The Parent Trap

My 6-year-old doesn’t clean.

She is assigned select chores each week, including making her bed and picking up her toys, but she refuses to complete the tasks. And by complete I mean consider starting.

She knows exactly what is expected of her, and she is far from physically impaired, so there is no reason that she cannot bend down, pick up the toys she and only she has played with, and place them back on the shelf where they are stored.

Rather, she prefers to whine, roll around in the tiny open space that is not covered with toys, crayons, books and stuffed animals and contemplate what it would be like if she had a robot to do her dirty work.

When I see this, it takes every bit of restraint not to utter the words: “If you had put back your toys right after you played with them, then you wouldn’t have such a big mess to clean up.”

If I do, then the dance begins: She rolls her eyes, I wave my arms, she spins around so she doesn’t have to face me, I bend down to admonish her, she leaps away and the toys remain on the floor and the bed sits unmade.

The dance is useless, but falling into the parent trap is far worse in my opinion.

The trap of giving into exhaustion, frustration and time, precious, precious time, that most of us simply don’t have enough of. Too often I give in and simply do the cleaning myself because I get to the point where I can no longer stand “negotiating” with a 6-year-old.

“What’s to negotiate?” asks her father. “Just make her stay there until it gets done.”

Yes, and I could threaten to give the strewn toys to charity or ground her for a week or impose a moratorium on TV watching, but, oh, wait, I tried all that.

Can you say fail?

How do you avoid falling into the parent trap?

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.