Teaching kids about chores

The winsome and caffeinated Kate would like to talk about chores:

"Can we talk about chores? And motivating the recalcitrant child? If charts, allowance, bribes, threats are not working, what to do?

This is a weekly struggle -- not asking for anything hard or unusual, would take less than five minutes if done when originally asked, but stretched to 2-3 hours of horror, whining, temper tantrums. Seriously refused to attempt to put a pillowcase on when we changed the beds on Friday and as a result slept on an unmade bed.

The idea of "playful parenting" this kind of stuff makes me crazy, because I really think this is just part of being in a family. Everyone does a little bit. Mom and dad do more, kids do less. Kids who do as they are asked in a prompt, non whiny way get allowance. The end. I honestly don't have time for games--or for the drama. The two extremes are letting the child out of every responsibility or continuing to ruin my weekend day to put some order into my house. (And I mean very little order. Just want to be able to have clean linens, clean floor, clean bathrooms once a week. We're not talking House Beautiful.)

PS It should go without saying that we didn't spring this idea of helping to clean up/contributing to what the family is doing in the last five minutes or whatever. I am definitely one of those clean-up-when-you-leave-a-playdate-for-the-principle-of-it-moms."

Her email sparked some deep thoughts on my part, because I'd not even thought of assigning my kids Chores. But then I realized that I hadn't codified my requests for work as chores in my head (perhaps because of my whole weird hoarding-spectrum issue that doesn't let me really conceptualize the running of a house the way normal people do). But that I do ask my kids to do plenty of tasks around the apartment, and many of them repeat at regular intervals (putting dirty dishes in the sink, put clothes in the hamper, change the cats' water, etc.) so I'm not, in fact raising my children as if I were a wolf. And you are not raising your children as if you're a wolf if you haven't made a job chart, either, as long as you're giving them age-appropriate responsibility for something.

Anyway. It's the compliance Kate wanted to talk about, not whether we make our kids do chores or not. This statement:

"I really think this is just part of being in a family. Everyone does a little bit. Mom and dad do more, kids do less. Kids who do as they are asked in a prompt, non whiny way get allowance. The end. I honestly don't have time for games--or for the drama." 

Yes. Exactly. Kids aren't doing us a favor by holding up their end of the family. Hang together, or we hang separately.

But, to be honest, I don't know how to enforce this with any kids except my own. I'd like to think that I've inspired a spirit of teamwork and family unity, but I'm not kidding myself. My older one can see when I'm serious, and he just does it because he knows I won't give in so the sooner he does what I ask the sooner he can get back to his book. My younger one has the kind of hopeful heart that would've made him a beloved English 19th century poet, but even he can't outbadger me when I've made a decision. 

Is there anyone who feels like they've been successful at getting either buy-in or non-grudging compliance with chores in a way that can be replicated by other parents? One thing that strikes me is that my kids see me struggling with chores, so they've never had the idea that things just get done. They know that someone has to do them. (I may also inadvertently be teaching them that done is better than perfect.)

But I'm thinking there has to be a way to avoid the crying and whining that doesn't involve using mind games to trick kids into compliance. Because the goal is not just to get the chores done, but for kids to learn that there are things you do just because you're a member of society.

Ideas?