Participation without coersion. Phase 1.

Participation without coersion | Clean : : the LuSa Organics Blog

Participation without coersion | Clean : : the LuSa Organics Blog

Participation without coersion | Clean : : the LuSa Organics Blog

As I type, this is what I can hear from the bedroom (To the tune of My Fair Lady):

"Grab the covers and pull them up,

pull them up,

pull them up!

Grab the covers and pull them up,

puuuuu-uuuuuu-uuuuul them!"

My kids giggling and singing and pretending to argue while they make the beds. They are absolutely collapsing in the giggles while they do their chores.

I know. It isn't normal. But I've never been a big fan of normal. And singing/giggling/play fighting while doing chores? I'm game. Because life after all is supposed to be fun.

Oh, yes. It's been a transformational few days.

Last week I shared with you my desire to raise my children in a way that did not result in entitlement. I want them to participate in the day-to-day running of our home rather that waiting to be served. However (and here is the kicker) I want to do this using only peaceful parenting strategies. My exact words were:

"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."

And so we got started.

Participation without coersion | Clean : : the LuSa Organics Blog

Before I share with you the path we're on now (I'll save that for a later post since this will get long if I add it now) here are some highlights from the last few days (aside from all the singing).

* We did a deep cleaning of our entire house – together – and I don't remember hearing a single complaint.

* Sage learned how to mow the lawn properly and worked for hours by Pete's side and alone to complete the job. Every time I caught his eye he absolutely beamed.

* The kids and I canned a huge batch of applesauce. Enjoying some later in the day Sage reported that it was satisfying to watch the jars stack up and that the sauce tasted better for having done the work.

Yes. My kids have been participating. Joyfully or at the very least cooperatively. For hours on end.

And no one is forcing them or bribing them or guilt-tripping them. They just get it. They want to help out. 

While it hasn't been seamless, the struggles that we've faced have been some of the best lessons out there.

The first lesson came up after we determined our shared goal. It was when I started using the word "chores". Sage groaned. "Chores are boring. I hate chores!"

But we were going to make applesauce.

"That's not a chore. That's fun."

Right? Why can't chores be fun, I wondered?

So I looked up the definition.


plural of chore (Noun)

1. A routine task, esp. a household one.

2. An unpleasant but necessary task.

And Sage and I realized that I was using definition 1. and he was hearing definition 2.

So now we don't call them chores lest he gets jammed up at the idea of them being unpleasant.

Sometimes all it takes is a little listening. Sometimes it's the little things.

Participation without coersion | Clean : : the LuSa Organics Blog

We hit a bump on day one that turned out to be just what we needed to start us in the right direction. Sage was feeling the shift away from endless free time and into more participation.

He (very politely) complained about it. "Mama, I don't really feel like I have any free time anymore."

So he and I came up with a plan. We each made a chart. We divided our activities into three categories: chores, free-time, and work/homeschooling. Then we kept track of how we spent our time throughout the day.

At lunch time we totaled up each column and compared our charts. Sage was both amazed by how his own days balanced out and also by how little free time I took that day.

I didn't say a word. He looked it over, noted the surprises, and tossed the charts. He hasn't brought it up since. Because he saw how much free time he still has. He understood that he is both helping out and chilling out. It's all in balance.

Yes. The experiment is off to a beautiful start! 

I'll share a step-by-step in a few days of how we're implementing the plan. And I'm wondering about you.

What is happening in your home? Are your kids jumping in?


27 thoughts on “Participation without coersion. Phase 1.

  1. Kate says:

    Can’t wait to hear more. I have been trying to make an intention to get my kids more involved with dinner prep and processing. TO my great surprise both boys successfully picked, cut in halve with paring knives and dehydrated 4 trays of cherry tomatoes (aged 3&5). Their pride was priceless. Thanks, as always, for great inspiration.

  2. amber jackson says:

    My girls, 3 & 4, really like to do chores like pick tomatoes and set the table for meals. My oldest has started to do dishes and sweep the floor on occasion. I definitely have seen many children who have a sense of entitlement and I do not want that for my girls. It brings about such a feeling of self worth and increased self esteem to do stuff for yourself with little help from others. I feel this in my own life and I want my girls to experience this self reliance too.

  3. Tameka says:

    I really like and agree with your method of getting the whole family involved with helping out around the house. Especially without using coercion or punishment! I really need help with that one, because my 5 year does not want to help most of the time and like you, I don’t want him to feel entitled. When he does help out, I really appreciate it and I tell him. So this is very timely for me and thanks for bringing your readers on board.

  4. Lisa says:

    Very interested to hear more on how you are implementing. My husband and I were just talking the other night about how to get our children (3 & 5) participating more in the daily chores without forcing/coercing/etc. We limit tv in our home, and the other day my 5 year old cleaned her room and then asked if she could have a show for doing it… what?!? Where did that come from? Clearly work needed here!

  5. Rachel says:

    My son is just 17 months, so he doesn’t do a whole lot of actual helping, but I’ve started letting him “help” put the dishes away and pick up his toys each night and put his clean clothes away. I’m definitely going to keep all these ideas in mind for the future, because like you, I want my child(ren) to be willing and joyful participants in our household without coercion or punishment.

  6. rebecca says:

    I’m very interested in your exploration of this topic! I love your strategies, and very impressed by your quick results. My kids are 2, 4, and 6 (my six year old is on the spectrum) and we don’t expect a lot from them past picking up their toys (with help) and clearing their dishes after a meal. Is there something you wished you had started sooner with your kids, or do you feel like it has unfolded on just the right time table?

  7. KC says:

    Sounds like things are going really well. What would you suggest for younger kiddos. I’ve got a three year old and a one year old? Should I just wait?

  8. Kate says:

    I LOVE the idea of charting how you both spent your day! What a great way to show rather than tell. You’re ideas are inspiring! I can’t wait to hear more about your endeavor.

  9. kara decarlo says:

    My kids chip in gleefully when it’s time to wash windows, or dust or vacuum. All things that I would rather not do. So I have made those things their “chores”. And yes, they get rewards for chores.
    They don’t always jump in to everything we do, but I have noticed that if my husband and I are working together to accomplish a task, the kids are much more interested in participating as well.

  10. Karla says:

    I have to be honest, I was a bit annoyed at how peaceful things seem to be in your home! My kiddos always seem to balk at picking things (or obeying in general) up no matter how nicely I put things or how fun I make it… so inevitably I end up getting pissed and yelling my head off. I feel like I’m always threatening to take toys away or some sort of punishment. It’s either that or do everything for them. *sigh*

  11. Rachel Wolf says:

    How old are your kids Karla? It’s worth saying that this experiment came about after a lot of doing it myself. I was frustrated at the lack of participation I was feeling – and even more so the drama that bubbled up when I pushed. So hang in there! Things aren’t always rosy around here. xo

  12. Rachel Wolf says:

    Kara, In “real life” we do get rewarded for some of the work we do. IE: a paycheck. The reason I haven’t gone that route with my kids is because I don’t want to get into a situation where they only are doing to receive the payment. Also, as homeschoolers, I feel that part of the education they are receiving is participating in the day-to-day of our home. But I don’t think this is the only way. Glad you’re are on board!

  13. Rachel Wolf says:

    When kids are small they want to do what you do. Buy a small broom and dustpan and get a special colored rag and spray bottle (filled with water) for your little ones. Then let them “help”. While the job won’t get done, the learning will. Your three year old is old enough to begin to really help, but try to be patient and keep tasks short.

  14. Rachel Wolf says:

    I’m so glad you asked if I had wished I started sooner. I hadn’t really considered that. Yes, I wish I had engaged my son in doing more of the day-to-day work when he was small. To be honest, I just played with him all day. The dishes piled up, the weeds took over the garden, the floors gathered toys and dirt. I felt overwhelmed when he was small and didn’t really know how to juggle mothering with homemaking. Yes, he’d stand by me and help prepare food or wash dishes, but he wasn’t helping make our bed or fold the laundry. So yes, I’d playfully do more sooner.

  15. rebecca says:

    It can be so hard to make those tasks playful when one has the wrong attitude about them to begin with. 😉 But, my resolution is to start asking for help more, make it more light hearted during the task, and slow down enough to allow littles to help. A while back I remember you posting to the effect that sometimes you asked you kids to help and they did, other times you asked and they declined and you tried not to make too big a deal out of it if they refused. I think that’s where I am right now, with the caveat that if they don’t hep with laundry they run out of clothes, and if they don’t clear their spot at the table at breakfast it is dirty come lunch. A little natural cause and effect. I really appreciate your insights as you are a few steps down the path from where I am. It’s nice to see such a (seemingly) joyful model of family life and motherhood.

  16. Karla says:

    Hehe… I figured things aren’t always “rosy,” but you definitely have a positive perspective on it. I understand that my kids are younger, but my oldest is almost five and I feel she should understand some of these concepts (she tends to be the least helpful, unless it’s HER idea). Even with my younger (almost 3), trying to “make it fun” doesn’t always cut it (I get a lot of “no, don’t want to”)! Sometimes I feel like I just need to relax my expectations… but other times it seems like nothing is really getting done (except by me). And of course what works one day doesn’t necessarily work the next. I don’t think I’ll ever have this parenting thing “figured out.”

  17. Fiona says:

    I’m interested in your progress, and wondering how much homeschooling affects your ability to do have kids participate so much. My girls are both in high school, and much as I try to get them participating, (started a new “system” just last week!) I feel lately that our home life is controlled by assignments given at school (14yo currently has 8 assignments due within two weeks.). It’s hard to get some continuity going when the workload from school is constantly changing from nil to huge amounts. On the other hand their sense of entitlement is sky-high! Will follow along and watch with interest, lovely to see your family in action. And seeing what they are doing reminds me that variety is a good thing, too!

  18. Rachel Wolf says:

    I am sure it does effect how much we can do. Were here – together – all day. We have exponentially more time at our disposal than you do.

    During my childhood there was surely less homework, but my parents both worked full time and one of them was enrolled in college as well (so they had less time as well.) I guess it was a necessity that no matter how much homework we had we needed to pitch in.

    Perhaps there are creative ways to squeeze in small tasks with some regularity that dont take up a huge amount of time. (Like making lunches, clearing the table, or folding laundry).

    Good luck!

  19. Sofya says:

    Very similar to yours – but I am comfortable pushing mine a little. The workload is similar but for different ages, ergo different activities. They do like the food part. The other day they were doing laundry and laughing and playing just as you drscribe. I wish I was more patient, for sure.

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