Entitlement is not what I’m going for.




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.


27 thoughts on “Entitlement is not what I’m going for.

  1. her*mama says:

    i will be watching for your reports on this project! i am struggling with the 3y/o version of participation without force. Who wouldn’t rather play, explore, dance than brush teeth, clear up blocks, put books away? But sometimes, my child, it just has to be done.

  2. Kathleen says:

    i was raised the same way you were and i hope to raise my kids differently. i love your plan and look forward to seeing how it works.

  3. Emma says:

    A big question over here. Dh and I have a “date” to make time to discuss. I have the same inner conflict….wanting peaceful…but really not cool with some the lack of participation with the older kids.

  4. Cassandra says:

    Definitely looking forward to this. I’ve only got a 2 year old right now so we’re not there yet, though I am working on including her in as many activities as I can, but she’s at that age where she thinks it’s fun still. However this is definitely a situation where your experiences divert from my experiences because I almost never actually want to do any chores and I can pretty much expect that my child will never want to do chores, but that will never change them needing to be done. You want your kids to want to do something, but if I don’t even want to do it, how can I expect her to want to do it? I’d rather teach her the importance of duty and contributing to the family whether she wants to or not, a job well done brings satisfaction and leaves mama not so totally exhausted she can still play and do fun things with her. Different views, same result, but will the same strategy work?

  5. meghann says:

    Oh, I am so anxious to watch this experiment, so that I can borrow from it in another year or so… My children (3 1/2 and 2 1/2) are too young, I think, for the family goal-setting meeting & whatnot, but someday in the not-so-distant future I think that’s how it’s going to go. Right now we have what you describe – they like to help with what they like to help with, when they want to help with it. And that’s fine, I think, because they are 3 1/2 and 2 1/2, you know? They do set the table before meals – one of them gets the napkin & the other one gets the silverware; that’s their one real job. But some days they just don’t want to help with anything and I’m dealing with that now, but I’m looking forward to seeing how the shared-goal-setting approach works with older children… xo

  6. Helena says:

    I hope you’ll post more about this as you go. I recently read that book as well and was inspired, as I don’t want my kids (3.5yo dd and little boy expected in October) to grow up entitled either, but I often find myself falling into the trap of doing things for my daughter rather than teaching her either because I don’t feel like arguing with her or because it’s easier/faster to do it myself. And I’d like to change that, especially as she gets older.

  7. amber says:

    YES! Before I had my little boy, i worked as a montessori teacher in a school that went through middle school. While working with the middle school, that was the way each day was started, with a class meeting. At the beginning of the school year, goals are set. My 18 month old son and i go in the afternoons to work with the middle school after school program, and just the other day, their lead teacher had a meeting about cleanliness. She asked the class, what types of things do you feel like need to be done to keep our living spaces useful? and they made a list. when things do not get done, or done correctly, they will be handled with positive discipline, meaning, the teacher and student will meet about the reason why it is not getting done or getting done correctly. i.e. do they know how to do the job? is it not their preference to do that job and they would like a different job? is there someone else unhappy with their job that could switch with them? are they too tired when they are doing the job? is there another time that job can be done? etc. we also have an understanding that no one is done until the community is done. who might need extra assistance? who is maybe struggling that day and might need some tlc? it tends to work out really well. the other thing that really helps (in a classroom setting) is when someone has a problem with a job etc, they can write it down and put it in a box. the class discusses it as a community and finds ways to fix it. it is very rewarding for everyone. after i became a parent, i read every single gentle parenting book that i could find. but i felt that they were lacking in this area, which is accountability within the community/family. which is a fine line to tread. i believe that it can be done without bribery/punishment when everyone is participating in the problem solving of how we can keep our living space useful! i have felt before that it will do no one any good if the mother or father is so stressed out/ frustrated about the levels of participation with jobs. one thing i feel like i am learning is: as we teach our kids it is ok to be frustrated, lets figure this out together, we have to take our own advice and say, ok, i am feeling a bit overwhelmed with these tasks. what would happen if they didnt get done? does anyone have any ideas on how we can work together to make our space useful? i cant wait to hear how your project goes! good luck!

  8. Lacey says:

    oh my. we are in the midst of moving and our routine has been uprooted, but this is EXACTLY what my goal is for when we are more established. We have been asking so much from our children lately and power struggles have taken away from the family joy. I can’t wait to we all feel more stable, and I’m thrilled you wrote this because it is so essential and your suggestions have inspired me. Thank you!

  9. Lina says:

    Ohh I know you can do it! I love how different we are, really I do! What you write makes so much sence, I am entitled I was brought up with two maids one that lived with us and other that came daily, we never had to do anything just sundays when my mom would makes us make our bed and one sunday it was my turn for the dishes and next was my brother turn, so I grew up like that and I am complainig constantly if I have to do house stuff. I do have two maids but none of them live with us and one comes 5 days and the other 2 day, and I’m trying to get my little girl into helping out but not because she has to but because she understands the importance of that. Maybe is cultural but my husband does 0 house work, and by 0 I mean none! So we where all brought up like that, like if it wasn’t vital to do those things and we feel entitled to not having to do them and when something have to be done we feel upset for having to do that. A confession our 5 days a week maid left for 1 month vacation and I felt relief of not having somestranger in the house, not having to go food shopping for them and to take care of my own stuff! But I know that if some one can make it work is you! keep us posted!

  10. JC says:

    Coming from a Montessori background, & being reintroduced to these concepts as my son has completed his first year in the children’s house, I was totally thinking the same thing as you! My struggle is to get my husband on board. His mom did EVERYTHING for him when he lived at home. He doesn’t have the same understanding of “living in a community/family” as I do. My 3 year old son is (sometimes) more willing than my husband to chip in around the house! I’m sure Rachel will be able to pull this off! Look forward to reading about the progress! 🙂

  11. Tristain Eveland says:

    I can’t wait to hear how your plan works out! It’s a tough balance between allowing them to be kids, but still teaching them gently how to participate and enjoy it! I grew up exactly as you did. We had a chore list… a long one. An allowance as reward, and punishment if we did not comply. As my kids reach the age where chores need to be a part of every day life, I have found myself struggling with how to broach the subject. How to do it our way instead of our parents’ way. Thanks for sharing this post. I am excited and once again you have inspired me!

  12. KC says:

    I agree with everything you said. I try to do the same thing. It’s hard though when your child says no to picking something up or putting toys away. But I have found that living by example is really working. My three year old won’t always clean, but she plays at cleaning and when she does she learning something. One night with my instructions she made a whole dinner which didn’t require chopping, because she wanted to and asked to help. Often if she sees me cleaning she will ask to participate. And since we are going the Montessori sort of route I will show her how to do a particular task and then she’ll try it and move on.

    But one thing I noticed is that when I show her how to do something and invite her todo it, she may not do it right then and there, but a month or two down the road she’ll do it all on her own and keep doing it. Like the proper way to move chairs for example.

    I look forward to following your progress!

  13. Julien says:

    I have a tip that may or may not be useful in this project.

    When you sit down with the kids to come up with tasks, have the kids think them up, write them down themselves and post them in a visible place. I did this with the kids I nanny for and it worked great! They actually did all the thinking and writing. I just sat back and admired how awesome they are. They know what should be done and giving them the freedom to come up with those tasks on their own gives them confidence. The way I see it is, they are great kids and I just need to provide the opportunity for them to succeed.

  14. Charmaine says:

    I understand all this – I feel much the same way. I have an 8yo and a 19-month-old. About six months ago I sat down with the 8yo and we made a list of chores that needed to be done on a daily basis (though honestly it was more me coming up with the ideas). I asked him to pick one that would be his thing to do. He did and loved doing it so much, that after a few weeks, he asked if he could have another chore! So now he officially has two daily chores, though there is still the normal pick-up-after-yourself stuff added to that, which needs frequent reminding (no threats or punishments, just matter-of-fact reminders). Over the past couple of months the daily chores have not being done daily, which is due to both our laziness (I am not an organized, on-top-of-things parent!), so we probably need to revisit it again and see what changes we can make. Anyhow, all this to say, I think your plan is great and I look forward to hearing how it goes! 🙂

  15. Michelle says:

    I’m definitely going to be watching to see how this works out for you & your family. We have been focusing on manners lately and with some gentle yet consistent reminders I’m finally seeing some improvement. I think that contributing to housework would be a natural progression after focusing on manners for a while. They’re both fundamentally about consideration for others!

  16. amy says:

    I la-la-love this idea! Thank you for sharing this, I am going to have my own family meeting and psyche up the little ones for the fun and joyous tasks they get to pick to help our little home run, w/o Mama being so… well, so much the freaking maid/cook/laundress/toy picker-upper! I’m over it! Thanks Rachel! Inspiring, as always. Curious to hear how it is going for you…

  17. Lauren @ Hobo Mama says:

    I am so interested in following along on this journey with you! We have the same dynamics at work here — and add in two parents who are hopeless themselves at keeping the place clean (sigh). So we all have a lot to learn about pitching in cooperatively.

  18. Rika says:

    Wow – just came across your blog. From Soulemama link. Excited to delve into your blog.

    This experiment is wonderful. Could you do a post on how your family meeting went and how you decided on jobs (what age is appropriate with what job) and when do they get done (certain time each day?)

    Cheers from Darwin Australia

  19. Momma Jorje says:

    What a big and exciting goal! I have done too much for too long (especially for my teenager). I don’t know how to undo what I’ve done. It has only been through counseling that I was even able to start giving her regular chores!

    I try to be more peaceful with my toddler, giving her the opportunity to help. Sometimes she wants to help pick up her blocks, other times I do it myself. Even letting kids help has been a big leap for me as it always seemed quicker and easier to just do it myself.

    But if you do ALL the stuff “quicker and easier” yourself… it becomes too much for one momma to handle.

  20. sophie says:

    we are moving soon too…I know what it means to feel like family joy is taken away! moving is so stressful. i hope you are settling soon and finding it again!

  21. Kim V. says:

    Here it is in November, and I can’t tell you how long this post has stuck in my head! As the chaos ensued this morning, I found myself drifting back to this post and finally took the leap to the book on kindle. Thank you for the inspiration to start our own journey!

  22. Cathy says:

    I’m reading that book right now and am doubly excited to implement much of it into our lives. My daughter used to gladly help out, but now teenagerhood has shifted her style. I’d also like to hear how this is working in your world. Thanks for sharing!

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