My husband and I decided way back (when I decided to quit my teaching job to stay home with the kids) that we would not have a live-in helper, and model what home management would look like to our kids.
The principle was simple: if we, as parents, modeled what it looked like to manage our homes, it would be natural for the children to pick it up as a part of life. We believed and still do, that this would sustain our household to be self-sufficient in the long run. It would also train the children to be independent and know how to pick up after themselves. Collectively, we learn to serve one another.
That was at least seven years back. We have since moved from our cosy flat to live in with my parents in their landed home. The area has expanded and so has our family size. For awhile, it was tempting to call for help. Before we decided yet again to manage on our own despite having a relatively young family.
Most people look aghast when they find out we do not have any help managing a household of 7. Some parents have asked me to share my strategies on how I “get” my kids to do chores. Some have even quipped mock seriously that they might like their kids to come by for “bootcamps” to pick up these skills.
To be honest, I don’t have any formulaic strategy to impart. I do not even have a basic chore chart or roster (am organizational-phobic in that way). But by and large, we get by, and we are ploughing through with this somehow.
Are the kids happy to help out? I would say yes, with exceptions for when they are tired or grumpy.
1. Everyone should chip in to help around the house.
This burden of work shouldn’t fall on one person alone (mom or maid or grandma etc) but be shared by every family member. Many hands make work light.
2. A cheerful & helpful spirit
It’s not so important what you do but it’s the willingness and cheerfulness behind it that we hope to cultivate. It is the practical application of Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,..”. Do it not because you are MADE to do it, but because you would be happy to.
3. Don’t make it a “chore”
Ah…the word “chores”, sound well, tiresome, before you even start. I try not to use this word if I can help it.
When the kids were younger, I often found opportunities to reframe household tasks. I might add an element of fun to the task especially with young children and allow them achievable tasks so they can accomplish them. This makes them want to do it!
More importantly, I would invite them to be a part of what I was doing. The focus is not on the task at hand, but the time we spend doing it together.
4. Going beyond the call of duty
I have kind of avoided a roster with fixed chores. This is specific to my nature as a big picture person. However, it does have hidden benefits: it corrects the thinking that your duty is done when you’re done with what’s assigned as opposed to being ready to help when help is needed.
5. Show Appreciation
This is not a strategy. It is genuinely what we feel must be done when someone in the family takes the effort to do a task, regardless of how “well” the task is done. Giving children a sense of responsibility for what they can accomplish on their own without assistance,does a great deal for their confidence. It’s important to let the child see that his contribution is valued or valuable.
In the next post, I will share more about the specifics of how we do it in our household. Do share some of the ideas that work in your family!