Help with logistics and mechanics of difficult children and chores

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by dashcat, May 14, 2012.

  1. dashcat

    dashcat Member

    Oh good gracious!

    I'm in a strange new land with difficult child havin moved back home. I believe she is sincerely trying to make it work but I need some help from you warriors with dealing with slobby, completely unfocused difficult child when it comes to household maintanence You see, I am Felix in the odd couple and she is .... well, Oscar looks like a neatnik in comparison.

    She hasn't lived her for any real period of time since high school I did keep her on task then = and during the two months she lived her post-college debacle - but this is different.

    How do you manage your at-home difficult child with, not only keeping things in reasonable order - but also with general dutites like mowing grass, etc?

    Here's what prompts me to ask. Yesterday, Mother's Day, started off just fine. She was very sweet (usually always is), gave me a heartwarming card and two tickets to see Jason Mraz!!!! This is a combo with my birthday, which is today. I was thrilled with the tickets - quite surprised (and wishing, a little, she hadn't spent so much). I loved the card most of all, but that's just being a mom.

    Anyway, I was out back sealing the deck when she got up. I finished the outdoor part and suggested we walk up for ice cream. We did and I knew I'd be paying (honeslty didn't mind). We come back and she's on the computer. Finanlly, I said "I need help cleaning off the side porch and getting the furniture out". She obliged (loves to play wiht the hose, lol). I then returned to the back, to seal the ecking on the screen porch (the other porch is off the driveway). Before I went out, I asked her to unload the dishwasher. I come in afer another hour of hard work. She's on the computer. There's nothing planned for dinner and, frankly, I don't want her to cook (lol). I order Chinese and send her out. She grumbles about going and gets quite a look from me, which silences her. She returns and suggests we eat and watch a movie. We do and I carry my plate up and rinse it. I say "i'm going to check my email and FB while you empty the dishwasher and clean up." She sets her plate, with the remnants of her dinner on the counter, says "I will" and sits in a chair, texting.

    I go to bed, deciding to see what she does. I wake up to ..... guess what??? Dirth plate still on the counter, dishwasher unemptied.

    I would have left it for her, but I had a customer coming by so I cleaned up.

    Happy Birthday to me.

    Do your difficult child have scheduled chores? Do you just ask on a per-need basis?

    I'm thinking of telling her (in my new warrior-calm fashion) that, clearly, expecting her to do what needs to be done has not worked and that she will now be responsible for emptying the dishwasher every day, and reloading it was well as cleaning, drying and puting away anything that does not go in the dishwasher. She will do this each day before work (she can set her alarm) and right after getting up on her days off.

    Aside from that, I think it's time for a chore schedule.
  2. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    I lived at home as an adult. And the biggest challenge was handling one-off requests. (I'm only a minor difficult child, but ADHD is a major factor.)

    I had a regular list of chores that were mine... and I did them within operating parameters but on my schedule. Like - clean bathrooms once per week, etc.

    One-offs? really hard to remember. Ya, partly because there was no vested interest, but also because there was nothing to "hook" it to in the brain. Unless it was a scheduled item and done "with"... like spring cleaning stuff, which Mom would book a couple of half-days into my calendar.

    We're trying to work with our difficult children to teach them to do what they see... if you go to put your dishes in the dishwasher and it's full of clean dishes - empty it. If you put something in the garbage can and it's full, take it out. It's a slow process, but it's starting to register.
  3. Giulia

    Giulia New Member

    If I were you : start low, go slow.
    What I mean is : don't ask him to complete a full list of tasks he will never complete. Then he blows up, you are both frustrated...
    Ask him one chore, but this chore has to be well done.
    And after this one is mastered, you add a second one. etc etc...
    One step at time, one day at time.

    Insane, now my biggest problem with dishes is how to load the dishwasher enough not to waste electricity but not too much to prevent from having clean dishes. This is, for me, a major problem with planning.

    It won't solve everything, but it will make life manageable for everyone.
    And I cannot agree more with Insane, it's a slow process. A very slow process.
  4. Signorina

    Signorina Guest

    At 20, she needs to pull her own weight if she is living at home. Definitely a chore chart if that's what will make it register with her adhd. Coming home to dirty dishes makes me stabby. (In fact, I am looking at the dirty griddle left on the stove from my "mother's day breakfast" that H made yesterday. hmmmmm, thanks for the treat)

    So, I would sit down with her and go over the list of things that have to be done so that you can live together as adults. And divide them up. And write them down and post. Keep it straightforward. It's not about you telling her what to do - it's about her sharing in the responsibility and the privilege of living in your home. As far as her room and her own stuff, if the door closes - just close it.
  5. Calamity Jane

    Calamity Jane Well-Known Member

    Hi Dash,
    Dealing with difficult children is not like dealing with PCs. That's particularly true if difficult child has a mood disorder. Usually, they couldn't care less about cleanliness, hygiene, everyday tasks that need to be done to run a house just sets them into a whirl of excuses, apoplexy and frustration. It isn't even like they're doing it on purpose - they just don't think like we do.
    Setting up a chart, calmly talking about expectations, etc. is a great start. You did mention before that your ex said she left her room like a pigsty, and that is a pattern that is hard to break. I often think that if I were to die, my difficult child would have no clue how to sort through the mechanics of daily life. It would simply be overwhelming. Meanwhile, everything gets done by us, and it's taken for granted. Best to start now, and keep on top of her as much as you can, though you know she should be doing this on her own without your prompting. Just keep it positive, that you know she wants to make a contribution so things run smoothly, blah, blah, blah. sigh. Always so much effort.:kickedoutsmile:
  6. dashcat

    dashcat Member

    Thanks, all.
    Calamity your first paragraph says it all. She would live in utter squalor, given the choice. At her dad's condo , the only thing upstairs is a big room and full bath. He never went up there and, even though I told him that you could smell it downstairs (Ugh!) he didn't do anything until she left. She iwll wear dirty clothes rather than wash them and Mr. Ostrich even told me she threw out dishes at times rather than wash them!!! I've been on her about not leaving dishes on the counter (when the dishwasher is right there, for heaven's sake!) and hav explained that she can't leave dirty clothes and wet towels on her floor because I can smell them. I work from home, and customers come here. Unnacceptable.

    It's just one more maddening facet of dealing with a difficult child. Nothing is simple.

    One of the things I'm trying to figure out is, what are the consequences of her not helping? As Calamity pointed out, she doesn't care if it's messy and she knows darned well that I'll clean it up rather than live with it. I can't see lowering my own standards, either. When she was in high school I could say "I'm sorry, but you can't go out tonight. I asked you twice to pick up your room (dishes, whatever) and it isn't done. you'll need to stay home to finish it. I mean, I can hardly say that to a 20 year old who owns her own car.

  7. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    If she doesn't want to do housework, SHE can pay 100% of the cost of a housekeeper to come in 3x a week and do it for her...
  8. Giulia

    Giulia New Member

    To add another idea, if she does not do her housework, then you don't do her part at all. You let it like that. You don't force her to do it. You let her the mess.
    If, for example, she does not clean the dishes, don't clean them. Clean up only your plate, fork, knife, glass and put it back in the sink. She will complain that she has no plate to eat with. So she will have to deal with the consequences of her acts which means cleaning up the dishes.
    Don't do it for her, let her deal with it.
    You pretend you didn't see not heard.

    I learnt with my father that a lot of managing a difficult child consists of ignoring, pretending you didn't see nor hear. She makes drama ? Ignore. She didn't clean up her dishes ? Pretend you didn't see them and don't clean them up.
    She didn't clean up her laundry and has nothing to wear ? Let her complain and remind her that she has to wash her clothes if she wants to have something to wear.

    If I don't do my laundry, I cannot complain about not having anything to wear. I have to deal with it alone, mom does not do it for me.
    I learnt it the harsh way. But now, I am much more careful to do it (ok, once, I couldn't do my laundry due to a pericarditis, so staying one month and a half in bed. But it was once in my life).

    I fear that with the consequences you put on about staying at home to complete chores, it will be power struggle for hours. It will drain yourself, and for what ? No results for you, because she would not make more the assigned task.
    If your daughter does not do her job at work, no one can force her to do so. But she does not get paid.
    Same for you : if she does not do part of her job, you cannot force her. But you let her deal with the natural consequences of it. Like if she has an infection because of it, you let her deal with doctor appointment, medicines to take, you ignore her complains etc etc.....

    It looks like lowering your standards, but it's not. Just a way to make her understand that if the house is not clean, it also affects her health and well being. And you let her deal with it.
    You just present your standards on a way she will understand them, and she complies because she understands that it's in her interests, not only yours (if you present your standards as an interest for you, then she will be oppositional because "yeah it's for her. Speak, speak....". If she has to deal with the consequences without doing the job for her when not done, she understands that it's in her interest to clean up the dishes in order to have a plate to eat dinner. She will be much more willingful to comply).

    A difficult child needs to control a lot. So she has to want to do what you want. It is just another way of doing, but the aims are the same than "traditional parenting".
    Last edited: May 14, 2012
  9. Calamity Jane

    Calamity Jane Well-Known Member

    My difficult child was also adopted at birth and has a mood disorder for which he is not on medication at the moment. I know your daughter loves you very much, and doesn't purposely intend to drive you crazy - she just can't get out of her own way. With my difficult child anyway, he can't successfully co-manage more that one or two things. If he goes to school, he won't work, because that's too much to handle. Grades would suffer. Combine that with a tendency twd. self medication with substances, and you get a barely functioning person. They really don't want to be that way, though.
    Before we get to consequences, do you think she would go for therapy and medications? It might help significantly. If she's totally opposed to that, you just have to keep reminding her, like a broken record, every day about what you expect. Not that you expect your home to shine like the top of the Chrysler Building mind you, just to be neat and picked up. She was capable of doing it in High School, so I'd tell her that you have every confidence she can do it now. Tell her nicely that she does have to do things your way, as she's an adult guest in your home. Tell her you love her, you know she loves you, and you want to work this out, and being organized will benefit her as well. Tell her you know she may screw up and make mistakes occasionally, but that if she sticks to the schedule and is mindful of your expectations, she will get into a routine and she'll be very proud of her accomplishments. If she can hold a job, and meet her boss's expectations, you definitely believe she can meet your expectations. The ultimate consequence, of course, is that you can ask her to leave and live on her own as an adult, and keep her own apartment in any condition she chooses, but it doesn't have to be that way as long as she cooperates. Keep encouraging therapy, because underlying depression reads just like laziness.
    Dash, I so totally know where you're coming from.
  10. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Giulia... Dashcat can't do that - she runs her business from her home, so it is both her home and her office, and the "office" aspect means the whole house has to be relatively presentable.
  11. Giulia

    Giulia New Member

    CJ, I think that we have to also see if our expectations are realistic in the current situation.
    It's not because she could do it in HS without medications that it will be the same as an adult. The job may be much more demanding than at HS to the point she cannot keep both job and chores + doctor appointments + therapy..... I was in this situation in HS, I really could not keep both.
    So I think that a lower list, but better done, and relying on baby steps will be much more productive than a ton of tasks she won't keep because she genuinely cannot do it. It is important not to set up expectations that a difficult child cannot genuinely meet, otherwise, it is the best set up for an explosive situation for the parent (but also for the difficult child).
    It's tempting to add more expectations as she becomes an adult, but I warn that more is not necessarily better. And if she cannot meet your expectation, life will be a misery for both (not only your difficult child, but also for you).

    If I were you, I would keep as a top priority getting the right treatment plan. As long as she cooperates with getting a treatment, as long as she does not steal, hit, break stuff, then life at home can still be possible even if she genuinely cannot keep up with chores.
    Help can be expected if she really can meet your expectations.
    Otherwise, if she asks you to pay for food shopping instead of helping with chores, it is still a way to help.

    The most important is finding a way where you win both. You win because she helps and she wins because she is happy to meet your expectations she is able to meet (and not she drains herself to meet your expectations).

    The most important is cooperation with her treatment plan. It is the first key for stability, hence home life with you, alone or someone else.
  12. Giulia

    Giulia New Member

    I understand better what you mean now.

    Sorry for having forgotten this point you mentioned, which is not a detail at all.

    Dashcat, does your daughter have her disability recognized ? It may make her able to have someone to help with chores. I don't know enough the American system, but it may be worth to explore.
  13. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    I think the consequences are that she has to find another place to live...not as a "threat" hanging over her head - but as an acknowledgment that you two are room-mates - and if the room-mates are not getting along, then the arrangement has to end.

    So I think lots of reminders....and be blunt. "Look - if you don't want to do chores around are going to have to get your own place."
  14. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I have to agree with Daisyface. My kids, difficult child with autism included, do their own laundry, fold it, take it upstairs, clean their rooms, etc. My daughter has ADD and she has to clean her room or nobody can come over (she is very social so this works). Really, any adult can make an attempt to clean up. They take turns with me doing dishes and Son takes out the trash.

    If your daughter was in a psychiatric hospital (I have been there) they wouldn't care how sick she was...she would have to make her bed and clean her room. So therapeutically it is considered positive for a person to get up and force themselves to go on with life no matter how they feel. Often you end up feeling better after you've gotten out of bed and done your thang. It isn't a is helpful.

    If she can't remember the list of chores, I totally think the list is a good idea. I have a terrible memory and I write everything down. That's a very good coping mechanism. Without my stickies and calanders, I would never be where I was supposed to be or do what I was supposed to It is hard to be spacy, but one can compensate for it.

    in my opinion she is too old not to contribute at all, even if she is depressed. Depression is NOT fun. I suffered a good portion of my life. But you are capable of cleaning, even while very depressed and again it can be helpful to your mood too!
  15. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Dash, you are describing my issues to a T almost. No one in my house wants to do a darned thing around here but I physically cant pick up the slack when no one does. I wish I could just get mad and do it anyway and then make some sort of punishment.

    There is a website that you can make chores up and assign them to each person per week or day or month and have them emailed to them when they are due. Since your daughter is on the computer so much, that might be a good way to go. I tried it with Billy and he ignored

    I have a huge issue with this with Billy and the words...clean the Kitchen. He takes that to mean "wash the dishes" which to him means just wash the dishes...not silverware, not pots and pans, not the counters, not the stove, not take out the trash, not sweep the floor. Nothing but wash the dishes and leave dirty greasy water in the sink overnight. It ticks me off so badly.

    I got up yesterday to find all the dishes from the total weekend on the counters and in the sink from Friday night through Sunday sitting there for me to do on Monday. Nobody had done anything except I guess to wash whatever they needed to eat off of during the weekend. I know the floor hasnt been washed in over two months. I cant physically wash it. It hurts.

    Billy isnt working a full 40 hours. He works maybe 30. Now Tony is gone from 5am till 7:30pm so I cant expect him to do a whole lot during the week. I do get a bit ticked when he made some irritating comment to me a couple of weeks ago about how I should get all the clothes folded in the laundry room. Now this really ticks me off because he cleaned it out about a month and a half ago because our old freezer died and we had to get a new one. Why in heavens name didnt he go through the clothes then and get them sorted? Why just dump everything back into the laundry room and expect me to haul it sometime later. Number one, I have no where to put most of the clothes. I have drawers for the room that is supposed to be Keyanas. It has two dressers in it.

    If you figure out how to make anyone do chores...tell me, I cant even make myself do them. Well I want to but even standing at the sink for 5 minutes hurts. Maybe I will go see about a stool soon but Im dragging Tony to buy it. He isnt paying for much right now and that is ticking me off too.
  16. Dash - DJ just reminded me of a great website that you can use. If you go to there is a link to the cozi calendar website.

    You can set up appointments, chores, reminders etc. on this website and each family member will get the reminders that apply to them. It's a great system and it is FREE!

    You can set up the calendar on your computer screen and it will also text or email you the message reminders so it would be great for your difficult child who does have a phone.
  17. Giulia

    Giulia New Member

    MWM, I agree that she has to contribute. I didn't say she didn't have to contribute.
    I say she has to contribute in the measure of her possibilities. It has to be realistic expectations, no matter how high/low we judge them.

    The "never done enough" is tempting. I am sometimes very unhappy because I wish I were able to do more/better/perfectly/being more able to fit in/being able to have a diploma and job now etc etc....
    I say it, it is very tempting and very human.

    But the most important is that she contributes on the household functioning.
    If she contributes with paying the food grocery, it's contributing. If she prefers cooking dinner for mom and herself, it is contributing. If she is the master person of cleaning up the floors, she can contribute with that etc etc....

    The most important is finding ways she can contribute and what she can handle.

    My parents did the mistake on expecting from me more than I could handle. It resulted to frustration from my parents, disappointed because I couldn't meet their expectations, and from me, because I was disappointed from not being able to meet their expectations.
    So we had to review each other's expectations, and find ways to make them doable for my mom, my dad and I. Yes it was not easy, but you would not had hoped for it maybe three years ago.

    Dashcat, the right solution is the solution which works for you and your daughter.
    It may not be a solution which worked for someone else, but the most important is that the solution you choose with your daughter works for both of you.
  18. dashcat

    dashcat Member

    Thank you, everyone! I wanted to give myself some time to process and figure out a constructive way to turn this around. Today is her day off and I'm going to talk with her about a schedule (maybe suggest flylady ... I know about her philosophy, but didn't know about the email reminders on the webiste). She does want to please me right now (not always the case, trust me!) and she told me last night that she loves being home. She also talked to me a little last night about her bouts of depression. This is HUGE progress, as she has always adapted Mr. Ostrich's approach of denial where this is concerned. I completely agree that, depressed or not, BiPolar (BP) (no diagnosis, but my money is on this one) or not, working or not, she needs to contribute. ( And, Guilia, my expectations are reasonable. I do understand what you're saying)

    I aLso think that working, and seeing positive results, are self-esteem boosters. I never come in from cutting the grass or working on some household project and think "Boy, I sure wish I hadn't done that!".

    I'll let you know what I/we (I'm going to ask her for some input) come up with. What I can tell you for certain is that we won't be maintaining the status quo.

  19. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    This is critical to success.
    Be sure to be detailed, as well...
    Not just "what", but timeframes, standards, etc.

    For example - when I lived at home, one of my chores was "heavy housework". What that means to you, and what it means to my Mom, and what it means to me... are probably totally different. But we talked about it and agreed: the whole house got vacuumed every week, the main living areas had to be done on Friday or Saturday (for company Sunday), and all the furniture had to be moved once a month and vacuumed under. In my cousin's house? single piece of furniture got vacuumed under, twice a week. The "once a week" thing meant that it was my choice... spend half of Saturday cleaning house, or get most of it done earlier in the week. I had a check-list on the wall by the vacuum... checked it off as I did stuff. Just one example... but being detailed really helps.

    Breaking tasks down also helps. Learned that when I had two-under-two... "clean house" on my task list, never got done. "clean washrooms" wasn't even doable. "scrub tub"... done. "clean toilets"... done. Oh... company's coming? well... just gotta do a quick wipe-down and it's passable.

    I also find it helps to have two "tool caddies"... one for "wet cleaning" and one for "other cleaning". Each caddie has the right cleaning solutions and the right kinds of cloths. "Wet" had floor cleaning solutions, toilet cleaner, tub-scrub, anything that had to be "added to water" or "rinced off". "Other" has paper towels, dust cloths, windex, furniture polish, etc.
  20. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Well this post is so Billy had today off and for some reason my body has been really giving me a horrible time the past few weeks. I think it has been in worse shape since I changed medications last month and then I got so sick with the pneumonia. Probably had to take awhile for my body to get used to the new pain medications and then on top of that my body just got hit hard with the illness so I was down for the count. Right now I have had to go get some sinus medications to see if I can knock that out or end up back at the doctor for more abx for another infection. Sigh.

    Well I had a rough night last night. Went to sleep about midnight and got woke up at 4 when Tony got up. I tried to lay back down for a nap about 12 but Billy called me several times almost every time I fell asleep. I finally gave up and just lay there with the heating pad on my knee.

    A little while ago I went out to fix me a cup of soda and I asked him if he would clean up the kitchen and make the dinner for tonight. Now cleaning isnt that easy but dinner is really easy. Its chicken alfredo. I buy a jar of alfredo sauce, precooked chicken strips and then spaghetti in a box. Not like you have to cook a chicken and debone it. HE ROLLED HIS EYES AT ME!!!! Now he lives here for the almighty high sum of $150 a month and that includes his food. Trust me, we arent making a penny. We pay more than that each month buying take out for Every Thursday night Tony buys takeout for dinner and we buy for all three of us. I doubt this month Billy will even be able to pay his rent because of buying the car. Who knows. I wont stress it if he cant. But dont complain when I ask you to do something I cant do!