The week before last in Church, The Dormouse's Sunday School teacher gave them a lesson on being helpful to Mom and Dad and doing chores around the house. To encourage them all to go home and actually put it into practice, she gave them each a "chore chart" which was marked out for one week, day by day, and had a picture of a different chore that they could help with each day:

  • Monday: Pick up toys
  • Tuesday: Fold the clothes
  • Wednesday: Make your bed
  • Thursday: Set the table
  • Friday: Take out the trash
  • Saturday: Clean room

Then, the kicker... at the bottom of the chart, written in by hand, it said that if they all did these chores each day for one week and brought the chart back next Sunday completed, they could have a "Pizza - Ice Cream - Movie Party" at the teacher's house.

Back when I was in college and taking psychology courses, we always discussed what the "$64,000 Question" was in mental health work. In other words, what's the most important thing to ascertain when you want to understand and/or change behavior? The answer was: motivation. Basically, if you can determine what motivates a client and use it appropriately, you can get them to do anything.

Apparently the answer to motivation for a three year old is a social event filled with junk food.

I have never seen a toddler more excited to do anything in my life. She dutifully put the chart up on the refrigerator at her eye level with magnets. Every morning and three times a day, she stopped to look at the chart and inform me what she needed to do that day, what she'd done and what she could expect to do tomorrow. Before bed, she'd check it once again, just to make sure she was keeping up with the program. Although it wasn't even a condition of the process, she added the requirement that she'd put a sticker on each day of the chart once the chore was accomplished. So when she finished something she could prove to her teacher next Sunday that she'd done it.

And because I'm compelled to bitch about even the slightest thing, I must add here that some of the chores were the slightest bit questionable. The teacher has grown or almost grown kids so I don't think she really remembers what three year olds are capable of doing. The chores didn't really fit into our family schedule, were just a little bit over her head, and in most cases, just created more work for me. First of all, we don't typically do laundry on Tuesday, plus how many three year olds do you know who can do an adequate job at folding laundry? But in order to placate The Dormouse, I had to make up a load of laundry full of things that I thought she'd be able to fold. So, pretty much, an entire load of Daddy's socks.

Taking out the trash, not the easiest task either. Our trash bags are taller than The Dormouse and heaving them up into the trash can, which is even bigger than that, was a task she couldn't do alone. So I bagged up a bunch of target bags with little bits of trash and let her take those out... one by one by one.

Setting the table was also somewhat questionable - especially since the most common place for us to eat is on the living room floor. So instead, I had her help clean off the table.

The most amazing thing though, was that she did it all, remembered even a week into the experiment and by the end of the week was still as excited about the process as she was the first day. Last Sunday she brought the chart back to church and showed pretty much everyone there all her stickers. She talked up the Pizza Ice Cream Movie Party like it was the social event of the year. She proudly handed the chart to her teacher, who, I think was a little surprised. She didn't expect any of the kids to actually do the chores everyday, much less bring the chart back with an in depth tracking system installed.

Last night she went to her Pizza Ice Cream Movie Party and couldn't have been more proud of herself for her accomplishments.

But I think she may have developed a bit of a Cinderella complex in the process: