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Baking soda.  The wonder of wonders.  It helps food to rise, settles the upset stomach, gets crayon off of walls, removes odors from anything from sneakers to refrigerators, softens skin, and makes a great cleanser for the tub.  But I can tell you from experience, that if you misread “teaspoon” to say “tablespoon” in a recipe, the food will taste like soap. It will leave a horrible taste in your mouth.  (And, no, slathering warm scones with butter and heaping on extra sugar won’t help.  Hypothetically speaking, of course.)

Sugar can’t cure everything, but it can make a lot of things better.

We need to think of training and correction as the “baking soda,” of work,  while praise, accountability, variety, and fun are the “sugar.”  Just like scones, you need just enough training and correction to help work to rise, but praise, accountability, variety, and fun cannot overcome the caustic flavor if you get too much.

So far we have assigned meaningful work and provided the training and tools needed to do the job.  Today we’ll continue talking about how to inspect work, and promote children to new jobs.  And we’ll talk about specific ways to add fun.

Inspect Expecting to Praise

Praise is an amazing motivator.  Children need to hear praise.  Don’t we all?  Isn’t part of the promise of heaven hearing those beautiful words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:14-30)?

Accountability is another good motivator.  I have learned that I can expect what I inspect. If I do not take the time to see and praise the good job they have done, my kids lose the desire to do a good job.  If I don’t correct them when a job is not well done, they learn that “not well done” is good enough.

This does not mean I expect them to do the job as well as I could do it.

I need to praise them liberally right where they are while I build excitement for learning the next part.  (And that means not doing it over when they are not looking.  They will notice.  And what does that communicate?!?)  So, napkins may be balled up for a while, but if we can get the balls increasingly flatter and consistently on the left side of the placemat, then we’ve accomplished something.

This is where I fail most often.  I am not naturally gifted at praise.  But that does not give me an excuse.  I am the adult in our house.  It is my responsibility to model Christlike habits.  It is my job to demonstrate what it looks like to put off the natural and put on the supernatural.  I have to be intentional.  I must find ways to develop the habit of praising my kids.

Promote Good Workers

There is a very real temptation to ask the most competent child to perform a task.  Doing so will almost always direct you to your oldest children.  The problem?  Eventually we rely on the oldest children for everything while the younger ones have little or no responsibility.

As kids grow into teens, they are not only the most capable workers in the house, they also have the most demanding school work, the most complex relationships, the fastest growing responsibilities outside the home, and have an increasing need for sleep on a different schedule.

Several years ago someone advised us to ask the youngest child capable of doing a task to do it.  That simple rule of thumb has revolutionized the distribution of work in our house.

With seven kids we seem to have a never ending supply of children ready to receive the baton from an older child.  Whether you have one child or many, it is your responsibility to ensure each one is trained in the skills they will need when they no longer live under your roof.  In a large family the work can be distributed among children and parents based upon maturity.  In a smaller family, it may not be as obvious – you’ll need to be more deliberate about giving tasks to your child and taking them back as your own when you promote them to new ones.

Mary Poppins

A Spoonful of Sugar…

Making work fun is a worthy goal.  We accomplish this in a variety of ways.

  • With younger children we take a page from Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s book… we’ll pretend the dirty witch is coming and will gobble them up if she finds any dirt in the house.  A few snarly looks and wicked cackles gets them squealing and cleaning in a hurry.
  • Loud, fun, energizing music blasting through the house invites loud, fun, energetic cleaning.  If nothing else, it’ll drown out the complaining and whining.
  • Work as a team to tackle a room together.  We may start with a, “Ready, Set, Go!” and see how fast Team Quillen can clean the room together.
  • Divide the shopping into multiple lists and race through the store (being careful and courteous to other customers) to see who can complete their portion of the list first.

In our home, with kids close in age, we often have several people capable of doing the same set of chores.  There are lots of fun ways to sort this out.

  • Once they are all proficient at several jobs that are roughly equal in the time required, we write the jobs on cards.  When it is time to do the jobs, we “deal” the cards to see what God has assigned to that child for the day.*
  • I have a friend who divvies up chores with a rotating wheel.
  • Another rotates by day of the week.
  • Still others use dice or a game spinner.
  • When we had fewer children, we used a folded paper decision maker (also called Fortune Teller). We used names instead of “fortunes” and let the child who “won” pick jobs written on slips of paper from a plastic bin. Again, we help our kids to see that God controls who wins this “game of chance.”
  • There is an Apple App called “Decision Maker” that allows you to enter options and the app chooses from among them.  It’s this generation’s version of casting lots.  It is free in the App Store.

The options are only limited by your imagination (and your ability to use Google!).

*Note the emphasis on God doing the choosing.  We remind our kids that the lot is in the hand of the Lord (Proverbs 16:33, Proverbs 18:18).  This takes away a lot of grumbling in our house.  It is somehow easier to complain against God’s agent (i.e. Mommy) choosing chores for the day than it is to complain against God.  It also creates a frame of reference for understanding God is in control and he is in the details.

Next Up…

Daily chores.  Yay!


By Trailer screenshot (w:en:Mary Poppins (film) Trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons