As a child I grew up doing what I was told.
Setting the table, washing the dishes, cleaning the bathroom, feeding the dog, shoveling snow, mowing the lawn. You know. "Chores."
I suspect most of us have this in common.
But the way I was "encouraged" to do these chores was with a punishment and reward strategy.
I had to do it.
Mom chose the chores, their completion was possibly linked to my allowance and certainly linked to my freedom, and I remember that if certain chores were not done in a timely fashion we'd be stuck doing it for another week. I remember distinctly my sister feeding the dog for months on end because she kept forgetting.
And I get it.
That was how we collectively rolled in this culture in the 70's. In fact, I think it's how many of us still roll. I don't hold any grudges against my folks for this choice. It worked for them.
But in our home, I want less conflict and more cooperation than I grew up with. I want my kids to want to help. I want less correction and more connection.
I am looking to engage my kids in the day-to-day of running our home without the day-to-day power struggles that can come with it.
And so often they rise up and participate without even being asked.
Just yesterday Lupine came inside to report that the chickens had spilled their feed so she had already found and washed a scoop and refilled their feeder. She also checks for eggs several times a day and often joins me at the laundry line.
I have never asked her to do these jobs. She just wants to.
Sage is older. And he has a different temperament. He is more focused on his own interests than the running of our home. But Sage also takes pride in organizing our family room, polishing wooden furniture, washing windows, mowing the grass, and making our home beautiful.
These are tasks that he loves and often embraces when I ask him to do them.
But sometimes my kids just don't want to help.
Sometimes when I ask they say no. Sometimes when I tell they whine and complain. That's normal, right? I remember feeling that way.
But as an aspiring peaceful parent, I try not to force my children to participate like my folks did when I was a kid. I want their participation ot be joyful not compulsory.
And so there are days when I request far less help than I want. Because I want to stay the course of peaceful parenting.
And as my kids have gotten older I've begun to feel that they have a pretty cushy ride. They often just want the food cooked, floors cleaned, laundry folded, and dishes washed for them.
I can relate. I have moments like that.
But I don't have weeks like that. And when I project that sentiment out from early childhood towards young adulthood it makes me shudder. Because as I imagine my kids getting older and that desire taking deep root, it sure smacks of entitlement.
And entitlement is so not what I am going for in my parenting strategies. I want to raise kids who are strong. Capable. Confident. Not entitled.
I want my children to grow up knowing that their contributions to our home were not only polite, but also vital.
I started reading the book Cleaning House, a mom's 12 month experiment to rid her home of youth entitlement. And while I can't relate to much of the context – nor do I want to use punishment and reward to modify behavior – I am certainly inspired.
I can relate to her story of seeing her child's pajamas on the floor and thinking (with frustration) that she shouldn't have to pick up after him, then picking them up, cleaning the rest of the room, and organizing their closet while she's at it.
I get it. I've done that. And it serves no one.
So this season I am embarking on my own experiment.
We are going to create a home where everyone pulls their weight, but does so out of their desire to cooperate and participate. We will do it with peaceful parenting strategies – not power-over strategies, punishments, or rewards.
My kids will join me in this mission and their participation will be joyful.
Ambitious? Heck yeah. But certainly worth my best shot.
Because I believe that with some creativity and connection kids and adults can come together, find a common goal, and work joyfully towards it.
My plan is to:
1. Meet as a family and establish a shared goal.
2. Determine tasks or chores that need to be done daily or weekly.
3. Work together to determine an equitable way to distribute tasks.
4. Test our plan.
5. Encourage staying the course using peaceful parenting strategies (validation, attention, connection, and group problem-solving).
6. Modify as needed to meet the needs of all members of the family.
I am confident that we can banish entitlement and create participation without forcing a thing.
I have nothing to lose. And both a clean house and a confident future to gain.