What is the purpose of making a cake?

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

I got this question by email and thought I'd share it:

In the "If-then" section you were talking about just that—"If- Then" situations, and that made perfect sense to me. But then in a later section (parenting or chores, maybe?) You mention Cake Baking—and how they should be able to bake/make messes/etc if they want, but it would be the Mom's responsibilty to clean it. Why wouldn't that just be part of an "If - then" situation? "If they want to bake a cake, then they would have to do the whole process of cake baking"? My daughter loves to play around in the kitchen, and I always thought of the "clean up" as part of the whole "process of baking", or what-have-you. The cleaning up of making a cake is just part of the whole process of cake making—isn't it?

Am I making any sense?

Yes, your question makes perfect sense.

It might help you see it more clearly if you ask yourself what your goal is. Is the goal to have a clean kitchen or the experience of making a cake? If the goal is a clean kitchen, then it's better not to have children! 😉

Ah, but why can't the goal be both a clean kitchen and a cake?

It can be. But ...

When we have two goals there often comes a time when the two goals conflict: to meet one you need to give up the other. What if your daughter responded to your contract with, "Okay, then I don't feel like making a cake." What will you have gained and what will you have lost? Would you rather when she grew up she had memories of a clean kitchen or a particularly yummy creation?

When I did crafts with my daughter it did always seem as though there was more setting up and cleaning up than crafting 😕 but I realized that if my daughter associated a tedious clean up as a necessary part of crafts, then she'd choose crafts a lot less. And what would I have gained? A neat craft cabinet? What's the point of that!?

That said, clean up can be an organic part of creating. You can say "Could you put the milk back in the refrigerator for me?" and "This goes on the second shelf of the cabinet."

But *accept* that the clean up is your contribution to helping your daughter explore. It's like the $30 you spend to get into the science center. Would you ask her to pay her part of the admission price? And if she chose not to, what would you have gained?

So rather than thinking about how you can make her clean up, rethink the process of cake baking. What I do is set all the ingredients out in the order the recipe calls for them. I read off the directions a step at a time. When she's done with an ingredient, I put it away. When she's done with a bowl or cup, I put it in the dishwasher. There's still some clean up at the end, but it's a lot less. And since I've focused on trying not to associate helping me with unpleasantness, she is very willing to help me out. (I have certainly not been perfect in not getting upset about clean up! But, though pressuring to clean up lets off steam, I can clearly see it has the opposite effect on my daughter than I want.)


Yep. AND—maybe your time frame needs a big adjustment—like give them a year or two before you start even thinking about expecting to see joyful unsolicited help. One day? That's just a moment in which they feel like they somehow escaped the usual demands. Assuming you've made demands in the past, they have to heal from that.

—Pam Sorooshian

"If-then" on Joyce's site


Priorities (and seeing our thoughts)