Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Defining Insanity

Albert Einstein defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  There is a reason why he was considered a genius.  I think he was talking to ME.  And I believe I have hit the insanity threshold.

This week's chosen path towards my inevitable insanity involves employment and financial remuneration...aka "the chore list". I wish I could say this has been an experiment that really only involves some fine tuning, but I'd be lying.  So, I am taking another approach, a similar approach (which I guess is insane on my part) but different in that it involves choice.

Like Einstein, one needs to first define the problem one wishes to address.  In my case, it's many tiered.  At the highest level, the problem is that I have a family of 6 and 4 of them do as little as possible with high expectations of rewards (and yes, I believe we are responsible for that misconception). Second, to force the realization that YES appearances DO matter  (YES children, I am humiliated by the state of the common bathroom when unexpected people stop by, AND YOU SHOULD BE TOO). Third, help them to the realization that this household is NOT a communist household where we follow the motto "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need".  Um...no.  Especially not when weekly Caribou runs at $5/child are deemed a "need".  And finally, which point 3 alludes to, these children need to understand the difference between wants and needs and should be willing to sacrifice to achieve their "wants".  Which addresses receiving financial remuneration for services provided and learning to live within their means.

So, my first step was to take the old chore list and remove any assignments.  Now to be fair, the original chore list which delineates chores assignments by color(it was really pretty too), I had assigned WITH APPROVAL to each child.  That didn't work so well, so it is now back to black and white.  NO chores are assigned to a person.  They are now each assigned a monetary value as well as a frequency.  They get to choose what they do and when they do it.  So, the kitchen needs cleaning after dinner, I'm not going to ask anyone, I'm just going to wait and see who does it.  If they just load the dish washer, they get paid $1.  If they wipe the counters/stove, wash the pots and pans and sweep the floor they get paid more.  I am the arbitrator as to how well a job was done.  Expectations for such jobs are made clear in advance.  They choose not to do chores, they will get NO money.  It seems like a fairly simple concept.

Since we're not good at keeping track of who has received what money in advance, and since they NEED to learn to budget, I made the decision to pay them monthly.  I know, that's a tough one, especially for my oldest daughter who can't seem to keep a nickle in her pocket.  Not every job (as in real employment) she has will pay  her on a weekly basis.  Some will pay every 2 weeks, and some will even pay once/month.  If she can learn to budget the once/month jobs, she can EASILY learn to budget being paid on a more frequent basis.  So, at the end of each month, I will tally up their "financial remuneration" for the month and place that amount in their accounts.  Last time, I made the mistake of paying them FIRST. (I'll give you a moment to ponder the stupidity of that decision)  I won't be making that one again.  Nor will I be providing those "extras" that they seem to be able to finagle from me (I just need to get the husband on board with that).

Of course, I will still match any money they choose to move into savings.  Thus far this hasn't been an issue.  And sadly, I don't see it being an issue with my "new and improved" experiment in insanity and I find that a little sad.  But I have to look at this as this is THEIR loss, not mine.  Hopefully they will one day realize what they gave up by making their wants needs and learn from that error. 

I really think I am toeing the line with regard to this whole insanity gig, just trying to figure out what is going to work with my kids.  Still, there is a tiny part voice that is whispering to me (yes insanity rules), saying..."YOU are a fool.  They are playing you like a deck of cards.  They have no intention of defining their wants and needs, of helping you out, of learning to be responsible people who CARE about appearances.  They are children and they want IMMEDIATE gratification and will settle for no less.  Towards that end, they just need to get you to keep trying these little experiments until they're gone, then they're going to go there merry little way."

And it scares the hell out of me that the tiny little voice may be right.   Which means, as a parent, I have failed.

Failure mixed with insanity, I suspect, never ends well.

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