Growing up, I knew of two kinds of families: the ones where the parents let the kids be kids, and the families like mine, where the kids were a notch above slave-labor. Forcing us to clean, clean, CLEAN.
At least, that’s how I saw things from a child’s perspective back then.
My sisters & I couldn’t go anywhere on Saturdays until the house passed the white-glove test. We couldn’t clean, shop or anything on Sunday — keep holy the sabbath! Therefore, the house had to be spotless FOR Sunday… to prep for a visit from Jesus? We were always grateful for that rare Saturday morning event my mother would have to attend: potluck, rummage sale, whathaveyou…. because that put our laid-back father in charge. When Dad was in charge, he also had to answer to my mother, but he had a kinder way of stating things… and he didn’t wake us up at 7am Saturday morning freaking out about the laundry & the state of the house. One of the first Saturdays I remember my dad being in charge, I slept in and it was quiet. No one stomping around the house, slamming washer/dryer doors or fighting. Dad had a list of things that needed to get done (written by my mother) and he approached each of his daughters, privately, showing us the list, and how he decided to divide up the duties. One of us did laundry, one of us cleaned the sinks & tubs, one of us did the floors, etc. The presentation was something I’ll never forget, because it’s something he would reiterate each rare Saturday he was “in charge”.
Kelli, you do such a great job scouring the sinks & tubs — no one gets that chrome shinier than you, so I put you in charge of that today. When you finish that, you are free to hang out with your friends.
Do you see what my dad did? He complimented me, asked me for help, then highlighted the reward: freedom! From then on, when I cleaned the sinks & tubs, I got that satisfying feeling that I was, indeed the best at that particular job. And honestly, to this day, cleaning the bathrooms is still something I kinda enjoy. Shocker, huh? Getting all of the chrome shiny and porcelain white? Sure, it’s a bit of work, but the end-result is so satisfying!!
When it comes to assigning chores for my own kids, which is still a work-in-progress for my 3 & 6 year old, I find that if I do present the task at hand like my father, i.e. Natalie, you are such a smart matcher, how about you find matches to all the socks in this basket & roll them up? I get a more willing response. In this particular example, Natalie actually made up a sock-rolling song she seemed to enjoy it so much. If I yell at them to clean up the toys, like my mom would – damn my genes – they are more reluctant.
Thing is, as much as I dreaded chores growing up, it’s mainly because of the way my mom demanded I do them. But as you can see, the fact that my father pointed out something very positive helped me not only continue to do a great job, but to actually enjoy it. I am grateful my parents made me do chores though, because it is a part of life. Do you know anyone who’s parents did everything for them growing up? Or the Mom did everything while the dad was old-school, essentially bringing home the paycheck, but contributing nothing else? The hubs actually grew up in a house like that, and although I had a little deprogramming to do when we got together, he was always such a giver: willing to help, if asked.
Sure, I do a bulk of the chores around the house, but as the kids get older, they are pitching in more & more naturally… and the hubs will help out too, and he has gotten better at doing things without being asked. A trait I love!! I have learned to delegate in many cases, instead of getting upset & stressed doing it all myself, knowing full well that even if I do a more efficient job, teaching my children responsibility like chores will ease them into society instead of sending them off into the world expecting everyone to do everything for them. That’s definitely not reality. Kids will still have plenty of time to play, we just need to remember that they are kids when we ask them to do something. Demanding they pitch in won’t get us anywhere, but putting a positive spin on something as simple as chores can go very far!