Saturday, December 24, 2016

Conversation on Cleaning

Sometimes other moms ask me how we manage if we don't make the kids do chores. "Do they ever clean? Aren't you afraid they will grow up not knowing how? Isn't it bad for them to have someone just do everything for them?"

This evening, D asked the girls to help clean up.

Z: "I don't have to because you aren't grounding parents! You won't ground me!" 
Me: *called her in from the other room where I was working*
"Z, do you know what will happen if you don't help clean?"
Z looks at me funny: "No"
Me: "Nothing. You're right, we don't ground."
Z smiles.
Me: "BUT, it is frustrating for me and daddy sometimes, if we are cleaning up everything with no help."
Z: "But I don't want to help."
Me: "Daddy and I do a lot of the cleaning for you guys, because we love you and want you to have a clean, safe place to live....."
Z: "But what if a parent makes a mess?"
Me: "Then a parent cleans it up. And sometimes, as you get older, we need you to help clean up too, because you're part of the family and it's a family job."
Z: "I can't do a lot."
Me: "That's ok, you're still little. So you can do a little. And L can do a bit more. And E can do even more than that."
Z: "A can't do anything! She's a baby!"
Me: "Right, so we can help her until she is bigger and can do more."
Z: "I'm big! I can help a LOT!"
Me: "Awesome, thank you!"
Z: "I can do way more than A! I can lift really heavy things! I'm super strong! See my muscles?"
Me: "Those are huge muscles!"
Z: "So I can help a lot!"
Me: "Awesome! Why don't you go see what daddy needs you to do?"
Z: "Ok!"

And D asked her to pick up a few thing and she did.

This is a rare exchange. Often we just clean for them as a gift. Often if I'm doing deeper cleaning, the little ones ask to help (because rags and cleaner is WAY more fun than picking up!)
Sometimes I enlist help as a family affair before we go do a fun family thing, "Let's all work together to get this straightened up before we head to the park. E please do this, L please do that, Z please do the other!"
Sometimes it's just a quick, "Hey since you're headed to the bathroom will you take this hair brush with you?"
There is a lot of distance between being cleaning everything while the kids are in school, so they think it magically gets done by the cleaning fairy without ever seeing how.....

...and having chores and punishments and bribes.

Inside that distance is relationships, kindness, generosity, polite requests. taking no for an answer, and letting them help. expressing honest feelings and needs, and encouraging a natural desire to be part of something bigger and to feel needed.