Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Posts tagged ‘work ethic’

The “Uh Oh” Box

Some years ago, I was fantastising about writing an autobiography. The title was inspired by the animal impressions my children were fond of doing at the time, and the tidal wave of toys that seemed to have consumed every available surface, no matter how unlikely it may seem. I am not terribly proud to confess that the proposed title I had in my was “There’s a Lion in the Passage and a Barbie up my Bum”. It had been one of those days.

One problem we face (and I’m sure we’re not alone here) is stuff being left lying around all over the house. It doesn’t take long, if everyone leaves just one thing where it doesn’t belong each day, for the house to degenerate into chaos. I hate chaos. As FlyLady says: CHAOS = Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome. If we’re supposed to be hospitable, we need a place in which to be hospitable – a neat, organised, welcoming space.

Microsoft Word - Uh Oh.docxSome incredibly inspired soul (whose link I have sadly lost) recently posted a photo on Pinterest of their “uh oh” box: a big box with a sign on it, explaining that what you’ve left out has been picked up by Mom and put into the box. You can only get it out by doing a chore. It’s a great plan: stuff gets tidied away; lessons get learned; and each chore has it’s own FREE reward: the toy you would otherwise have lost.

In a word: genius.

So now we have an “Uh Oh” box, too. Everything goes into it, including Papa Bear’s slip slops and Goldilocks’ favourite blanket. Nothing is safe from the Uh Oh box unless it’s been safely tidied away where it belongs. If the week ends and the box still has anything in it, on Saturday I take it all to charity. No quibble. No arguing about which treasures (if any) should go to a more needy (or deserving) home. I wish I could say “no tears”, but that’d be stretching things a bit. At least they have a week to prepare for their loss, or take measures to avoid it.

Honestly, it makes me inordinately happy to see the kids tidying up after themselves, willingly doing chores, my house no longer being overrun, and rewards being given freely and fairly – without me actually spending any money. And of course: no more ranting about picking up toys!

I highly recommend the “Uh Oh” box route if toys have taken over your life. What do you use to motivate your family to clean up after themselves? I could do with the inspiration :). 



Chores made simple

Our Family Chore Chart

Our Family Chore Chart

Hard work matters

I believe in the value of hard work. It seems to me that the mystical “work ethic” of ages past is becoming a rarer and rarer commodity. As we strive so hard to inculcate a sense of self-esteem into the next generation, we are missing the mark and, instead, creating a culture of entitlement and laziness.

Parents have a duty to teach their children the value of hard work, and to equip them with the practical skills needed to perform the work. Not only that, studies show that when we have work to do, and the work is valued and achievable, our sense of self worth actually increases. In other words, while we cosset our little ones and “protect” them from the hardship of “real life”, with all it’s responsibilities, demands and work, in a misguided attempt to improve their sense of self esteem, we are in fact doing the very opposite, and creating a vacuum of meaning in their lives.


Chores provide the perfect opportunity to develop a good work ethic. Certain things need to be done every single day in order for a family to function efficiently. If these things are left undone, chaos ensues. If all of these things are done by just one or two people, chaos ensues, and so does burn out and family feuding. But if each person has a job to do, and everyone contributes equally to the smooth running of the home, and is fairly rewarded for their contribution, the result is bliss. A sense of teamwork, harmony and mutual dependency develops which results in everyone feeling like they matter; like they belong.

The problems with chores are fairness and consistency. I usually find that I forget who is supposed to do what, I forget to check up on whether or not it’s been done, and in the end it seems so much simpler for me just to do it all. Until I burn out, of course.

Making it practical

This year, we’re trying something new (although I’m sure all of you already have this brilliant plan in place!). I’ve devised a chore chart. It’s a table broken into 9 columns, and in each row is the name of a chore that needed to be done each day. At the start of every week, we sit with the list and each of us chooses 7 or 8 chores to take of in the week ahead. Our names are written in the columns next to the chores we’ve chosen, and the seven blocks to the right of our names represent the days of the week. Each day, once we’ve completed a chore, we tick it off.


Every weekend we go to the Farmers’ Market. Anyone who has done all their chores all week long gets R50 pocket money to spend on themselves at the market. If they’ve done more than their fair share, they get an extra R5 per additional chore they’ve done, provided they’ve done it all week long. We are all expected to tithe 10% of that, and to save 10% of that. But the rest is ours to spend as we please, or to save if we prefer. This means that the girls get a great grounding in the basics of money management, not to mention a fairly concrete maths lesson each week.

So that’s the economics taken of. However, I also want to foster a sense of teamwork, kindness and generosity. I absolutely don’t think that working for money and money alone will ever create that. Instead, no one will do anything unless they’re paid to do it. So while I believe in the value of earning your keep, and being paid for a job well done, it needs to go beyond that.

Every evening with supper, we either chat, read stories, play board games or, most often, watch movies. Now what we do is vote for the person ho was most kind and generous in a particular day. Each nominee has to make a case for their election (see: a debate lesson), and then the vote is cast. The winner chooses the evening’s entertainment.

So far it’s going very well. The house runs smoothly(ish), and everyone has a sense of participation in that success. We have far fewer grumbles about doing chores, and I have more times for things other than washing the dishes. All-in-all, I’m very satisfied with the results so far.

What about you? Do you use chore charts? How do you incentivise the system, and what works in your house? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Lesson# 7: More on attitudes

The day before yesterday I posted about praising our children and ways to do it that will build them up rather than (inadvertently) leave them worse off than before. It’s important not to waste our efforts where our children are concerned, letting them feel and believe that well-deserved praise, exhortation and encouragement is meaningless and empty.

Deerfeet, whose beautiful blog often inspires me in my home education journey, posted a link to a post of hers on a similar subject, which really spoke to me. You can read the full post here (it’s worth the trip over). I want to highlight two bits that really spoke to me:

“Dweck has conducted studies with hundreds of students, mostly early adolescents, in which experimenters gave the subjects a set of difficult problems from an IQ test.  Afterward, some of the young people were praised for their ability: “You must be smart at this.”  Others were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.”  The kids who were complimented on their intelligence were more likely to turn down the opportunity to do a challenging new task that they could learn from.  ”They didn’t want to do anything that could expose their deficiencies and call into question their talent,” Dweck says.  Ninety percent of the kids who were praised for their hard work, however, were eager to take on the demanding new exercise.”

‘The Roar of the Tiger Mom’ By Annie Murphy Paul
TIME Jan 31, 2011

I read this TIME article last year and found it very thought-provoking at the time. I think I even modified my behavious slightly as a result, although it wasn’t a great time for us and things got, well, blurry.

Then there was this:

“That’s right,” agreed Grandma.  ”Shall I tell you something else that’s good?  God is pleased by the things we do for him out of love.  We may think some of our actions, or deeds, aren’t improtant, but they’re special to God because he notices the love you put into them.  Giving a helping hand, a friendly smile, or an encouraging word is just as important to God as any other job.”

from The One Year Book of Family Devotions.  Vol. 2

I am reminded that the attitudes in our family, particularly unconditional love, gratitude and a good work ethic, could all do with some focused prayer and Bible Study this week.

(I know I said two things spoke to me. I meant three.):

“Some people may say that these are ‘little’ things.  Maybe they are.  But we must not wait for a chance to do great things.  We must begin with little deeds of love.”

‘Deeds of Kindness’  Adp from ‘McGuffey’s Third Eclectic Reader’

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