worse. Even better, we got so many other things done. One kid scraped the cottonwood seeds off the air conditioner. A couple others tag-teamed trimming the birch tree that was practically blocking the garage. A couple others weeded. The weeding was so unpleasant that I think I’ve actually gotten them excited to mulch next week. The total whining was less and the work accomplished was more.
I’m going to deploy the system for inside chores too. Forty minutes (the amount of time it takes to mow) seems like a good amount, so I’ll set a timer and we’ll all work together to take care of the house.
I think the work crew is better for both parents and kids. One, the kids like it better. We are all doing it together so it feels “fairer.” It concentrates the work so they feel like they have more free time. We can make a dramatic difference because there are so many of us working. It’s gratifying to see things actually look substantially different in a short amount of time. Two, it’s better for me. I only have to detach the kids from their reading or video gaming and get them working one time. It is much better than having to nag all day. I don’t have to deploy the work crew on any set schedule or keep track of anybody’s work. I just have to hands-on supervise and direct the work for the 40 minutes we are working and motivate any slackers, which is much easier with the co-workers looking on. I can expand the number of jobs that the kids do and they actually kind of like some of the new jobs. Finally, I think I may have finally found the way to ensure that I don’t do more than my fair share of the work. Yes, I have to sit on my hands sometimes with a dirty kitchen while others are still sleeping, but by saving work for the “crew,” I too can feel like I’m getting a fair shake. Frankly, this feels like genius.
I really hope it lasts more than a week before I forget all about it.