Participation without coersion. Phase 1, continued.

We're still chugging along on the participation without coercion train. And overall it has been incredible. Though their energy for it wains at times (more on that below) the kids are both still willing to dig in and participate without me pushing.

I'm so glad we are taking this on. And now we are (lovingly and politely) telling entitlement that it's time to go. Our kids have different paths to be on.

The photos of course are unrelated. I misplaced the battery charger for my camera for a few days, so I don't have many pictures of the children doing all this participating I've been talking about. (Really. They have been working hard! I swear.)

But the photos of Sage flying through the air over the churning river? We'll just say it's a metaphor for all that they are learning now that they are participating in our family more. These kids can fly. 


On Tuesday I gave you an overview of our success so far. Today I want to back up and share some details with you of how it all came together.

The plan I laid out last week was as follows:

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.

On Friday we got started.


1. We held a family meeting. (Well, we held breakfast with lots of talking. That counts as a meeting, right?) We had to keep it short as Sage was squirming and losing his mind a bit with all the sitting and listening and talking (Oh, my. School would be a disaster for this one.) so we cut to the chase.

Working together we listed the chores that need to be completed daily, weekly, and monthly. I kept notes while everyone listed all the chores they could think of.

When our page was full I asked the kids how they feel when those jobs are completed on schedule. Does it feel good to know that the dishes are washed every day and there are always clean glasses in the cupboard?

Then I asked how they have felt when the chores are not done on time. When the laundry has piled up and there are no clean socks in their dressers. When you're hungry and no one has made lunch.

We all agreed. It's frustrating. Our kids want the chores to be done regularly just as much as Pete and I do. So we knew we shared at least a partial goal – to have the work completed regularly.

Finally I asked how they would feel if most of the chores fell to them. For example, Sage is an able cook. What if he cooked all of our meals? Lupine knows how to wash dishes. What if she had to wash every dirty dish, everyday?

That didn't seem fair to anyone.

"So does it make sense that most of the chores fall to Papa and me?" I asked.


Though appealing at first, the kids agreed that that wasn't fair either.

We're all in this together so why should one or two people do most of the hard work? With a little empathy my kids could feel what it would be like if the tables were turned.


2. So we came up with a goal.

"A clean, nice, awesome house where everyone likes to be where the work is shared fairly."

Written almost entirely by the children – with me (in the spirit of empowering them to participate) resisting the urge to simplify or edit it – we now have something to focus on as our experiment unfolds.

Steps 1 and 2 are complete. We have a goal, we have a list, and now we just need a plan to bring it all together.

Now it's onto step 3: equitably dividing the tasks.

We did this over the weekend for our monthly deep-cleaning. I made a list of the housekeeping tasks and we each picked something. Even the most undesirable tasks were divided (with some grown-up assistance). And nobody balked.

We've divvied things up bit-by-bit since then, but I'm feeling we need something more concrete. Something visual, like our rhythm chart but for chores our housekeeping tasks. Laundry, cooking, dishes, pet care, etc.

We could divide daily but I'm feeling that a weekly rhythm will work best for my family.


So that's where we're at. Thanks for the encouragement and for coming along for this ride with me!

Worth noting, it hasn't been all sunshine and glitter over here.

Yesterday Lupine was mad crazy about helping out. (This is often not the case.) She was beaming as she harvested and hauled baskets of vegetables in from the garden (ours and the neighbors, with permission of course). Then she proudly made most of our lunch out of those veggies and was game for almost any task.

But Sage yesterday? Not so into it. While he did participate, there was a certain sparkle lacking and he was doing the absolute minimum that I asked of him by afternoon. I talked to him about it and he reported matter of factly that "he just wasn't into it today."

And I get that too.

So I didn't push him much yesterday. A few nudges, but I let him get by with doing less.

I stand to gain nothing by forcing this or pushing hard. In fact, I believe it will undermine what I am trying to cultivate. And to be honest, there are days that I get by with the least amount possible. So flexibility feels paramount. We'll have on days and off days. I can roll. 

And for those of you with younger kids, the advice I can offer you is this: make it fun! If setting the table involves candles and flowers from the garden, they'll want to participate. If putting away the dishes involves an airplane ride to the silverware drawer, who could resist? Don't expect much productive labor from your little ones, just bursts of "I can do it!" along with your focused work.

And rather than praising their efforts ("Good job setting the table!") help them find the satisfaction for their work inside. ("I can see that you feel proud to have set the table by yourself. That was a big job!") See the difference?



8 thoughts on “Participation without coersion. Phase 1, continued.

  1. KC says:

    Thank you so much! Could you do a post on the last part about giving internal praise. I really would love to hear more examples. It’s easy to read about it but it’s really nice to hear live examples.

  2. Dhilma says:

    Hi, I am commenting for the first time. your posts are very interesting and realistic. I am trying to get my 3 year old son to help out at home. It is a difficult task I can tell you. When I was growing up, we shared all the chores at home and I feel that is exactly why I am who I am today. And proud of it too. I really do not want to bring up a child who thinks he is entitled. Thanks for all your wisdom. I am also glad you give us the real picture! I suppose we cannot expect kids to be enthusiastic helpers everyday!

  3. Lauren @ Hobo Mama says:

    So excited to read your updates. Thinking wildly about how we can adapt this ourselves, with a chore- … er … task-resistant 5-year-old and two disorganized adults. You’re giving me hope, though, that it’s possible if we all make our goals together. Love this inspiration — thank you!

  4. Tameka says:

    Thanks for the updates and for supplying the specifics of your plans. I have been applying these to my son, minus the schedule, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I believe, just like Sage (btw, I just love that name) and like all of us at times, we’re just not in the mood. Next is some sort of schedule like the one you mentioned in the rhythm chart. As usual, thanks again for sharing your ideas and wisdom. They are very helpful!

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