As my children grow older, I have been noticing that my authority seems to be diminishing. I recall with nostalgia the years when my children were so eager to help around the house. How I would smile when the toddlers would beg to sweep or to wash the dishes. I regret having impatiently said no so often because it took them too long and I would always have to redo the chore when they were through because I was never satisfied with the cleaning skills of a two-year-old.
As they entered the preschool and kindergarten years, they were still quite eager to help and their skills had improved so that they became entrusted with daily chores which I could count on them to complete to my satisfaction.
As they advanced to grade school age and into their teen years however, it became a greater challenge to instill the value of hard work in them. It used to be that I could simply give my children a good hard, stern look and they would jump to accomplish any task I demanded of them. But all too soon, they began to question me. A near-constant refrain became "Why do I have to wash the dishes" and "Why do I have to put the laundry away?" When my polished answer about the responsibilities of family members caused them to persist in new complaints such as "I just did the dishes yesterday!" or "Why can't I get paid to do chores like my friends do?" Before I knew it, they would simply find a way to conveniently disappear when work needed to be done. How quickly they could put together a family basketball game or sneak off to their bedrooms with a quiet book if it meant that they could delay their chores for a time. I realized that I needed to develop a new tactic that would get the chores done with less complaints.
I never met a child who didn't love to tattle to see their siblings get into trouble. I decided to use this less than endearing quality to my advantage. I enlisted the help of the tattler to get some chores done. Whenever I'd hear "Justin didn't make his bed today", I'd have the tattler help Justin make his bed. If the complaint was that Joe didn't put his clothes in the hamper or John didn't wash the dishes clean enough, it was put on the one who liked to tell tattles to help with the chore.
As it often happens, the siblings don't always listen to the tattle-tale either. They will usually tell her to leave them alone and mind her own business, which brings her right back to her mother in tears.
I guess it's time to come up with a new means of enforcing the physical labor that my children despise, but which is such a necessary part of growing up. So, I resort to the only means I have that I know will always work to my satisfaction, regardless of the results. I get down on my knees and beg Jesus to help me to be a good mother and to help my children to be good, obedient and holy. It'll take a miracle, I know, but I have faith that Jesus will come through. And if not, I'll just tattle to His Mother!