This past Friday I was so excited to come home from work because I knew the house would be clean. I’m not one to have cleaning help but after fostering three dogs and many family-and-friends travelers I raised the white flag and said “Calgon take me away!” The smell and the shine was worth the slip – one turn down the hallway in my socks and I was grabbing the wall to stay up because the floors were waxed (did I pay extra for that?).
Friday night is family night so at dinner I couldn’t help but bring up the conversation on how keeping the house clean and organized really helped me feel empowered to get through each day. A silly topic to kids, and maybe shallow thinking to some, but having an organized and clean house does make me feel like I’ve got everything in order. I do walk out the door feeling like I can get everything done. It’s my thing and I want it to be everyone else’s “thing” as well.
I’ve directed everyone over the years on what I expect them to keep clean in their bedrooms and what I expect everyone to help with around the home. Not one wanting to be the author of many “Chore” charts I’ve posted notes and raised my voice a few times – none of it really created consistency. So before taking the family dinner down the path of “don’t get anything dirty” I decided to ask a few questions.
1. Where should we hike this weekend?
2. Who needs what for back-to-school supplies?
3. What’s for dessert and what’s our movie for tonight?
If you can believe – my youngest exclaimed: “Whatever we do we have to keep the house clean.” What? I couldn’t believe it so I asked, “How are we going to do that?”
Without another prompt my other daughter immediately shared a list she had created when she was little on how she would keep her room clean. It was full of pictures and symbols she said represented everything. With that simple prompt both girls set out to write up a list of items they would focus on to help keep the house clean.
When presented Callie shared that she would include vacuuming because she knew how important a clean floor is when you are cooking. Callie presented her list to us, and wanted to share with other families. Her excitement and deliberation were so evident; her next goal is to laminate the list so she can check and wipe off to start again each week.
The power of conversation goes beyond the boardroom or cocktail party – bringing relevant topics to the family table like individual needs or weekend activity ideas sparks thoughtful conversation and engages kids on a new level. Kids are empathetic and they want to help – when we ask what they can do around the home or for us as parents/caregivers we ignite curiosity; executive function kicks in, leadership skills, and a sense of worth are a part of this as well.
Parenting expert Jim Fay, co-founder of the Love and Logic website, says we all need to feel needed and to know that we’re making a contribution — even kids. “But they can’t feel that way if they don’t have chores and make contributions to the family,” Fay says.
Roger W. McIntire, University of Maryland psychology professor and author of Raising Good Kids in Tough Times, says, “A child has to have some responsibilities.”
According to research, children even younger than 15 months have empathy and realize others and their needs. When we consider physical abilities and emotional readiness we can set personal expectations and engage with our children in a much more positive and constructive way. When we include our children in the conversation about all noted above they feel responsible to the overall wellbeing of the family. A strong sense of emotional responsibility is powerful in the most positive way.
Try posing a question over telling someone what to do. How does the person respond? Do you find the conversation and actions more positive? Model this approach with your spouse or partner, do you find the results more positive? It’s a simple switch in the way we communicate but the results are impactful and beneficial to everyone.
With a clean house and committed siblings the weekend was so pleasant – I’d like to know what questions will you ask this week?