Working on a Work Ethic

One of the kids’ chores is to help with dishes once a week. It’s been almost a year since we started that, so you’d think they’d have gotten better at it by now. Practice makes perfect, right?

Wrong. Somehow the dishes end up even wetter after Justin claims to have dried them. The rule is “no water, no bubbles,” but he doesn’t seem to notice — or care — when there’s half an inch of suds in the bottom of the bowl he just finished. And when we make him go back and redo it, he whines and moans like the overworked 10-year-old he believes he is.

I get not wanting to do the dishes. I don’t get not caring whether you get your allowance. Justin could take or leave the money, even when he’s actively saving for a new video game or something. A few times we tried the natural consequences approach, where we said look, you don’t get the money unless you do the work…and it backfired every time, cause he was totally OK with not getting paid if it meant he didn’t have to do the chore. Argh.

We finally had a breakthrough, though. He started going to a weekly youth group with his friends that sometimes requires cash for activities, and we told him that had to come from his pocket. You could almost see the light bulb go on over his head — suddenly he got the connection between having a job and having money to do fun stuff with his friends. I guess we finally found something he really, really wanted.

He still isn’t any better at drying dishes, but he no longer complains about having to do them — and he sometimes even volunteers for extra work to make extra cash.