I wrote a post about how I oppose chores a while back, because they kill the authentic desire to help out and they are top down and coercive. Mentioning chores in a negative light, even among coercion opposing parents, seems to be another hot pickle.
Most of us have been raised with the idea that chores breed tidy children and that they foster self sufficiency, build character and what not. Still a lot of parenting experts swear by fixing chore schedules and having your children perform housework.
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I can safely say that neither of those are true. I am in no way slave to my household or my family, and my house is fairly clean (though my standards may be a little higher still, but I think that's just being neurotic).
So what's the trick?
First of all, we have to acknowledge and accept that people hold different standards of clean. My husband and I for example hold very different ideas on how our house should be, me being at the neurotic end and he being at the more relaxed side (though I must say all these years with me must have rubbed off, because I do hear him commenting that rooms are dirty when we go somewhere else, and nowadays he does notice when the floor isn't clean).
Children form an entity on their own when it comes to cleanliness. With them being so much smaller than we are, just a small space of clear floor is already vast to them. They love cosiness and colors, and have not yet learned the disadvantage of ruckus.
Accommodating them every time they can't find something and cleaning up behind their back isn't the way to go.
We must enable them to be responsible about their stuff and it's important they know that the house doesn't go from disorder to sparkly shiny with just fairy dust.
So how do I do it.
First of all, I have to admit that I have help. Houses in Africa do get extremely dirty, and there are always insect problems, so you do have to keep the house really clean. Yet that doesn't mean I sit on my butt drinking cocktails all day (if only!).
When I do the laundry, I'll ask my daughter if she wants to help me (if she's around). Sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn't. She loves hanging up the wet clothes and turning on the washer. She's already very skilled at helping out in the kitchen. She really loves to help the cleaning lady clean the tiles in the bathroom.
Every time I am doing something, I will ask her if she feels like helping. Sometimes she declines, sometimes she helps. Sometimes she doesn't want me to do it, and then I postpone it. There is always time to clean up later.
Most children genuinely want to help out. They love it as part of their play and learn oodles from it. But that doesn't mean you have to enforce it.
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Though I have never forced her to clean up her mess, if she asks me to do it, I would say: "You know, you can do it too." or "We can clean it up together, I hold the pot and you put in the little beads."
It's the coercion part we need to get rid of when it comes to chores and housework. And as it turns out, everyone discovers something they like to do and as such we help each other.