Habit forming

We’re halfway through our first week after distributing contributions. We decided to divide the main floor of the house into three sections. We had them pick out of a hat and used a spinner from one of our board games to decide the picking order. Each girl is responsible for checking her section twice a day for things that need to be put away, thrown away, or cleaned up. We made a list of specifics for each area and there’s a white board under it where they can check a box each time they’ve done their job. Here’s a taste of the reaction we got:

  • “Wait … is this an agreement?”
  • “What happens if I don’t do it?”
  • “How do I know … I mean … what do I do with other people’s stuff?”
  • “Do we have to sweep every time, or just if there’s a big pile of dirt?”
  • “I don’t waaaaaannnt to.”
  • “She’s not doing her contribution!”

And some of my responses:

  • “We’re just going to observe this week and see what happens.”
  • “Use your best judgment.”
  • “I don’t know. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
  • “Hmm.”

Overall it made sense to them, but it’s also clear they are not used to this idea that contributing and helping out is a natural and expected part of sharing a house and being a family.

That made me realize that when we had these babies, we just expected them to eventually, automatically understand that. It seems so obvious! We work hard to provide this beautiful home and give them nice things, and naturally they’ll see how important it is to be helpful and take good care of things, right?

Well, yes, but only if we actively teach them. So all this time we’ve been rolling our eyes and grumbling and wondering why it doesn’t come naturally and just doing it ourselves because it’s faster and easier than nagging and pestering and arguing — because we didn’t know any other way. But ten years of doing that is a long time, and changing will take time too. And not just changing their habits, but ours as well.

For example, I’m having a hard time stopping myself from continuing to pick up after them. For 10 years I’ve followed behind them picking up toys and clothes and dishes and messes. My hands reach out automatically. Today I put the bag of Goldfish in the pantry and then took it out again and put it back on the table where Charlotte left it this morning. How will she ever learn if I don’t give her a chance to come home and see it still sitting there?

I set us on this course years ago. The least I can do is endure the sight of a bag of Goldfish while we work together to turn this ship.

Explore posts in the same categories: Weeks following: Contributions

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