Christmas Eve. A time of joy, a time of love, a time for family, and in my case a time to work my tail off.
My family and I had decided to host our Christmas celebration at my house this year because I have a finished basement full of toys that we can send the kids down to. This meant that we could have a nice relaxing adult conversation upstairs, while the kids were content playing downstairs. The only downside to this plan was that since all 5 of us had been home for a few days now with Matt on vacation and the kids out of school I was having trouble keeping the house clean, so that meant that part of Sunday and all of Monday morning were spent in cleaning mode.
Sunday, the kids were all told they had to help. (mind you, the 2 year old princess really didn’t do much…but at least she followed me around and “helped” all she could by undoing whatever it was I’d just done). I utilize a card system for cleaning my house. Cards are labeled with the job, the room it needs done in, and the frequency it needs done. Once a job is complete it’s filed under the next day that it will need to be completed. The system works really well for a couple of reasons, 1) normally it allows me to get my housecleaning done on a daily basis without it feeling completely overwhelming. There are times, such as this particular weekend where I didn’t complete my daily cards as I should have and therefore had to put forth additional effort to get my house cleaned up. 2) the jobs are broken down to the minutest detail, which allows me to assign cards to the kids which they can easily complete. Brendan is up to some of the more complex jobs such as “change sheets” while Cameron can do some of the more simple tasks such as “feed cats.”
I don’t believe in paying kids a flat allowance each week. If they haven’t done anything to earn money, then I’m not going to pay them. However, anytime they help me with my chore cards they’re paid for each card they complete. Sometimes they’re really into helping, they love to see the quarters plink into their piggy banks (I pay them as they complete each job rather than adding up their total and paying at the end, it provides instant gratification which helps keep their interest longer, and change makes a much more satisfying plink than paper money does despite its lessened value.) Other days, I could offer them a million dollars per job and they wouldn’t be willing to help me with the cleaning.
Which is okay, because much as I realize they should help there are times where it just isn’t worth the effort. They slow down my progress, and make a few dozen chore cards take five times as long as they need to. When I’m in a time crunch, its just easier to do it myself. Which is what happened on Monday. We hadn’t made as much progress as we probably should have on Sunday, which left a pretty big pile of things to do on Monday. So Cameron and Kaylee contented themselves with playing in the basement (which, after my experience in The Never Ending Saga I left to be cleaned until the last minute) Brendan was willing to help us still, and as he is more skilled than the kids I decided to go ahead and let him. But I didn’t have time to mess with instant gratification. The kids usually get $.25 to $.50 for a job completed. They lose interest after about 6 jobs, so they generally earn $1.00 to $2.00 for their efforts. I made Brendan a deal, if he would help me with any task I asked with no complaints for the next couple of hours I would pay him a lump sum of $5.00, no matter how many jobs he completed.
He was very excited by this. At almost 9, paper money is something that is starting to excite him more and more. He also understands how much he usually gets paid and knew that this was more than double his usual haul. There wasn’t a whole lot I had him doing, but it was also nice to just have him helping. He was able to run and fetch me stuff and also took on some of the simple tasks that would have just taken me away from the more difficult ones. It all worked out very well until the end. One of the last jobs I had for him was to clean up the toys in the basement. Unfortunately, Cameron and Kaylee were still down there playing. We’ve learned the hard way that when assigning the boys chores we have to send them to separate rooms, otherwise they spend more time fighting than cleaning. I was hoping that Brendan’s good attitude, and $5.00 on the line would allow him to do this chore without fighting with his brother. I was wrong.
I was working in the kitchen, and Matt was finishing up in the boys bedroom when the first shouts reached our ears. We tried, unsuccessfully, to mediate from our current positions and when that didn’t work, Matt went downstairs to supervise the clean up process. That usually works. As long as the kids have an adult mediator with them, they can almost always get through the picking up without breaking out into a fight. Unfortunately, Monday was not going to be one of those days. I don’t know what changed in that few minutes, but Brendan went from big helper to big complainer in no time flat. Before we knew what was happening he was having a complete meltdown, complete with screaming and crying, right there in the middle of the basement.
Needless to say, he didn’t get his $5.00. Harsh though that may seem, our deal was that he had to help me with any job I assigned him with zero complaints. Had he just complained a little, I probably would have ended up paying him anyway. But once he went into meltdown mode he forfeit his right to earn a reward. As parents, we try to be consistent and follow through with our stated consequences (and like most parents we are far from perfect at this). When it comes to meltdowns, we are more consistent than usual. We are trying to make Brendan understand that having a screaming fit isn’t the way to solve his problems. He’s come a very long way in this aspect, and I think the consistency is the key to our success in getting him this far.
Despite the meltdown, and the hours of hard work, Christmas Eve was a complete success. Everyone had a good time, and sending the kids downstairs to play really helped us have a peaceful and plesant evening.