Monday, December 31, 2012

How do you get kids to do what they are supposed to do without supervision?

I can't believe how incredibly disappointed I am in the two grand kids.  Normally I wouldn't write about such things but it was such an eye opener for how little I can count on them when I'm not overseeing what they are doing.  If we work together they are usually pretty good at getting a task done.  Boy much of the time will do any and all tasks I assign just so he can show me how grown up and helpful he is.  Girl is getting into the preteen see how lazy she can be...just on this side of getting in trouble for helping as little as possible.  I'm not angry with them, just disappointed and dumbfounded at how wrong I was that they were ready to be given a little independence.

Today was the big day of me letting them stay home by themselves for the entire day while I was at work.  They'd never been left home for more than two or three hours at a time.  Today was going to be a long day.  I leave at 5:30 and normally arrive home at 7:00.  I figured I'd be working a shorter day today and would get home around 5:30 or 6:00.  Sure they could have failed worse than they did, but they didn't only because they didn't think about it!  If they were a little older they would have gotten into much more trouble.  They couldn't have done any less of what I was expecting them to accomplish.

Here's the list that I left them with this morning.  They were both awake when I left at 5:30.  They ended up going back to bed, which was good.  A few less hours for them to not do what they were supposed to do.  Here's the note I left them with:
1. Last night when I went to put the dinner dishes in the dishwasher I noticed that it was only half unloaded and the towel left in the dishwasher.  Boy, please unload the dishwasher (his normal M-F chore before breakfast) and Girl, load the dishwasher up with last night's dishes since I couldn't do them because you didn't finish unloading it (her normal weekend chore).
2.  Each of you put your own dirty dishes in the dishwasher after breakfast and lunch. - normally I tell them to put them in the sink and I load them into the dishwasher.
3.  No phone, computer, or music until all the chores are done. - regular household rule for all of us.
4.  Don't forget to make your beds. - regular rule for all of us before breakfast.
5.  Your clothes are in the drier.  Please put them away and also the clothes in front of your place at the kitchen table.  - Always a hard task...don't take the clean clothes and stuff them under the dresser or on the closet floor.
6.  Get the leaves raked.  Give the leaves to the sheep. - This was supposed to be done on Saturday but we had fun this weekend and didn't get around to the extra chores. 
7.  Each of you give the chickens and ducks in the front pasture 1/2 scoop of grain.  Throw it out there as far as you can.  They will like that! - Normally they fight over who gets to feed the front fowl.
8.  You can have candy after lunch!
9.  Pretzels and hot cheese puffs are for snack.
10.  Make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, cereal for breakfast.

If they worked diligently they'd have to work about two hours.  Of the list, they did accomplished #8, 9, and 10. They started #6 when I called at 4:30 to tell them I'd be home before 6:00.

What did they do instead?  I put them in a list...
1. Cooked popcorn in the microwave.  Burned it because I could smell it 6 hours later.
2.  Got into the home store and ate a can of bean dip.  Not with the chips, just the bean dip.
3.  Ate my cotton candy, which I bought the other day and announced that we are going to have this for my birthday!
4.  Got into my CDs and played the music.
5. Texted and called her friends.
6.  Played the PS2.
7. Played tag in the house.
8. Got on the computer.
9. Used the good dishes for breakfast and lunch.
10. Got into the home store and drank soda.
11. Made and drank a 1/2 gallon of koolaid.
12. Played football.

Are any of these items really a really big deal?  No, absolutely not.  They didn't get into the alcohol.  They didn't burn the house down. They didn't have friend over.  They didn't watch R rated movies.  I locked the safe so they didn't get into the weapons.  They didn't leave the property.  Nothing so terrible so it seems to the outsider that I'm overreacting. 

If they had accomplished what they were supposed to accomplish the only items on the second list I would have been upset with were making the popcorn and playing tag in the house.  Instead I'm left with two children who can not be given simple directions and have me be able to expect, or trust, that they will be followed.  This test of reliability was a simple one.   I thought that they'd be so excited to show me how grown up they were that they'd do what they were supposed to PLUS do the other things.  They failed miserably because I don't see eating candy, pretzels and hot cheese puffs in addition to breakfast and lunch and doing nothing else on the list as a success.

We were going to go out to dinner tonight to celebrate New Year's Eve and my upcoming birthday.  I canceled that and we had leftovers instead.  I laid it on really thick about how mad I was at myself.  How could I have thought that they'd be mature enough to be able to stay home by themselves?  That was just as irresponsible of me to leave them alone as it would have been to leave their five year old cousin home alone.  I really blew it.  I guess I messed up taking this new job.  I will probably have to quit it and I won't be able to get my old job back.  We'll have to move and live in a dive apartment in a gang ridden neighborhood because I blew it thinking they'd be old enough to watch after themselves.  My fault.  Sorry kids.  I didn't realize just how wrong I was in thinking that they'd be able to be responsible.

They were sad little pups on their way to bed.  I figure Boy will probably have nightmares tonight.  He usually does when his conscious in bothering him.  Girl knows that she is probably going to be losing her phone and computer for a good long while. She was hiding her tears.  

My worry is if TSHTF.  Will they be total failures at that too?  Will they put all our lives in danger because they can't even do the simple task unsupervised?  They do fine supervised but as soon as the supervision is gone they do nothing.  Or was this their test of freedom and "being grown up" and the next time they will preform properly?  What if I got caught in a snowstorm and didn't make it home that night?  What if? 

So tomorrow, instead of having a great and happy new year's day, they are going to be doing what they were supposed to do today...and then some.  And on Wednesday and Thursday of this week they will go to son's house to be babysat.  He will make sure they don't get to have much fun either.  I'm sure he has a whole list of chores for them to do.  


  1. Don't be so hard on yourself. Looks to me like you are doing a lot of things right. The kids are just used to being directed. The punishment fits the crime (being baby sat) I'm sure they are humiliated. Your lists are good. I'm sure they intended to get it all done by the time you got home (started raking). Start giving them their lists but no supervision. Discuss at the end of the day and raise progress.They'll rise to the challenge. Its slow work.

    1. I like the idea of giving them their lists and then not supervising. I can keep myself occupied at home without hovering over them. Thanks for the tip.

  2. The key seems to be you are planting the seeds for their future. They may not be ready for some of what you're showing and having them do, but some day they will sprout at the right time.

    1. I keep trying to remember what I was like at that age. I was babysitting for other people but I don't think my parents would have left me alone at home for that long. I remember my mom locking all five of us out of the house when she'd have to run an errand. So I suppose I wasn't as good as I remember!

  3. My dad used to call me on the CB when he was headed home from work in the winter. This way I would know when to expect him with bad road conditions.
    What it really did was spur my ass into action to finish my chores. The big ones like shoveling and cleaning the house. The regular chores of bringing in firewood, filling the water buckets, feeding the chickens... those were easy.

    Thinking back I wonder if he did it to spur me on. Maybe you should call them and announce you will be home a few hours before you actually do get home. Nothing like the oh crap feeling to spur a teenager into action.

    1. I did call at 4:30 to tell them to clean themselves up because we were going to go out to dinner when I got home at 6:00. They were out raking the yard...girl still in her nightgown! They probably started at 4:30 and forgot that they hadn't done anything else! I like the idea of calling around 2:00 to let them know I will be home early. Sneaky but good idea.

      Today they were perfect little angels. They got up, did what they were supposed to do yesterday and today. Not one bit of fighting either.