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School is out! Many of us are working from home and now we are homeschool teachers. But my “students” want to eat all the time! They think the kitchen is a 24/7 restaurant… and they don’t tip! Any other parents struggling with this? If they keep going at this rate then we will be out of food in a couple of days. So what do we do?

Enter the superhero wife! My wife is a rockstar. Yesterday she sat down and made a plan to save our food and get the kids to be a bigger part of household chores. Don’t get me wrong, our kids contribute, but they are seven and four so their contribution around the house is limited to what they can do. During this time when we are all home, things just have to look different and that’s okay. 

So this is what we came up with. We made a list of things that our kids can do around the house like making their bed, sweeping rooms, unloading the dishwasher, reading for 30 minutes (outside of their school reading), exercising (again, outside of school exercise), and so on. Each item on this list will earn them money… no, not real money! My son has some fake money to learn to count with. 

Then we made a list of snacks and food items that they love to eat. We attached prices to these items and portioned them out. The healthier the food, the cheaper the price. Oranges are $2, whereas candy is $80. And you know what? The kids love this idea! They are looking for ways to earn money so they can save up for the sweet stuff.

To keep with their regular schedules, they have their normal breakfast, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, and dinner, but if they want to eat between these times then they have to do things to earn money to buy more food. This is helping us keep a routine similar to their normal school schedule which helps keep their sanity and ours.

These times are different and how we handle them may look different than normal. Get creative and make your kids part of the process. Let them speak into what you all are doing in the house. You are a family and you are in this together. This time may be stressful but we have an opportunity to make great memories! 
*For more parenting resources, including COVID-19 specific resources, go to Firstthings.org.

Kay Wyma, mother of five, had a revelation one day while taking her kids to school that prompted some dramatic changes at home and ultimately led her to write Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement.

“My teenage son asked me what kind of car I thought he would look best in, a Porsche, Lexus or Maserati,” says Wyma. “Deciding on the Porsche, he said he planned to get one when he turned 16. Fighting back nausea, I’m thinking, ‘What planet are you on and how do you plan to pay for it?’ All the talks about ‘materialism and how things don’t make you happy’ clearly hadn’t penetrated his brain.”

On the way home, Wyma called her friend to vent and get reassurance that the self-centered teenage stage doesn’t last forever. Wyma realized mid-discussion that maybe she was contributing to her kids’ self-centeredness.

“My kids are great. But I wondered if what we were doing was helping prepare them for the real world,” Wyma says.

“I made their beds, picked up their rooms, taxied them here and there, fixed their meals, and showered them with accolades but rarely gave them the chance to confirm the substance of that praise. My words said one thing, but my actions said, ‘I’ll do it for you because I can do it better or faster than you can.’ I realized this was a major disservice to our children. Instead of preparing them to launch, we are creating a sense of dependence on us as parents.”

After seeking wisdom from women with adult children, Wyma came up with 12 skills for her children to learn before they fly the coop. Here is a sample of what’s on the list:

  • Make a bed and maintain an orderly room;

  • Cook and clean a kitchen;

  • Do yard work;

  • Clean a bathroom;

  • Do laundry;

  • Run errands; and

  • Act mannerly.

“After deciding on the 12 skills, we called a family meeting and we told the kids that things were going to be different,” Wyma says. “We started with their rooms. They had to make their beds before they went to school and pick stuff up from the floor. We got the usual whining and complaining, but I was actually surprised at how quickly they started doing what we asked.”

To help get the ball rolling, Wyma decided to add an incentive: She put 31 dollar bills in a jar for each child. They could get an additional dollar each day they did what they were supposed to or have one taken away. Most of the kids chose to have one taken away if they didn’t follow through on their tasks. Interestingly, she rarely had to take bills out of the jar. But the child who chose to have money put in the jar could have cared less.

“I think people forget how exciting it is to equip your kids to tap into the opportunities that come to them,” Wyma says. “If I am always doing everything, they don’t own anything nor do they have the opportunity to be challenged and build confidence. Our children are in a very different place than they were two years ago when we started this experiment. I think we would all agree things have changed for the better.”

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!