My boy and his chores

In our home our kids do their chores after each meal. Our after-breakfast chores are the ones I am always in the most hurry about, because we have school to get to and I want things to move along. So our system is that I set the timer and give the kids 20 minutes to accomplish their responsibilities. If they finish in time, they each earn a treat (usually a piece of gum or a few jelly bellies or something) for their quiet times, later in the day.

Isaac's chore for the year has been this:

-Clear off the table (everyone clears off their own dishes; he does the rest)
-Wipe down the table
-Sweep beneath the table
-Help E & I tidy up the living room, if there's time left over

Here's the thing: Isaac rarely finishes his chores in time for the timer. Maybe once a week. I know he can do it; he has done it before in about half that time. I also know he earnestly wants that treat. But he just gets so utterly distracted from the task at hand, several times during the task, that it's as if he can't help himself.

A few mornings ago it was chore time, we were about 10 minutes in, and I found him in the bathroom, playing with a toilet paper roll. There was a pitcher of orange juice on the back of the toilet. (From the table: we don't normally keep orange juice in the bathroom.) The best I can figure it is that he couldn't find a spot on the counter for the pitcher and wandered around to try to find me to ask me where he should put it and.... this is the part I don't get... got sidetracked by seeing an empty toilet paper roll in the bathroom, set the pitcher down, and began to play with the toilet paper roll. And then kept playing until I found him there some minutes later, wondering why on earth he was there, with the pitcher, in the bathroom of all places, when the timer was steadily ticking away.

I get really exasperated with this kind of thing. I try not to, but I often fail. I sighed, told him to get back to work, probably mentioned something about not understanding him or told him that a treat was likely out of the question, and then stewed about it as I washed up some dishes, wondering what I could possibly do to get this boy to begin a job and then work hard until the job is complete.

About this time, Adelia went in and started pestering him and he was a little tearful, trying to finish and getting bothered by his little sister. I asked her to go into the other room and let him finish up. The timer went off, and once again, Isaac was not done.

By the time he finished, I was in the living room folding laundry and still feeling crabby at this boy who takes so long to do his chores and gets so easily distracted. Isaias and Audra had already started their buddy time and Adelia was waiting for him. Then God, in His grace, allowed me to be present and watching while the following happened:

Isaac walked into the room and walked over to Adelia who was running through the room headed in the other direction. He stopped, looked down into her eyes, and kindly said: "I get to be *your* buddy today?" She said yes, and he took her hand and led her out of the room. I heard him talking to her as they walked down the stairs, asking her what she'd like to do. Then he suggested something they had done together before that she had liked, and said, "Oh! Did you want to..." She agreed, and off they went.

It was a gift from God, witnessing that moment. It was like He reminded me who my Isaac was. I sat there on the couch, laundry all around me, and cried for the sweetness and kindness of my boy. Adelia had just been in the kitchen, minutes before, bothering him. He could have been crabby at her and not felt at all like being her buddy. He could have cried and been disappointed that he didn't make it in time for the timer or that he didn't get a treat... again. But he didn't. He lovingly turned to his little sister and smiled at her and delighted in her and went off to play with her.

I was so thankful that God took the time to show me Isaac's character. Of course I knew it already: I know my boy. I know who he is: sweet, loving and kind. But in my irritability about his chore I had forgotten it. I saw only his immaturity. Somehow I knew, then, too, that it would all be okay. He is only seven. He's a child; he will get distracted. He will forget what he's doing and move on to something else. Also: he will grow in maturity in this area of working hard and attending to the task at hand. I am thankful to see, though, that he is attending to the more important things in life.


  1. This was wonderful to read. What a great moment for you as a mom....your kids are completely on the right path. :)

  2. Thank you, I really needed this reminder today. As I read, the Lord brought my precious Lily to my mind. Lily, who is always easily distracted and as a result, lags behind and often has to be told multiple times to complete a task. Yet, Lily, is also a joy to my heart, a delight to be around and has the sweetest little heart of gold to everyone she meets. Thank you for reminding me of her wonderful God-given traits after a trying morning with her. God bless you & your precious family!

  3. What a sweet big brother he is!

    My second born also gets quite distracted at chore time. We have a very similar chore schedule to yours and often set a timer so that I know that we can get started with school etc, saving the unfinished chores for the kids' planned free time later in the day.

    We kind of stumbled on something that has REALLY helped Michael in staying focused without the looming timer buzzer out there in the future that means no treat or leaves them feeling unsuccessful and us frustrated.

    We still use the timer but we set it for very short amounts of time. Michael sets the table at dinner. If we just tell him to begin he will NEEEEVER finish. Instead we say, "You have 3 minutes to put all the silverware out! Ready, GO!" When that is done, "Now you have 2 minutes to do all the plates!" And he's zipping around and smiling about how he IS getting it done. And then, "Okay, last part of your job: You have 4 minutes to get all the waters! Go!"

    The shorter time limits match his tiny attention span and it has really helped cut down on his frustration and ours!

    Enjoy those little workers today!

  4. Wow, I needed this reminder today Stacy! Thanks! And may the Lord bless you and your sweet crew today!
    ~Jess O.

  5. Thank you, Teri!

    You are so welcome! Blessings to you and your sweet Lily. :)

    He is so sweet. I remember you saying this before about your Michael. I'm wondering if your system would work for Isaac. It's worth a try! :)

    Jess O~
    Oh, good. Glad it was an encouragement to you today, Jess. Blessings to you all, too! :)


  6. Brought tears to my eyes. My most distractable child also can be so tender. Competition works well for mine and having a check off sheet that he can check for each item has been a gift! Blessings on you family.

  7. Oh how I understand Stacy! Boy #3 (10yo)is so like this too. I have been brought to a halt because of his sweetness and curiousity. He has the animal chores and everyday he has some story about what happened that morning. I can hear him out there talking to each one, making sure they are all OK. Even the wild cats will get a little closer to this boy.
    So I give him a set time to be ready for school, and get him up in the morning with plenty of time to get his chores and piano done. I prioritize the chores so if he doesn't get done, it isn't something that we can't function without being done. Then at "lunch and play" time, which is an hour, he finishes what he didn't accomplish earlier. A natural consequence. He learns naturally to gitty-up in the morning or finish during play. And he knows, this isn't a punishment, it is a fact of life. We have to get our stuff done.
    One more thing, :), this may not help now but maybe when Issac gets older: All my kids have an ipod with a book they are currently listening to. (Sadie, 7yo, listens to The Little Princess while she cleans her room.)When we need to do a chore tedious or long, this has helped keep all my kids focused and they do a better job. I have one too. :)And helps the boys keep there hands off each other aka messing around.

  8. What a sweet wise mama you are my friend. Keep looking for the pointers from God, He sends them to remind us that He is working in our midst and to not lose our hope.

    sending a hug;
    mama to 8
    one homemade and 7 adopted

  9. So I've been on Facebook and looking for the "Like" button for this post... I suppose a "Love" button would be better! What a great reminder from God about Isaac's sweet character. I can't wait to see you guys again! :)

  10. Thank you for this reminder! My Nick (7) has been perfectly described. At times it is so hard to see past "What on earth where you thinking?" and see the kind, gentle, sweet side of a child like this. It is strange that the slowest working and most absent minded child is also the sweetest and most thoughtful of the little ones around him. I know this is true for us too. Thank you and blessings!

  11. Carolynn~
    We've tried competition here, too. He literally forgets he's competing. :) Silly boy of mine.

    I love knowing that your son is like that, too. Oh, yes... the stories! We have that, too!
    Thank you for your tips, friend!

    Thank you, sweet you, for your encouragement!
    (((Hugs))) right back atcha!

    Thanks, Colleen. He is a sweetheart, and I'm so grateful to God for stopping me in my tracks to show me! :) We're excited to see you again, too!

    Oh, isn't it good to know we're not alone in these mothering challenges? ...So many "me too"'s here! Blessings to you and your sweet Nick!

  12. This was beautiful. Thank you for sharing it. I'm grateful to be back in this space-- your space, full of grace.


Thank you for commenting! I love hearing from you, and I will do
my best to reply back to you in the comment section.