In our house, attitude correction tool #1 is doing chores.
I don’t know why I seem to need to learn many life lessons over and over (and over . . .) again before I really start to get the lesson. In this case, I have realized the magical powers of children’s chores, but slowly the realization slipped out of my mind. This time, I’m writing it down, in an effort to remember (and to share).
So here’s the heart of the matter: doing chores is awesome on so many levels. It’s good for me, as the main keeper of the home, because it helps ease me feeling overloaded. It’s good for all of us, because we get to live in a tidier space. It’s good for the kids long-term, because when they grow up they’ll be able to clean up after themselves. And perhaps most important to me right now, and the ones I keep foregetting: it’s good for all of us right now because doing a good amount of daily chores (about 30 minutes for my 7 year old) is a healing, positive, balancing act for the soul of the child.
Getting your children to do chores every day takes a fair amount of willpower and a lot of follow-through energy on the part of the parent, which is why I think it’s so easy (and frequent) to let things slip. Oh, they’re playing so nicely, I’ll just do it myself. Or, They’ll just complain and whine, I’ll just do it. Etc, etc.
What I find in our home, is that when my children aren’t actively participating in keeping our home clean, I hear a lot more whining, complaining, backtalk, and general bad attitudes. Yes, they complain, dawdle, get distracted, and generally try to disappear when I make them do chores. But. After just one or two days of enforced chore time, the bad attitudes get significantly reduced. Mercifully, beautifully reduced. It’s like the act of caring for the home takes them out of a hyper-ego state, and plants them a little more firmly here in this family, where we are connected together.
As far as enforcing goes, I keep it calm but extremely firm. Short, and to the point. Go get the broom. Now sweep the kitchen. No, we’re not petting the cat right now, finish sweeping. Good work. Now go get the dust pan. (And so on.) While they are cleaning, I am beside them doing chores that they can’t do yet, like cleaning sharp knives or high cabinets. After directing them in a chore or two, I will often give them a choice – you can wash dishes, or you can hang up the wet clothes. Like I said, there’s often grumbling at first, but it quickly dies down. I try to remember to sing, or at least hum while we’re working. (I don’t usually play music on the stereo, because it’s too distracting and loud – I forget to check in on them closely enough and then we’re lost!) Tonight, while washing dishes, my formerly grumpy daughter announced, “I love cleaning.” And I do, too.
Blessings on your weekend, friends, and happy Summer Solstice!