Lessons Learned in the Laundry Room
By Lori Poppinga
We recently bought a new washer and dryer. I had only done a load or two before I realized the bell signaling a completed load of laundry sounded pleasant. A gentle ding dong … ding dong … ding dong … one note slightly higher than the other, loud enough to not be ignored but pleasant, almost compelling. Come to … the dryer … fold clothes … load more. I actually didn’t mind progressing from one phase of laundry to another.
My old dryer’s alarm sounded harsh and abrasive. A loud continuous “blaaaat” screamed to me, “GET IN HERE NOW AND DO LAUNDRY.” Not inviting in the least.
After comparing my old dryer signal with the new, I wondered what type of signal I send my children when chores need to be done.
Was I sweet and melodious, enticing them to complete chores in a timely fashion or harsh and abrasive, demanding action now? I didn’t like the answer. I start out sweet and melodious only to digress into harsh and abrasive when chores aren’t accomplished quickly.
I also noticed the children wait for the harsh tone before responding. They knew I wasn’t really serious until I changed my approach, but by that time neither one of us was happy about chores: with the children mumbling about how I always yelled and with me grumbling about asking them three times to complete their tasks.
We seemed to be at an impasse.
I looked to my laundry room for answers and found four things I could implement:
Lesson #1: The persistent attention grabbing tone only beckoned to me if I were within hearing distance. I realize this one might seem obvious, but I have had children tell me they did not hear my directions when standing three feet from me. Were they lying? Probably not. They were simply focused on something else at the time. I needed to get their attention and then, let them know what needed to be done.
Lesson #2: The pleasant tone of the dryer encouraged me to do laundry. I need to keep my tone pleasant so my children will associate a pleasant attitude with doing chores. Like it or not, my children exhibit the same attitude towards chores as I do.
Lesson #3: The dryer didn’t change tones if I didn’t get the clothes folded immediately. I would simply receive another ringing reminder in ten minutes. My dryer gave me more grace than I gave my children. I need to step back and give them time to obey after making sure they heard my instructions.
Lesson #4: If I didn’t get the clothes when the dryer dinged, consequences occurred. My clothes would get wrinkled if left in the dryer, stinky if left in the washer and not done at all if I didn’t move them from the laundry basket to the machine. Likewise, my children need to experience real consequences when they do not complete their chores.
Now every time my dryer beckons me to change another load with the melodious ding dong, I remember the laundry room lessons, “get my children’s attention, speak sweetly, give them time to complete the task, and follow through with consequences when the work does not get done.” Simple? Yes. Easy? no!