Go Big or Go Home… or Go Do Your Chores.

Back in college, I had a friend who went on a blind date with a guy I’ll call Billy Bob. That was not his name, but could have been for reasons that will become clear in a moment. On the date, Billy Bob took my friend to the McDonald’s drive-thru for dinner and while ordering, he yelled into the speaker, “I’ll have a number 2… and while you’re at it why don’t you go ahead and super-size that son-of-a-bitch.”

 The moral of this story is two-fold. First, things could always be worse. You could be on a date with someone who:

  • A.) Takes you to McDonald’s for dinner.
  • B.) Orders a “Number 2.”
  • C.) Calls his Number 2 a son-of-a-bitch.
  • D.) And wants that son-of-a-bitch super-sized.

The second moral of the story is that people love to upgrade. It’s true. Entire companies – hell, entire countries – have been built on this practice.

  • “Would you like a mid-size instead of a compact?”
  • “Would you like to add the protection plan?”
  • “Would you like me to change the election laws to allow me a third term as President?”

Once a person has agreed to something, getting them to agree to a small percentage more is a piece of cake that’s just been upgraded to a la mode.

I’ve decided I’d like to incorporate this highly effective strategy into my parenting regimen. I think it’s a natural fit as I often have to sell the idea of certain household responsibilities to my kids. Loading the dishwasher is fun! Raking leaves is great exercise! If you help me wash the windows, you can spray the Windex!

The problem is that at 9 & 12, my kids aren’t buying it anymore. They are no longer taken in by my enticements, and household gadgets have lost their appeal. I remember the days when my daughter begged me to use the Swiffer. Now she runs away when I get it out. They have discovered that the scrubbing bubbles don’t really talk or have mustaches, the fabric softener teddy bear won’t hop off the label and give them a big hug, and that no matter how clearly they yell, “Accio!” that broom ain’t gonna fly ‘em to the Quidditch pitch.

The problem with trying to up-sell my kids into doing their chores, is that chores don’t really have much of an upside. Sure, there is comfort that comes from a clean house, but that doesn’t mean much to your average preteen. Their comfort comes in different packaging. For them comfort is knowing their mother won’t rap along to that new Eminem song when their friends are in the car, or take them with her go bra shopping. Rather than the satisfaction of a job well done, their comfort mostly lies in being left alone. Except when they need money or food or help with homework.

So it makes finding the added-value in household responsibilities a bit of challenge for this age group. I’ve taken a stab at it and here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  • If you clean your bathroom you can avoid getting dysentery!
  • If you clear the table, you will be offered food again at the next meal time!
  • If you pick up your dirty clothes, you will get to keep them and thus avoid having to go to school naked!
  • If you throw away your trash instead of stuffing it under the couch, you won’t have to share the sofa with rodents!
  •  If you check your attitude even when you’re grumpy in the morning, I won’t yell, “Mommy loves you!” at the top of my lungs when I drop you off at middle school!

Ok. So some of these are more like blackmail. But still. I think they might just work.

I like the concept of teaching my children that there are added, perhaps under-appreciated, benefits to even the simplest of tasks. Even if those under-appreciated benefits are really just me making up ways to torture them should they decide to be non-compliant. Now that I think of it, maybe this isn’t so much me up-selling them on chores, as me super-sizing my threats. Either way, if it gets them to take out the trash, I’m good with it.


7 Comments on “Go Big or Go Home… or Go Do Your Chores.”

  1. Sandra Neely says:

    This is perfect! I’m a grandmother of 7. Ages 6 to 12 I can get them to do almost anything I ask but at their home it’s a different story! One set of kids has a Mother who teaches at Gentry. She is a Rock Star at school but when she comes home she is reduced to being a mom again! I am sending her this! I am a huge fan of your writing so keep them coming!

    • Jill Orr says:

      Thank you so much! Obviously, if you have a daughter whose a teacher- she must be a rock star! And you must be too if your 7 grandchildren do what you ask. Please share your secrets!!! 🙂

  2. Kim says:

    Love it Jill!! I put Jackson’s fave sweatshirt in “timeout” and he doesn’t get it back if I find in laying around. And being grounded from the cell phone works WONDERS! 🙂

  3. Karen says:

    OMG. Love this. Am forwarding to all my friends (who don’t already know/follow you!).

  4. gale spencer says:

    I always enjoy your posts! My mom used to say,”I’ll LET you set the table for me.” And, instead of inspiring me to help, all that did was drive me bonkers. Maybe it was the scars from my childhood, but I totally gave up when I had my own (can you say, ‘housekeeper’?). Despite words of warning from others about the lack of training I was giving our girls, I am proud to say that they are productive American citizens with steady jobs and neat homes! Fear not!

  5. Nicky Scheidt says:

    Absolutely loved it! Hilarious and so true! 🙂 Nicky

    From: An Exercise in Narcissism <comment-reply@wordpress.com> Reply-To: An Exercise in Narcissism <comment+r648hzkklchbufmt0kvrxt@comment.wordpress.com> Date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 11:01 AM To: Nicky Scheidt <nscheidt@moentcenter.com> Subject: [New post] Go Big or Go Home or Go Do Your Chores.

    Jill Orr posted: “Back in college, I had a friend who went on a blind date with a guy Ill call Billy Bob. That was not his name, but could have been for reasons that will become clear in a moment. On the date, Billy Bob took my friend to the McDonald’s drive-thru for dinn”

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