Monday, November 18, 2013

Empowerment Experience

As an avid reader I came across a book that talked about taking the feeling of entitlement out of kids. In a nutshell, a mom decided to do an experiment in her home. She was hoping the end result would be less entitlement in her kids. As I read through her account I appreciated many things she was trying to do, but I felt I would do things different for my kids.

That is how our empowerment experience was born.

Empowering kids is teaching them that they are able to do things for themselves. It teaches them self-confidence and gives them opportunities to learn skills and to be better prepared for life. It teaches them the value of work. To realize that things won't be handed to them, rather they will need to work for them.

We are in month 2 of our empowerment experience in our home. Each month we focus on something that I have thought about and want to improve on or change in our home and attitudes.

Month One
Chores. Just the sound of the word makes me brace for the fight that is surely to follow. Chores. The word that sends children into the realm of grunting, moaning, sudden illness, begging, fighting. I can't tell you how many times I heard that so-and-so never had to do chores after school or how mean I was for making them pick up after themselves. Chores, the first thing on our empowerment trail.

We have always had chores for our children. Often times I would break down and help them (or do them) to get them done in a timely manner, to make sure they were done right or because they had so much going I felt they didn't have time. I realized that it was not okay for me to be doing this. Moms and dads...if we do this for our kids like I was, we rob them of the opportunity to know they can do it for themselves. We have to help them grow and learn rather than hold their hand the whole time and hinder them from learning the feeling of accomplishment with a good job done.

We have to first teach. Patiently teach them the correct way to do their chores. They will need to practice doing it right with positive feedback, then they can move forward with more independence.

We tried everything: kid bucks, charts with money rewards, charts with object rewards, punishments for not doing chores, magnetic chore charts, pick a chore buckets, getting mad...everything. Many things worked for several days or weeks but would eventually fizzle out. I needed to do something about this. My kids were definitely old enough to be doing their chores.

The money jar came to be.

Each of my children received a clear jar with a wide opening and a screw on lid. I stuffed each jar with 30 $1 bills. I gave them each this money up front (there were whoops of joy) along with expectations (not so many whoops). Our expectations are as follows:

  1. Bed made
  2. Nothing on the floor
  3. No piles anywhere
  4. Clothes hung up/put away
  5. Bathroom floor free from clothes and towels
  6. Bathroom counter cleared off
The kids were told that if they met the expectations nothing would be taken from their jars. I check their chores every morning before they leave the house. If they miss something and do not meet the expectations they lose $1 out of their jar. It is up to them to keep their chore money. 

It took one day for my child who I will call "tornado" to be on board and doing chores without me hounding. Yes, you heard me hounding at all. It was a miracle! My youngest has only lost one dollar over the past 2 months. It is really incredible for me and them. I don't have to ask and ask. I simply say, "oops, you lost your dollar today." It is followed by "oh, man!" or "really?" Long gone are the comments like "not fair", or "no one else has to do this." And long gone is me losing my temper over something like chores. 

The rule is no one can touch the money until at the end of the month the money is removed from the jar and I refill it with 30 more $1 bills. It is a clean slate and they are motivated all over again. 

Our first month was a HUGE success! The tension in the home decreased and our children have begun to learn a valuable lesson about work and being self-reliant.