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I think I should have a regularly scheduled post of things I discovered after 25 years of parenting that I wished I had been enlightened with long ago, or had been more self-assured and passionate about doing, or had learned from friends and thought “that’s genius, why am I not doing this”. Things I wish I had done better right from the start.
Here is one of them: If your children are capable of doing something themselves than they should be doing it themselves.
Maybe not ALL the time but most of the time. Enough to be efficient and successful at it. Enough that we parents are not work horses and maids, but instead get to talk after dinner, relax, enjoy a meal made for us or cleaned up after us, a moderately clean and organized house, and not run on empty all the time or constantly hire things out. Enough that we should be asking every time we are doing something, who else here is capable of this?
Imagine all the chores and duties that would be off our plates if we implemented this. It’s really an art, this delegation and very very young children can be taught to do many many things. All one has to do is read a history book to know that children were watching siblings, cooking meals, baking, walking long distances to fetch water or food, hunting, working in factories, running errands, washing clothes, and on and on and on.
I get that sometimes it is easier to do things ourselves. And I don’t think children will be crippled if they can’t be completely self-sufficient at a certain age.
But why not enjoy this contribution to our household, so, well, parenting is more enjoyable? And how awesome that it benefits both them AND us, and the benefits are probably far greater for them than us. Self-esteem is built, not by words, but by accomplishments and feeling self-sufficient and capable. Life skills!
I know there are many many way too complicated chore systems, but it does NOT have to be complicated. It can be a list on the fridge, a daily and weekly checklist, in addition to just asking at the moment. There are tons of options but the system doesn’t matter as much as the fact that they are doing things.
How to do it:
1. Write down everything that needs to be done daily, weekly or monthly in the home, and then try to delegate as much as possible to the children. They can keep a whole house clean-they live in it for free, why not? They can learn to take care of their things, their bodies, their clothes, their food as soon as they are capable, and us mothers have a huge tendency to underestimate their capabilities.
2. Teach them at a young age HOW to do everything. Whether it’s making their beds, cleaning a toilet, making cookies, or a quick breakfast, packing their lunches, vacuuming and mopping, cutting the lawn, picking weeds, stripping their beds down and remaking, putting clothes away, etc. We need to spend time upfront to teach and practice. The time and patience this takes will pay off incredibly in saved time for us.
3. Be consistent and firm. Don’t feel guilty. I promise you once they get older you will be thanking your lucky stars you did this, even if it’s met with some resistance.
4. Be positive and encouraging and complementary even if there needs to be correction or do-overs.
5. Create habits-which does have everything to do with consistency and when they are younga picture chart might come in handy. Make the bed, empty the dishwasher, load the dishwasher after dinner, always bring your plate to the sink, wipe off the sink, put shoes away. Habits are hard to break and easier to enforce and the younger they begin to learn habits the smoother the household runs.
Also, busyness is not an excuse. As my kids got older their extra-curricular and outside job schedule in addition to studying gave them very little time at home, and although I think it’s okay to slack off a little, if a teen has time to spend on their phone, or go out, they have time to keep their rooms cleaned and wipe down a bathroom and care for their things. That’s called learning to “adult”-time management skills and priorities are essential to life. And really, being clean takes minutes, not hours, if a system is in place.
Some practical tips:
Initial organization done by us makes it easier for kids to know where things are kept and where they are put away. It does not have to be Pinteresty it just has to be obvious. (A basket where the toys go, and drawers with labels or pictures, etc.) . Making everything easy to reach, and obvious and time-saving is the key.
-Clorox wipes (the extra strong ones work well to wipe down showers and tubs), Windex wipes, Pledge wipes, and Swiffers, make everything easier and less complicated to clean. I keep the wipes in every bathroom. Here is mylaundry systemthat I use.
–This cookbook is fantastic-my mom gave this to Andrew as a gift and he loved it and he really is one of our best cooks.
–This panini makerhas been a genius find for me because the kids can make hot sandwiches and quesadilla’s for themselves with very little clean up (and it somehow seems much safer than a pan and a stove top.)