Today’s blog is around getting kids involved in household chores – what worked for me, and what didn’t!
My mission is help make parents’ lives a little bit easier by sharing with you the things that do (and don’t) work in our family, keeping things real and building a supportive community of likeminded parents.
Lately I have been getting increasingly frustrated about the kids not helping in the house. I think in part because my husband was away for a number of weeks, so it felt even more important that the kids chip in and help and we all work as a team. It also made me realise just how much I was doing for them and actually how in many ways I was doing them a disservice by not empowering them. Although they might not agree…!
Often I would just get on and do things for them, because it is was easier than the battle that would often happen when I asked them to get involved initially. And still I am often very tempted to slip into that way of doing things.
But I remember when I was a child how I went on a school trip and we were all asked to make our own beds – and I was incredibly grateful that I knew exactly how to do that by myself – and also very surprised that many of my friends had no idea how to and felt completely lost without their parents to do it for them. I must have been around 9 at the time and that got me thinking that actually Josh is 9 now and he most likely would have little idea of what he needs to do to put on his sheet and duvet cover – and how I am doing him a disservice in that.
He would probably currently disagree, as I get the sense that he and Isla and Rupert all quite like being looked after – and I like looking after them – but when they started coming down to the breakfast table, sitting down and then asking me to get up and get them a drink or a spoon or whatever, I started to get really frustrated with the situation…
I decided to start small and just tackle one area where the children get involved. And that area for me was to get them involved in setting and clearing the table for every meal.
At first I just told them what I wanted to do – but that ended up in endless arguments of why they had to do one thing, while their sibling got to do something far more interesting… (who knew that putting Nutella on the table is everyone’s favourite thing to do and is far more interesting than doing the cutlery…)
So that didn’t work…
The following week I decided to turn it on its head and I made a list of all the jobs I wanted done – like put the plates out, put the bowls out, put the milk, Nutella, butter out etc, plus the jobs that I was responsible for. And then the children selected for themselves which jobs they wanted to be responsible for. After they had agreed what they wanted to do, there were far fewer arguments in the morning and everyone just got on with the chore that they had selected. It was important that I had listed myself and my chores too, as I initially hadn’t included these – and very quickly the kids got the impression they were doing far too much and I was doing nothing – so it was important to show them exactly how I was contributing, so that it felt fair all round.
The things I learnt that were really important were:
1) The children got to choose which chores they wanted to do and they negotiated with each other and agreed – and I made a note of who does what
2) The ‘who does what’ was not set in stone. Each week (or each term, or whatever works for you) they can rotate round and change the jobs that they are responsible for
3) I included my own jobs otherwise they thought I wasn’t contributing and it felt unfair to them
I also noticed that when I stopped calling them chores or jobs and instead switched to ‘family contributions’ and ‘we are a team, we all need to do our bit’ – it seemed to change their attitude towards their ‘bit’. I had watched a post from a great parenting coach (Amy McCready) and she had suggested this ‘re-framing’, so I thought I’d give it a try, and it has really made a difference.
Even though initially getting into this new routine was hard – and it sometimes still is, when we over-sleep for example and things need to be done quickly, or when the child responsible for putting out the cutlery or plates and bowls is last to the table and I have to resist the urge to just do their bit for them – on the days where it works, it is brilliant.
Not only for me, as I feel we really are a team, rather than me feeling like a ‘slave’, it is also wonderful to see the kids all working together and the joy on their faces that they are responsible and have an important part to contribute to making mornings go smoothly.
It is also wonderful to know how this is helping all of them know how to help themselves, and grow their independence and autonomy.
I think it taps into the whole idea (another post from parenting coach Amy McCready) that children need to fill two buckets daily – one is all about having power and one is about getting attention. And if they don’t have opportunities to fill these two ‘buckets’ in positive ways, they will find ways to fill them negatively.
Helping to set the table helps them fill their ‘power’ bucket, as they get to pick the colour of the cup, the type of spoon, or the cereal that they put on the table. The choice is theirs, it is totally in their control.
It also helps them fill their attention bucket – not only because they can clearly see how much joy it brings me to see them all working together as a team, they also get more of my attention at breakfast, because rather than me rushing around getting everyone a drink, or a spoon, or a piece of toast, we are all sitting at the table and can have a conversation together.
So, I highly recommend it! I would say, pick something small that you can ‘test’ getting the kids involved in, and then grow it from there.
My next mission is to see if I can get everyone more involved in the washing – and the kids to put their dirty clothes in the wash basket (rather than just on the floor where they happen to be standing), and maybe even teach them how to run their own washing load and hang up and put their clothes away afterwards….! Now that would be nice!!
As you know, each week I want to cover topics that really matter to you and connect with you by sharing our stories, trials and tribulations, useful insights, lessons learnt, book reviews, topics that you have requested and things that I have tried as a mum of 3 that I have found helpful.
Next week and the week after, it is the Easter Holidays for our lot, so we will be taking a couple of week’s break and will be back after the break with a session on Love Languages – what these are and how when I found out what the love languages are for my three (and my husband) it has really made a difference to me being able to do the things that matter most to them (and them for me).
I’d love your comments as we go too and do share any topic suggestions that you might have. Simply email me at email@example.com or respond to me on Instagram or FB at mummymadethis.
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Have a great rest of your week and a wonderful Easter Break and I look forward to seeing you all when we are back! I can’t believe it is nearly April already…
For those of you that are new to our site – every Monday evening we now do a quick 10-15 minute video conversation, talking all things family. You can find all past videos here.
Our mission is help make parents’ lives a little bit easier by sharing with you the things that do (and don’t) work in our family, keeping things real and building a supportive community of likeminded parents.
The aim is to give you a boost, a giggle or a virtual hug – and share something that you might find interesting or useful for your upcoming week with your family. I recognize that every family and every family situation is different – so some topics might resonate with you one week, but the topic the next week might not, and the one the week after might again – and that is ok.