Rewards make Chores go like Clockwork


“Home at Last” 20 x 16 acrylic on panel

We all do it. We watch the clock. By 11 a.m. we’re anticipating lunch. Afterward our eyelids droop on a full stomach. The afternoon drags. When 5 p.m. finally arrives, we flee not from boredom, but because we have things to do when we get back home.

If you miss the bus, who will take Lindy to dance lessons? If you’re driving, a 10 or 15 minute delay can put you smack dab in the middle of rush hour. A major slow down can throw everything off course. You rush from one activity to another. You want the best for your kids and you make sacrifices to see that it happens. And so you try to beat the clock, and in the process feel beaten down yourself.

Athletes, on the other hand, thrive on the clock. If you’re an NFL quarterback in the last-minute of playoff, you still have a chance to score. If you’re a jockey in the last round of a race, an opening could signal a triumphant finish. Success is measured in seconds and nanoseconds.

The goal is to beat the competition. The rewards are fame and wealth. But what’s in it for you as you dash from place to place and chore to chore? Reality, that’s what. You still face another errand, a laundry full of dirty clothes, or the makings of a meal waiting for your magic touch.

Well hold on, friend. You, too, can create rewards for yourself and enjoy the benefits guilt free. No one else is going to give you that pat on the back or a trophy to put on your shelf. It’s up to you to structure rewards into your life so that doing the necessary grunt work doesn’t feel so bad.

Here’s how I used to “grin and bear it.” I’d plan on what I’d savor after the work was done. The reward could be a snack, taking an hour out of my day to read the latest top novel, working on a new painting, calling a friend, or sewing on a new creative project.

Whatever it was I singled out for that day, I had to finish the chores on my checklist before I could indulge myself the time and sublimity of escape.

This method also works well with children. On Saturdays, there was no playing with friends until the rooms were cleaned, beds made, and homework was done. To keep it from seeming like just another demand from a cranky parent, they could watch cartoons and favorite shows lolling in their P.J.’s while they ate their breakfast.

When I was growing up, we’d enjoy a “Creamy” on a stick which cooled us down after working in the yard or garden. Sometimes it was helping with the canning that was important to our food pantry in winter. The delicious melt on the tongue of the frozen treat cooled our hot brows.

The goal is to provide an incentive to finish or complete something that was required or needed. A reward then becomes a prize for good behavior. Knowing there is a reward after the work is done encourages completion.

A bribe is a carrot dangled in front of us to induce or entice us to finish. It is usually given beforehand to help ensure that the work is completed. But bribes leave the request open-ended. If the doer decides the payoff isn’t worth the effort, they may never get to the finish line.

Making chores bearable and fun can help us all get through the nitty-gritty parts that make life difficult. Laughter brings a whole lot of sunshine into dark places. Next time you face a houseful or office full of work, languish in the thoughts of the rewards you’ve planned for yourself when you’re finished and enjoy!


“Americana” The way it used to be; 20 x 16 acrylic on canvas

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