Making the Shift!

Someone asked:
What IS the way to get them to pick up the socks?
Julie (wisdomalways5) wrote:
you pick them up and pick them up and pick them up and pick them up- they will probably pick them up eventually but the more you do it for them the more likely they are to do it

I thought the concept crazy until one day we were rushing out the door and the older one accidently tripped and the legos spilled and the little one insisted on cleaning them up before we left- it was a real eye opener that they saw ME cleaning up after them and they could do it too.

Just a little change in point of view can make a world of difference.

I used to HATE the resentment of "Why should *I* do this?" and so I just decided to change what I thought about what "this" was and why anyone had to do it. It was a philosophical shift.

BINGO! It's the shift that makes all the difference.
Life is good.


By Dawn (in NS)
January 26, 2004
on [email protected] [topic, in archive]

Ok, I think I'll share my newly thought of philosophy of housework here. It started when my sister was over and chasing the kids around. I was straightening up the livingroom and had just finished piling up blocks (Big cardboard ones. We have, in all, 10 or eleven different kinds of wood, plastic and cardboard blocks. I feel so wealthy. 🙂 ) when my son (2) ran into the room, saw the blocks and immediately tore down the pile. I smiled and shook my head. My sister, who'd arrived in time to see this, sternly said, "Harry! Your mother just finished putting those away!" When she said that I felt offended. Didn't she know I only pile those blocks so that Harry can knock them down? And there was the Aha! I looked around the room at the clean living room and realized that was why I did any cleaning.

We don't clean up messes to have a clean house. We clean up messes so there is room for more mess!

Now I think of cleaning up after my kids as replacing a canvas. I do it with the thought that by giving them room again and a bare floor and organized toys to pick from I'm handing them the tools to write another mess onto our house. It's meant that at the end of a day, or sometimes a few days in a row, I just let the mess stay, because really, it's a work of art or a story. Maybe it isn't finished. Maybe it's too interesting to be gotten rid of so soon. It also clears up my feelings of resentment about doing the bulk of it. I like being the one to reset the house so that we all can live another, different mess the next day.

Anyway, thought I'd share since it's really helped me bring more joy into the housework!

Dawn Adams

Joyce Fetteroll's response to the following example:

**For example, today my seven year old spilled ketchup on the carpet while I was sitting next to him playing a game with his sister. He told me he needed a napkin. I told him they were in on the diningroom table. He said, "Why can't you get it?"**

I think the problem is that it started off as a power struggle. He recognized that he should clean it up and all he needed was a napkin. That's great! 🙂 But then you decided it was his job to get the napkin to clean it up and then the problem transformed from cleaning up the ketchup to making your son acknowledge that the whole responsibility was his. But you lost that power struggle and he won.

Maybe a better way to create a "we're all in this together atmosphere" is to say when a spill happens "Let's get that cleaned up before it stains." There's no focus on who will do it, only on the attitude that spills need cleaned up. Period. Then *you* get up and say "We need paper towels and spray and a trash can." If they don't jump up to help you can ask "Would you mind getting x for me, Sergei?" or "Would someone help me out and get y for me?" And then do whatever needs done, whether they help or not. Keep focused on the problem, not on the kids.

It helps if that's your attitude towards everything. Don't transform a problem into how to get the kids to do what you think they should do. Keep the focus of your attitude on what needs done and how to do it.

If we're creating an atmosphere of power struggle, the kids will fight back to win. If we're creating an atmosphere of problem solving, the kids will feel part of the solution rather than part of the problem.


Today I've been saying "Yes" a lot more and "no" a lot less! At one point my dd was sitting on the couch watching Tom & Jerry and eating Gobstoppers! Who would have thought!? After about an hour of that she got up turned off the TV and said "Mama, I want to help you clean." You can imagine my surprise!

Jessie (Blue)

My kids don't have chores and I just volunteered to help with the litter box which was my oldest's only thing to take care of (that I asked her to do). I ask for help with cleaning up the kids stuff but I mostly don't ask, I just do and they just do. Do they clean up as much as I would like? No, definitely not. But they do help and I have eased way up on what is acceptable to me so as not to put it all on them. So I can have a nice comfort level attained for me, they are happy and we don't have chores and rules as to who does what and when. I'm also a joyful house cleaner. It's amazing how much that helps.

Mary B.
homeschoolingtshirts.com gone, in 2020

Date: Saturday, February 22, 2003 1:58:23 PM
To: [email protected]

SandraDodd wrote:

I like to think of chores more as a human interaction opportunity.

Sandra, it amazes me how by simply looking at something a new way, it has a whole different feeling about it. I felt a rush of relief at this one statement of yours, that it gives me permission to let go of all the frustration I feel when my kid doesn't want to help. I can ask in a different way with a different energy.

Thank you, that appeared at just the right time. In fact, I may not ask again for along time.


Taking Things Gradually

There's a whole page on gradual change, and I'm repeating one of the quotes here.
We are still deschooling and very new to all of this, but based on what was shared I wanted to share our experience as well. I didn't tell my children, "no more chores". I DID begin just doing some of "their" chores for them and wherever I have seen situations that they appear tense or stressed in, I've stepped in and taken the pressure off by whatever means necessary. The changes I have seen in such a short amount of time have been amazing. My son and daughter have also had their fair share of arguments and my son had been showing progressively aggressive behavior towards my daughter. My son hadn't hugged my daughter in months...maybe even a year or more. That is all turning around. He hugs her almost daily now. Izzy told me just tonight, "Mommie, I'm really starting to like Darius' personality".

The ONLY thing I can credit this change to is moving towards radical unschooling. I can tell they are so much happier and less stressed and this has affected everything. Last night, we all worked together to get the house organized and clean for the evening. We didn't even think about what chores were the others responsibility or whose stuff we were cleaning up. We just all chipped in wherever we saw the need and it was beautiful. They really enjoyed working as a team. We are still so early, but I'm loving the peace and joy we are experiencing.

Christina Daharry on the Facebook "Radical Unschooling Info" page, March 2012

From: [email protected], Sunday, February 16, 2003

Another in my series of how to transition from one worldview to another. :)

The best advice I've rec'd from this list has had to do with being honest in the process and only changing a practice gradually, as my husband and I both "believe" in it. That took so much pressure off of us.

Here's an example:

Our kids do nightly clean up tasks after meals and they do one household "chore" per week to help keep the house clean. Neither my husband nor I felt ready to just "ditch" these practices, even though from reading here I felt that perhaps that ought to be the goal. Then we stepped back a bit and realized that because of having these "duties" assigned to our kids, perhaps we took their help for granted and instead of lifting the duties, we could begin by offering help, pitching in, complimenting, and even doing the task for a child on occasion. I had never thought this way. So instead of saying : "No more jobs!" we've said, "You're going to a friend's tonight? Let me clean off the counters for you so you can get ready." Or, "I see you're playing with your dolls. How about I put out the napkins and you come and add the forks and knives when you're done."

Or we've said, "You're doing a gorgeous job on those dishes. Thanks so much for doing them!"

We've also backed off of feeling that the kids "owe" us their help during the other hours of the day. I no longer say, "Everyone stop what you're doing. We're going to clean up the living room now." Now I say, "For my sanity I need this room picked up. Does anyone want to help me? What's a good time for you?" If no one wants to help, I do it myself. (So far that has *never* happened. Lucky me.)

I've also noticed that because I've been far more open about helping the kids (I used to do it at times, feeling put upon. Now I offer to help cheerfully and say that I am helping, not doing it because he/she wouldn't), the kids are so much more enthusiastic to help me when I ask.

Just this morning, I noticed lots of Capri Sun packages on the floor and snotty tissues (we have sick kids). I commented, "Wow, this room is full of Kleenex and wrappers." My 8yo who is the most resistant to ever lifting a finger chimed in, "Want me to help you clean them up Mom?" Knock me over with a feather. This is his first free offer since we began six weeks ago. I was so touched.

So we still have their basic chores in place since these are working, but we've changed the context for everything related to housework and housekeeping. There is more mutuality, support and freedom than before. I don't know where we'll end up, but right now, this feels honest for us and both my dh and I can support it without resentment or internal conflict.



Pam Sorooshian, on the Live and Learn Conference list in September 2007 Someone else wrote:
The chores thing, though, is like them having a job. I don't have the time and energy to give this one a makeover... (I don't think they'd ever volunteer to do a dusting or vacuuming, or mowing chore and it's too much effort and self discipline on my part to keep myself from not gettin upset over it...)

THEREFORE, I agree with Katherine that people OFTEN don't do their best! They do what they do. (like me, with chores.) My best would be to deal with them regarding chores using the patience of a saint, I suppose. Ain't going to happen... It might when I deal with my grand kids!!

Pam responded:
I really understand this. It might just be one thing more than you feel like you can change—after doing things differently, it can be years before the beneficial impacts of the change will show up.

I talked about this in my "regrets" talk at the conference, too. I never "got it" about chores until it was really almost too late. My own issues about housework, etc., kept me from being able to embrace whole-heartedly the idea that any kid would ever actually step up and help out without it being required.

I see a HUGE difference, now, though, since I stopped demanding housework a few years ago. My youngest daughter (16) says that it took a while to "heal" from the way I treated housework before‐I'd made them chore lists and insisted they do them before doing anything else. I was resentful when they did the bare minimum, didn't do a good job, so I wrote detailed descriptions of what "clean the bathroom" meant. It wasn't fun. They resented it and they argued over who was being assigned the most and they procrastinated and generally made the whole process pretty miserable. I wasn't always nice about it ‐I'd start out that way, but regress into my OWN frustrations and negative feelings about it.

I see a huge difference between the kind of demand for chores that I did with my kids versus just honestly asking, with the option of them saying, "Not now," that I do now. Nowadays I can be walking out the door and say something like, "I'm going grocery shopping so it would be helpful if the kitchen was cleaned up before I get back." About 80 percent of the time, it is done. If it isn't, I just put the groceries down and do it, without comment. Later, one of the kids will often say, "Sorry I didn't get to the kitchen, I was so involved in...whatever." I say, calmly and without bitterness , "Oh, that's okay, it got done." The attitude difference is absolutely amazing. Some people would be unhappy because 80 percent isn't 100 percent . But we're all a LOT happier and there is a lot of unasked-for help going on, too. I regularly come home and find that someone has cleaned the kitchen just because it occurred to them to do it, not because I asked. Somebody always unloads the dishwasher every time it is clean—it just happens magically, as far as I'm concerned . Last week Rosie wanted Cyrus (dad) to play videogames with her or watch something with her (I can't remember what it was) and he said, "Nah, I really have to get the lawn mowed, this is the only time I have to do it." She said, "I'll mow it tomorrow while you're at work if you do this with me now." So, I didn't know about this, but the next day she was out there mowing the lawn.

I started putting post-it notes on the refrigerator of what chores need to be done. I mean, I'm the one who realizes that the carpet needs vacuuming or the windowsills need washing, etc. So I put post- its on the fridge that just have the next few things that need to be done on them. I never even told anybody in my family what those post- it notes were—they were really just sort of reminders to me, but turned out that the kids AND my husband will pretty often do one of the things on the notes. They usually casually tell me‐"Oh, I saw that the carpet needed vacuuming, so I did it."

What I regret is that I didn't figure out ways to do stuff like this when the kids were younger. I wish I'd made housework entirely optional, but then made it enticing for them to do it with me or with each other, so that they'd have still helped out, but without the tone of it being demanded. These days, when one of my daughters and I wash dishes together, it is fun, because they really know that they have a choice, that I won't be annoyed if they turn me down, so no resentment on their part. Very very worth the extra work I had and often still have to do.


Katy Jennings, on the Always Learning list:

I have been frustrated about housework in the past. Most of it came from a "poor me, I don't have any help" attitude. I am not saying that is what you feel, but it is definitely what I felt at the time. The people on this list really helped me see that it didn't have to be that way.

One thing that really helped me was to see cleaning your house as providing a clean canvas for you kids to fill. I love art, so that resonated with me. When my son has a clean room to play in, he creates the most amazing things. When things are horribly messy, he stays still and plays with one or two things. Creating a space that he can create in makes me happy.

Another thing that was recommended that has really helped me is finding Joy in cleaning up. I know, you are tired, you work in addition to taking care of your kids. So do I, I work full time. But that isn't Richard's fault. He didn't ask to be brought up in a single parent household. Choosing to do housework with a positive attitude really helped me, my outlook, my happiness... and more importantly helped him be happier. And when he is happier, he helps me more , though really wasn't my goal.

When the kitchen is clean, Richard is much more likely to rinse his plate, but if the sink is full of dishes, he just adds it to the pile. One trick for the kitchen that works in my house, keep a sink full of soapy water, it is ok if it gets cold. Dishes used throughout the day can just be tossed into the soapy water. Then when it is time to do the dishes they have already soaked and the job is easy. If the water gets too nasty that is ok too, make a new batch of soapy water or just use dishsoap on a cloth to wash then as you take them out of the water. I love paper plates too. I am kind of a tree hugger, so that used to bother me. Not anymore though, my son is more important, also I live in a desert and doing dishes takes water that we need to conserve! 🙂

I play music while cleaning, or put on a movie that I know really well and won't get too sucked into, or talk to my son, anything to keep my mind occupied. Singing helps, really! I don't sing in front of people, but when I clean I turn the music up and sing. I have always been a night owl, and as Richard has gotten older (13 in November) he has gotten to be that way too, but he still needs much more sleep than I. Usually I fall asleep before he does, and I wake up much earlier (still not early by most people's standards). When he was little I would clean at night, but now I get some quiet things done while he is sleeping in the morning, things I can do fairly quickly like cleaning toilets or picking up the living room. I love seeing the remnants of what he did during the night.

—Katy Jennings

More on chores

and other daily considerations