Picture a "My Child was Student of the Month" sticker on a minivan bumper, because I'm about to brag. My kid has done something extraordinary--something I was convinced he'd never do. Overcoming the handicaps of maternal coddling and conflict avoidance, my ten-year-old now hangs up his wet towel after every shower.
I know. It's amazing, isn't it?
And that's not all. When he hangs up that wet towel, he also throws his dirty clothes into the hamper. It's like a whole new world with a clean bathroom floor.
At the risk of alienating you, I'm going to tell you one other amazing thing about my son. He makes his bed. Almost every day and (in all caps so you can hear my scream of joy) WITHOUT MY TELLING HIM TO MAKE HIS BED!
You might think it absurd that such basic chores are to be celebrated. After all, the kid is ten. He could have been doing this a long time ago. But he wasn't. Because I didn't make him. It was faster and easier and required no nagging if I just did it myself.
Talk about sacrificing long-term goals for short-term satisfaction. I did it all wrong.
Parents, heed this warning and learn from my mistakes: give your children responsibility early. They can do so much more than you think they can. The more regularly they do a task, the more likely it is to become a habit. The earlier they develop a good habit, the sooner you can stop doing their work for them.
With enough time and repetition, your children might not even need a reminder. You can remain silent while the beds get made, the clothes are tossed in the hamper, and the towels are hung in mildew-free splendor.
I'm willing to bet that you can beat my personal record and teach this simple lesson in less than ten and a half years. I encourage you to try.
If I get my daughter with the bed-making, towel-hanging program in less than 2 years and 9 months, I'll have a new best. I think I can. I think I can.
I know I can.