Worse than that, I made them carry their own books in and out of the library, hang up towels after a bath and put their dirty clothes in the laundry hamper! I was one mean Mama!
Now, lest you think our three children were overworked or under-appreciated, allow me to include a little story about my methods:
"Hey, sis! Mom's being Mrs. Grump, today!"
When I overheard our son's excitement, I couldn't help grinning. The creative approach we'd taken to doing chores was paying off!
It all started when I was one very-pregnant Momma with a prolapsed uterus. Because this put painful pressure on the cervix, I had to stay off my feet as much as possible. This meant the chores I normally did during the day would be added to our younger children's to-do list.
I felt badly about that. On the flip side, I felt this situation could be turned into a character-building experience for our children. So I turned chore time into fun time!
Some days I played the role of Mrs. Grump, wearing a perpetual frown and pointing out the pickiest little things. She would also "fall asleep and snore" while they worked, then wake up fussing. I'm normally an even-tempered person, so our children thought it funny to see me play the grouch.
I would call up Mrs. Grump when floors needing sweeping and mirrors and sinks needed to be shined. Result? My kids worked extra hard, did a great job and laughed a lot at Mrs. Grump's snoring.
On other days I put on a pretty apron and became Mrs. Sweet. She was the gentle older lady who handed out praise and sweets simultaneously. Her visits were less frequent, but that made them more anticipated.
Mrs. Sweet usually came on days when outdoor work like raking leaves, picking up acorns or sweeping the porches were on the schedule. After working hard in the fresh air, the children loved her praise - and the sweets she brought along!
Then there was Mrs. Honey, a true Southern Belle with an accent to match. One thing I'll say for Mrs. Honey: she knew just how to work a situation. She could tell the best (and longest) stories while little hands scraped dishes and loaded the dishwasher. And she oh-so-kindly requested that her dishes be handled with special care, because ...
"Mah dear de-pahhh-ted husband brought them back with him af-tuh the wah between the Nawth and South."
Not only were our children bewitched by her accent, they tried to be extra careful with any breakable items. (mission accomplished) I also overheard our son tell his sister, "Be careful with that plate! Mrs. Honey's husband got it for her in World War Three!"
Looking for an alternative perspective on children and chores? What we adults consider to be "work," our young children imitate in their play. Try this formula and see if it works for you, too: 1 part fun + 1 part work = lots of cooperation.
Oh, by the way, if you need some extra help, be sure to call on Mrs. Honey, Mrs. Grump and Mrs. Sweet. I'm sure they'd be more than happy to stop by your house, too!
Footnote: In the photo above, 2-year old Kevin was delighted to help Daddy mow the yard. Ten years later, he took over that job and enjoyed tinkering with and maintaining the mower.