Just another teenager mowing the lawn? At first glance, perhaps. But a closer look reveals a secret weapon or two:
Anyone who knows Nigel knows that mowing the lawn is not an easy thing for him to accomplish. Here’s what’s working against him:
1) Sensory issues, the obvious offender. Notice the ear plugs to help muffle the sound of the mower and the sunglasses to fend off the glare of the sun.
2) Nigel’s fear of bees and other flying insects. Notice the long-sleeved shirt and jeans even on the warm day.
3) Nigel’s inherent lack of understanding about household responsibility and his lack of desire to contribute. Notice the hurried, haphazard zigzagging direction that he’s taking.
What motivated him to forge ahead in spite of these obstacles? Seeing other teenagers in the neighborhood mowing their lawns. Nigel’s desire to “be like everybody else” was motivating enough for him to brave the elements and take some responsibility around the house. Of course, I have to realize that this may be just a one-time engagement. After about ten minutes, a wasp came “dangerously” near him, causing us to renegotiate what constitutes a mowed lawn. But hey – under the circumstances, I’m pretty impressed that he even tried. He told me that he’d try again on a cloudy day, because “bees don’t swarm so much on cloudy days.” I’ll take his word for it. Happy Spring, everyone!
As the eldest of four children, I had a lot of household chores and responsibilities while growing up. I didn’t like it, of course, but I did what was expected of me. I had read stories about kids growing up in the country having many more chores than I, so I figured my lot wasn’t so bad.
Nigel sees it differently. He balks at the few chores I have him do, complaining about slave labor and communism. “Cleaning rooms is for nerds,” he says. Cajoling, begging, and trying to reason with him (“Everyone has responsibilities,” I say) is usually unsuccessful. So I came up with a plan:
1) Create a chart – a visible reference, like the schedules used in his early intervention classes. It lists what he does when, each day. It has spaces for star stickers or checkmarks to indicate when chores are completed.
2) Offer rewards – positive reinforcement for completing chores. He’s a teen, so it has to be something that will really motivate him. Two things he loves the most: renting movies and having friends spend the night. So when he receives a certain number of star stickers, he can rent a movie or have a sleepover.
3) Withdraw privileges – negative consequences for not completing chores. Two things he would miss: watching movies in his room every day and having computer time. For each day a chore is not completed, he will lose time doing what he enjoys.
This is an experiment – I’ll report back with how it goes! Unlike communism, I think it will work.