In my wildest dreams, the tedious task of job inspector would be a thing of the past. In this magical world, a most noble honor system would be willingly followed during job time. No stuffing. No cutting-corners. Jobs completed precisely. Sanitation achieved. And it would all proceed from my kids’ heartfelt determination to keep the house pristine.
Back on earth, though, if no one checks completed chores, the house becomes a mess. Quality rapidly deteriorates, sloppiness prevails, garbage is found stuffed in the water heater closet, and gas station bathrooms appear hygienic in comparison to the home lavatory.
Is Mom The Family Maid?
Job inspections are indispensable. Unless, of course, you plan to clean the entire house yourself. And many a parent does EXACTLY that! It can actually seem easier and less stressful to hire someone to be the maid or to simply do the housework all by yourself. However, that approach is simply chickening out. Deep down inside we know it!
The job of a parent is to teach their children to learn to care for their surroundings, contribute at home, and take pride in their work. That sort of teaching only takes place if kids are given responsibility and have the accountability of showing you their work.
As the parent, you have to ask yourself, “Would I rather spend hours cleaning the whole house every day myself and be treated like the family maid and never teach my kids responsibility OR do I want to spend 10 minutes every day inspecting chores?” The second choice is definitely easier and better for everyone in the long run.
Job Inspection Challenges
What makes job inspections a challenge? Three things stand in the way between a parent and a successful job time. They are:
- Repetitive teaching
- Undefined expectations
- Emotional stress: tears, guilt, and manipulation
Unfortunately, most parents give up somewhere along the path of overcoming these three challenges. They cannot handle having to explain the same chore over and over again. Or, they get frustrated because the kids do not do the job how they (the parent) wanted. The expectations do not match the end results. Or, the parents get too stressed out with job time. There are just too many tears, too much guilt, and too much manipulation. It is not worth the effort.
Luckily, having had 13 of our own children to help us fine tune this process, we have some very helpful and effective solutions. We have done our best to include them in the app when possible.
Challenge #1: Repetitive Teaching
One of the hardest things about giving kids chores is that you have to show them HOW to do the job. The younger they are, the more repetition they need. This initial teaching process is tedious. It can be especially hard if you as the parent are fatigued, overworked, or stressed. It is initially harder to teach a young kid how to do a job than to just quickly get it done yourself. And it takes incredible patience, especially when you have to repeat the demonstration and explanations multiple times.
Then there is the alternative. You can choose to NOT teach kids how to do chores. This approach can be disastrous. Kids naturally want to help out, and if you do not teach them what to do, they may try to figure it out on their own.
If You Do Not Teach, Your Kids Will School You
One time, our dear little 5-year-old wanted to surprise us. She decided to clean our brand-new car. How sweet! She worked for over an hour wiping and scrubbing and was so proud when she finally told us about the surprise. And yes, we were surprised. We were so surprised we couldn’t even speak. Our brand-new car had been scrubbed thoroughly with a steel wool scrubber. No, we did not get mad. But, as you can imagine, I very sorely wished I had taught my dear little daughter how to wash a car correctly.
I distinctly remember once when I was a teenager watching my mother ask one of my younger brothers (age 11 or 12) to help fold the laundry. My brother looked at her cross-eyed and whined pathetically, “But Mom! I don’t know how!!!” I thought, “Give me a break!” It was folding laundry, not rocket science. My mom quickly showed him what she expected. This brother slowly began folding the clothes, purposely doing an awful job of it and wrinkling the laundry, just to annoy my mother. My mother saw the messy piles of clothes, told my brother to “go outside and play”, and proceeded to do the laundry herself. This was a manipulative tactic, but my poor mom didn’t have the time, patience, and energy to deal with my brother’s nonsense. We’ll discuss this further when we talk about manipulation in a moment.
Teach And Learn Faster
How do we deal with these issues? How do we get our kids to learn faster? Do we as parents just need to develop the patience of Job? Or do we need to work up our tolerance for manipulation? Do we need to invest in ear plugs to drown out the whining? Or invest in personalized padded cells for when our kids drive us nuts?
We suggest there is a better way. When teaching kids to do chores initially, there is a very simple thing we can do.
Challenge #1 Solution: Training Videos
Over the years, we discovered that the least stressful way to teach kids how to do a job is to make a video. A chore training video demonstrates the job and includes all the explanations of WHY you are doing what you are doing.
When that idea first came to us, we decided to first make a video on how to change a poopy diaper. It was nothing fancy. We made some “poop” out of chocolate and other materials in the blender. Then we took our phone and videotaped one of our kids changing a faux poopy diaper. When we were done, we showed it to all our kids. Since some of them were in the video, we watched it a couple of times. My 4-year-old daughter Sassy was watching the video very carefully.
To our surprise, the next time Sassy’s baby sister had a poopy diaper, Sassy jumped into action. She led her baby sister to the bathroom and changed the nasty diaper. Sassy walked into the living room and triumphantly announced that SHE had changed the baby’s diaper all by herself. We were speechless and a little nervous. We went over and checked the baby’s diaper and had Sassy show us what all she had done. To our utmost surprise she had not only changed the diaper, but she had done it safely and correctly! (No steel wool scrubbers this time.) The video had definitely worked.
To be clear, we have never expected, asked, or required a 4-year-old in our family to change diapers. That job is typically reserved for someone at least age 8. We were glad both Sassy and the baby were okay.
From there we began making more how-to videos for our kids. Any time jobs changed, or a kid expressed that they weren’t sure how to do a job, we would pull out the videos and have that kid watch. The videos clearly demonstrate and explain the process with all the patience in the world. If my own mother had had these videos, my brother would not have been able to pull the “I don’t know how!” card. He never would have gotten out of helping her. My Mom could have said, “Watch this video as many times as you need to, and then get to work.” Problem solved.
We no longer had to spend hours repeating instructions on how to do a job. The videos did all the work for us. This is not a new concept. Businesses do this all the time. Instead of having live training sessions with new employees, they create a training video. New employees watch the video and usually are asked to answer questions or complete a test afterwards. It saves the business time and money.
Another benefit we discovered while making these videos was efficiency. As we were making the videos, it forced us to examine our methods. We realized some of our techniques were not the best. So, we changed them to be more effective and faster.
We also discovered that some of our cleaning methods were not safe. Most people use harsh chemicals to clean their house. We realized we could not entrust our young children with harsh and potentially dangerous chemicals. So, we researched green cleaning methods. We figured out how to get the jobs done safely and properly—without the use of harsh chemicals.
Sharing Is Caring
We have shared some of these videos on our website under support. Our goal is to have a complete library of safe, efficient cleaning videos for anyone to watch and use. So, if you and your family create chore how-to videos of your own that you would be willing to share with other families, please send them to us. We will gladly post them on the Moneypants website.
In summary, teaching your children HOW you want the job done takes a lot of patience, especially if you have to repeat yourself. A worthwhile shortcut is to make a simple video teaching and showing them how to do the job correctly. You can reuse the video over and over again. Or you can borrow one of ours.
Challenge #2: Undefined Expectations
The next reason job inspections can be stressful is because there isn’t a clear definition of what qualifies as “done”. Without a clear definition, the person doing the job can feel frustrated because they don’t know when they can say they are finished.
Likewise, the person checking the job is unsure what exactly they are checking. The inspections then get watered down into “Well, it looks good enough”, “It looks better!”, or “I guess it’s done.” If communication is unclear, workers end up frustrated. The inspections are inconsistent and unfair. Quality inevitably deteriorates. Jobs become relative. “Well, it looks better than it did”. Which ultimately leads to the house looking like a hoarder’s abode.
Challenge #2 Solution: The Checklist
A better idea is to have a checklist. Each job area should have a simple list of exactly what is expected and what qualifies as “done”. For example, when you say you want the hall bathroom cleaned, that means you expect the following:
- Mirrors polished
- Sink wiped down
- Counter cleared and wiped
- Cabinets organized and wiped
- Toilet cleaned inside and out
- Floors cleared, swept, and wiped
- Trash taken out
- Used towels replaced
- Toilet paper and soap replenished
- Kitty litter changed
- Walls and doors wiped down
- Cleaning supplies put away
Those are very clear expectations. If an inspector has a checklist like that, they can then simply go down the list and see if those things have been done. It takes the uncertainty and stress out of the inspection. If you post this list in the job area, the person doing the job can go over the list and see if they have completed all the requirements as they go. There is no confusion about what is expected.
If you are using the Moneypants app, you can create a digital checklist under “job description”. When the inspector is checking jobs they simply go to the “assignments” tab. From there, they click on the job they are currently inspecting, and the checklist will appear.
Alternatively, you can print out and laminate a master checklist for the inspector. Or put it into a protective plastic cover. Then, post the checklist on the fridge for everyone to see. During inspections, the job inspector grabs the checklist off the fridge and gets to work. If it is laminated, the job inspector can even use a dry-erase marker to check which items are done. We have used this method in the past, and it works well. Printing out individual checklists and putting them in each job area also works well.
The objective is to make it clear to everyone what the expectations are, and for job inspections to be consistent and fair. Checklists are the best way to accomplish that. They remove ambiguity and confusion.
Challenge #3: Tears, Guilt, and Manipulation
The final challenge for a successful job time is emotional stress. There are just too many tears, fights, guilt, and manipulations. Parents figure it is not worth it and give up. They end up doing the jobs themselves or hiring outside help.
I am hands down the worst job inspector in our family. I am very vulnerable to manipulation, and I tend to make excuses for people. “Oh, they aren’t feeling well today!” “They worked hard and are almost done.” “He’s so little, and he tried.” I also tend to feel guilty. “Am I being mean?” “Oh, she doesn’t like me anymore because I’m telling her the job doesn’t pass.” “Okay, I’ll give you another chance!”
If any of these scenarios make you vomit a little in your mouth, that is a good sign. It means you would be the ideal job inspector for your family. You are not easily manipulated. A good job inspector cannot be manipulated. Hence the name for this blog: The Hard-Boiled Job Inspector.
Sadly, if you let emotions get the best of you, you will start making exceptions and giving chances. This does not improve your relationship with your kids like you might hope. Instead, all that happens is that no one respects you. No one believes you.
Job Inspector Examples
I began noticing that when my husband was in charge of job inspections, things were different. Everyone worked faster and did a much better job for him. They knew he meant what he said when he told them the timer was the deadline. The kids also knew he would go through the checklist and expect it to be done 100%. They knew he did not have any problem handing out the dreaded red ‘X’ and felt absolutely no guilt for doing so. They respected him because he stuck to what he said. My husband was not a liar. He was kind but firm and confident that what he was doing was right and fair. My kids respected that, and the results were amazing. They actually seemed to enjoy having him do inspections a lot more, because there were clear expectations and no nonsense.
Similarly, my daughter Trixie recently became the job inspector. She cannot stand manipulation and has no problem sticking to the rules. The result? All the kids have risen to her standards and the house is WAY cleaner than when I was in charge of inspections.
What was the secret of my husband and daughter? Simple. They are firm and matter of fact. They stick to the timer. And they stick to the checklist. Those things take emotion out of inspections.
Testing The Boundaries
When kids start new jobs, they will without fail test the rules you set up. Expect this. Be prepared for it. In fact, we call the first month for new Moneypants users the “30-Day Challenge”. There are all sorts of challenges when starting a new system. One is the kids. They want to know if the timer really is the end of job time. They want to know if they really have to do the things on the checklist. Kids (and sometimes adults) want to know if they can get away with doing a sloppy job. They want to know if tears or moping will get them out of having to work. They are going to test you for vulnerability. Just like the raptors in Jurassic Park testing the fence for weaknesses, your kids will test the job inspector for weaknesses.
Maintaining High Standards
If your children find that you are not vulnerable to manipulation tactics, they will begin to comply and rise to the high standards you set. So, lesson for the wise: set your standards high from the get-go. Be kind but stick to your guns. This is where you define your expectations.
If you make exceptions and accept excuses or sloppy work, bad stuff will happen. Instead of the kids complying after an initial testing period, inspections will become super stressful. The kids will constantly be trying to manipulate you because they know it worked before. On the other hand, if you set high standards and stick to it, there will be initial boundary testing, but after that inspections will be much easier. Make those Jurassic Park fences strong and sturdy! The kids will recognize that you are consistent, firm, and fair and they will respect that.
Whew! I feel like I am writing a pep talk and therapy piece for myself!
The Qualities Of A Fantastic Job Inspector
The Moneypants App requires that you assign someone to be in charge of weekly payday and someone be in charge of daily inspections. These are the two paid jobs that you cannot delete or change on the app. They are required in order for Moneypants to work. But who should be assigned as family job of inspector? Here are some things to consider when selecting a job inspector:
Job Inspector Qualities
- Available. You need someone who will be available to do job inspections on a daily basis. Is the person going to be there? If they are not there, they cannot inspect. This is the most basic requirement.
- Competent. The job inspector should be a person who knows how to do all the jobs correctly.
- Hard-boiled. You want to pick the person who is not manipulated easily. They do not have a tendency to feel sorry for others. They do not have a hard time telling someone “no”, and they stick to the process and the checklist.
- Trustworthy. You want someone who is meticulous and has high expectations. You do not want a lazy job inspector. Nor do you want someone to glance into a job and say, “good enough!”
- Sharp-sighted. You want a job inspector with good eyesight. Or, put another way, you do NOT want a job inspector with poor eyesight. I am not joking here. For example, I should wear glasses because my vision is slightly bad but for various reasons I do not. When I do happen to put on someone else’s glasses it is a bit of a wakeup call. All of a sudden, I can see crumbs on the floor and dirt smudges on the wall. I realize that my makeup is not applied as well as I thought. And holy cow, are those wrinkles on my face? Whoever does inspections needs to be able to see well. No untreated vision problems for the job inspector.
- Mature. Ideally you want an adult. Why? Because the other kids see a sibling as a peer. They will be tempted to bully the inspector if they do not pass them off. Also, the inspector may try to bully or blackmail their siblings by not passing off their job if they are mad at them for any reason. Do you want to go there? It is up to you. If you decide to have a non-adult inspect, they need to be competent, very trustworthy, and there need to be stiff consequences in place for any bullying behavior. You have to back up and protect your non-adult inspector from bullying.
How To Conduct Job Inspections
Once you have settled on a good job inspector, it is time to get inspecting! Here are some tips and ideas on how to conduct job inspections efficiently:
Job Inspections Routine
- Announce that job time is starting. Set the timer. Make job time official.
- When the timer beeps, begin inspections. Call the worker over and have them present while you inspect their work area or job.
- Go through the checklist out loud, so the worker knows what you are inspecting and is assured you are using the list.
- Start by complimenting the worker on the things they completed from the list. This is key. Make sure you focus on what is right before you focus on what needs work.
- Let the worker know if anything on the checklist was missed or was not completed properly. This is not a personal attack. This is not a time to insult or belittle. Simply point to the checklist and the corresponding item. Tell them they need to get the item done. You will be back in five minutes and all corrections must be complete at that point. Let them know they only get one chance.
- Finish checking everyone’s job.
- Go back around again, and have workers show you the corrections they made. Mark all the completed jobs as done.
- If any jobs are incomplete, mark a red ‘X’ and give the job away to a substitute. Ideally, whoever was done with their job first can have dibs on being the job substitute.
- Alternatively, once job time is established, you can be more advanced with inspections. After the first month (the 30-Day Challenge) is up, everyone should know their jobs. At that point, you can refrain from giving second chances. Simply let everyone know that once the timer beeps, their job better be complete. If they do not pass first time, they will get a red ‘X’ and will have to hire a sub to finish their job. This is optional, but highly effective at making job time and inspections short and sweet.
- Have the person whose job was incomplete, bring you their money so you can hire a new substitute. (Make sure they give the money to the inspector, not the substitute. This avoids fights and bad feelings towards siblings who volunteer to substitute.)
- Check the substitute’s work when they are done.
- Pay the substitute.
Job inspections are essential for any chore system to work. Moneypants has several tools to help speed things along and make them more efficient.
- Use videos to teach kids how to do their jobs properly and avoid some of the tediousness associated with inspections.
- Avoid frustration and confusion by posting a checklist of what exactly qualifies as done and using that checklist to conduct inspections.
- You can avoid constant manipulation and emotional stress, by sticking firmly to the timer limits and checklist requirements from the beginning.
- Job inspections are vital. Picking the most qualified person as job inspector can be the difference between success and failure, so choose wisely. If a job inspector follows the job inspector protocols, job time will run as smoothly as possible and the quality of work will be superb.
Thanks to job inspections, your children will learn to take pride in the work they do. This lesson will carry over into their future endeavors, whether it be sports, music, relationships, or careers. After all, “anything worth doing, is worth doing right”.
What about you? Do you have your kids do chores? Who is the hard-boiled job inspector in your home? Do you agree that inspections are necessary, or are we completely wrong? Leave a comment below.