The Job Wheel - the Great Equalizer!

by Christie Clarke

“Principled - not Personal” was the inspiration behind the equally successful and jointly constructed, “there it is in black and white,” job wheel. Started when the children were rather small, this regime has produced adults who are adept at multifarious tasks and now have organized, well run, clean homes of their own. Although they rued the fateful day this regimen began, they now give it credit for providing them with necessary tools for survival. Those with children of their own now have job wheels of their own, too.

It all started when we sat down at a family meeting (read: dinner) and made a list of everything that was necessary to keep the house running smoothly. The first benefit was an increased appreciation of all the things Mom was doing. A reality check brought this awareness home as the girls divvied up everything from the dreaded “blue bathroom” used by all four girls, to the loathed “unload dishwasher.” If I looked hard enough I could probably unearth my old circular friend with six jobs in each of four quadrants and four names on a smaller divided circle in the center, held there by a brass brad, waiting for the ceremonial Sunday evening “turning of the wheel.”

There was no arguing with the printed word if you were the designee for dog duty (pun intended) in the back yard, the sorter of socks in the basement, the pillow case ironer, the garage straightener, plant waterer, the table setter, or the lawn mower. Was the house immaculate? No. Would it have been easier to do it myself than to teach them how to do it? Yes. Could they go out on Saturday night if their jobs weren’t done? No. Did they have a sense of working together? Yes. Do they regret it now? No.

Today someone might say “talk to the hand.” Then it would have been “talk to the wheel.” No fights there. No discussion. Just vision. I saw that they could do what was expected of them. Expectations were clearly established and could be easily seen. The children saw their obligations and all saw to it that they followed through. This might have been the forerunner for “no child left behind.” After all, who would have allowed a sibling to slide by while everyone else was doing their jobs? Things got done; there was an air of cooperation and camaraderie. But, more importantly, I had removed myself from the position of enforcer, bad guy, jailer. It was a sort of binding arbitration put into place by the children themselves.

Of course there are rubrics, lists, promissory notes, charts, and numerous other ways to streamline, structure, and simplify family life, all the while under girded by love. As parents work with (not on) their children to provide a structure for success, the chance of achieving that goal harmoniously increases ten-fold.

Think of all the cogs in a wheel that need to engage properly to allow the gears of a family to mesh smoothly!

Entering her 50th year of wedded bliss, I queried my grandmother as to what made for a happy home. Her quick response was, “love and respect.” After a thoughtful pause, she amended her answer: “respect and love.” The loving part of the equation is usually rather easy. After all, they’re our children. It’s the second piece, the respecting part, that is sometimes more of a challenge. That brings us back to vision again. Clearly seeing our children as innately capable, conscientious, thoughtful, intelligent individuals, “behaving as if,” and watching these qualities manifest themselves in our dear children, is its own reward and brings untold benefits to the whole family.




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