Kimmy Sophia Brown

The Several Habits of Highly Defective People

Aug 3, 2003
We home school, and therefore, often discuss school assignments and our daily schedule with our children. Because it seems related, the conversation often turns to one of their favorite childhood topics, doing chores. My kids can't remember their chores. We call that their selective memory. They remember where they 'paused' the Zelda game at Joshua's house. They remember which action figure they want to buy, but they cannot agree whose turn it is to wash the dishes. We try posting lists on the refrigerator and their bedroom wall.. But they still can't remember. "Surely mother, it is mon frere's turn to scoop the cat litter this time, not moi's."

I've run into a series of themes and behaviors when I bring up the matter of chores. It's a two pronged problem. The first prong is to actually get the direction to stick to their brain long enough for them to remember it. The second prong concerns attitudes in accepting the job and doing it well. After all, as I saw on a signboard of a local highschool; "A Job Well Done is a Self Portrait of the Person Who Did It". And if you're the Jackson Pollock of choredom, I rest my case.

I've compiled some of the defective, habitual reactions that some of us have encountered in our progeny:

Procrastination: I'll do it later.

Complaint: It's HIS turn.

Doing the Minimum: Yelling, "I'm done!" in an assertive voice 27 seconds after beginning the task.

Spacing Out: I forgot, OR, It was my turn? (pick one)

Dropping the Ball: The reason I didn't do it is because Dad asked me for a cup of coffee and I didn't have time.

Blaming others: You always ask me to change the cat litter, you never ask HER!

Admitting nothing: When I look in the kitchen trash can and someone has taken out the trash but has not replaced the bag, and now heaps of garbage have been directly thrown into the can with no bag, and no one knows who did it.

And then the worst one of all which has nothing to do with chores: eating the last cookie!

We've tried paying them meager allowances to get them to work around the house. "Mommy will give you a shiny new penny if you vacuum!"

We've tried endorsing past presidents to appeal to their patriotic side. "Ask not, what your parents can do for you! Ask what you can do for your parents!"

Sometimes we try to instill a sense of ownership in them. "Don't you want to do such a good job that it reflects on your character? Don't you want people to say, 'When I need dog poo removed from my lawn, I'm going to call Tymon, because I know he'll do a good job?'"


Maybe a more subtle approach will take care of the issue of remembering chores. I think I'll hire a little old lady handy with a needle and have their duties stitched on their underwear in needlepoint. Once they see the phrase "Take out the garbage", every time they go to the loo, they might remember to do it - kind of like the old 1950's underwear with the days of the week on them. Only these will have chores and cheers stitched on them. "Wash the dishes." "Clean your room". "Make your bed". And words of encouragement too: "Do a good job!" "Rinse with hot water!" and "Remember, God is watching!"

Maybe this is the business plan I've been waiting for. Fruit of the Loom and BVD will sign on to the idea and our financial troubles will be over. Panty Post Its. I'll let you know if it works.

Kim lives in Maine, which is lovely, and where she continues her enthusiastic relationship with Art, Music, Nature, Books, Animals, Humor and Trees.