One thing that has been an ongoing struggle for us in training Mouse has been working with her tendency to dawdle or pretend that she can’t do something that we’ve asked her to do. We know she is pretending because she typically exhibits this behavior over jobs or school assignments that she did just fine previously but now doesn’t feel like doing.
This has been particularly frustrating for me because part of what I want to do is help her to learn to love doing a job well even if she doesn’t love the particular task and I feel like nagging, making her sit or spanking for dawdling may teach her to do something under duress but don’t help her to learn to control her emotional response to something she doesn’t like or considers boring. I struggle with this myself and would like to help her to learn to be a cheerful worker while she is young, but have found it difficult to find a good way to motivate her to desire to do good work for the sake of doing good work.
We have talked and talked about what it means to be faithful, what it means to do even a “boring” task like picking up toys heartily and to the glory of God, and I think that she does kind of get the concept. What she lacks is the willpower to make herself do a good job especially when she perceives that one of her siblings is doing something “more interesting”.
Lately I’ve been trying something new and so far I think that it is addressing the attitude and emotional issue rather than just making her do the job.
There are certain jobs are her daily list that I know she both knows how to do and is capable of doing both quickly and well when she wants to. For those jobs I have been setting a timer and telling her that if the timer beats her I will assign her an extra job. Since she is a good worker when she desires to be a good worker, the timer won’t beat her if she is working well (I do occasionally miscalculate how much time she needs but I am watching her work and will give a few extra minutes if needed and justified) but it will always beat her if she dawdles and then she has an extra job.
Since she move through a routine of jobs, school, and play repeated throughout the day and the extra jobs must be completed before she can move on to the next thing on her list, she is beginning to figure out that dawdling, pretending she can’t do something, doing an intentionally bad job and pouting cost her play time and that has been an additional incentive.
This morning she decided to dawdle over clearing the breakfast table. She earned another job of cleaning the corner where we keep the boots and shoes. She didn’t want to do this and decided to pretend that she couldn’t figure out how to match up the various pairs of shoes. I pulled out the mismatched pairs, had her redo the job and assigned another job. Again she dawdled so I gave her a fourth job. That one was completed well and in a timely fashion and she was able to move on to school.
Of course this took about an hour and a half so the boys were already done with school and ready to play together. I sent them to play in the playroom where they could be heard but not seen and her desire to see what they were doing and join in served to encourage her to work quickly rather than allow herself to be distracted.
That is progress. A week ago, the boys being able to play before her would have been the occasion of many dramatic tears, protestations of feeling left out, and wailed statements (“Why do the boys always get to play and I don’t?”). This new tactic enables me to focus with her on the need to choose to do a good job, be a faithful worker etc. It is time consuming for me, but not as time consuming as trying to force her to do a good job (nor is it as frustrating which means I am able to interact with her much more calmly and with more grace).
As always consistency will be key to helping her learn to work well and faithfully. I’m praying that I will be able to continue with this practice despite the distractions of other children and the times when it would just be easier to send her off to play and do the job myself.