Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Empty the Trash

Every trash can in this house is assigned to a child to empty as necessary. This is a part of their daily responsibilities that, in an ideal world, I'd use as part of a wider chore and allowance system, but as it is, it's just a thing they have to do, along with tending the cat, every day.

The requirement is that the assigned trash cans must be looked at every day, and if the trash is more than half full, it must be emptied. If the trash is less than half full, it can wait until tomorrow. There are two trash cans that are exceptions to the half-full rule. The diapers and the kitchen scrap trash can must be emptied daily no matter what.

I realize this "half-full" description involves a bit of discretion of the part of the child. I also realize this discretion is going to lean towards the "it can wait until tomorrow" end of the spectrum. I am okay with this. I'm not a trash Nazi.

But can someone explain to me why all the discretionary trash cans in my house are full to overflowing? There is not a trash can that is ever emptied without me first saying, "Your trash can is full and needs to be emptied. TONIGHT."

Every night I ask if the trash has been attended. Every night they all say yes. Every couple of days, I find some trash can far beyond full. As in trash sitting in the floor, full. I reiterate the half-full requirement and make them empty it that night. And then we do it all again a few days later.

This, friends, has been going on for years. Is it really so difficult for a child to see that the trash is so far gone that really and truly and surely, this is more than half-full and needs to be emptied? It must be. My standards must be awry. I guess? This is such a pain in my butt to keep up with, I'm better off doing it all myself, except for the habit of virtue I am imbuing in my children. Right? Right?

I suppose I could have them empty the trashcans every day, no matter what, but in reality, it would mean a bunch of empty bags going into the dumpster every night. I don't like that idea either. How about they just empty the trash when necessary?

Who takes care of the trash at your house? Do your children have trouble recognizing a full trash can, even as they look at it and are asked about it daily?


mandamum said...

I have one child on trash duty, and she goes around to all the cans and dumps them into a big garbage bag and takes *that* out. Every day. We got nowhere with the child-judgement - they were always okay in her eyes, and sometimes she'd even just shove them down and move on.... But currently, we only have bags in the bathroom garbages (and the big one in the kitchen) and a firm house rule about messy/wet stuff only going in those garbages, and so she can remove the bag if the can is full of yucky stuff. However, I have to say I was rapidly reaching the point of "Empty bags in the trash is better than nonfunctional cans, aaaaahhh!" (I've only recently "graduated" to buying little trash bags - before I'd buy bags for the kitchen, but just used grocery sacks for the others... until I moved to a no-grocery-sack state. Now I have to pay for official throw-away plastics.)

I think, if I were trying to train a child in good-garbage-judgement (rather than just handing the job down and trying to get it done by Someone Other Than Me daily), I might ask her to check/dump all the garbages, and then check in with her, and walk her through what I was seeing, and ask her to do it many times as it took. Every day. For probably 3 weeks (to create a new habit, right?) In a season I had time to prioritize something like that ;) Hmmm.... maybe I'll do that anyway. But generally I find my kids do better with binary choices, rather than gradations: Dump garbage yes, check. On to the next thing. Feed dog? Tell me exactly how much - ie which scoop to use. Not "check dog waters, and refill if...." but "dump and refill dog waters, period."

elli said...

I have found that what it really comes down to — as with so much of parenting — is me. Teaching by silent example; teaching with calm and patient daily instruction; reminding myself (daily!) that it takes many many years to grow a human! :-)

My teens have at long last reached the point where they both consistently remember to clear the shower drain trap every single time! Hooray. (This likely has something to do with them having to live through a drain clogged so as to be unusable, so they had to bail out the bath every time they showered until we could afford the plumber — there was a rock (?!?) down the drain).

I can remember what it felt like to have my mother going back over my housecleaning tasks as a kid and teen, and having to be reminded to do certain steps, or do it better etc. age and maturity on my part helped (again, simply the passage of time), but also as a teen, taking on an increasing number of childcare and housecleaning jobs taught me a lot in terms of housekeeping mindfullness. Time and patience!

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