Sunday, August 12, 2012

Working together

In the past I've written about getting my kids involved in doing chores around the house. Thrilling topic, I know. But I'm having a bit of success at this and if for no other reason than to record my progress to refer to if (when?) I fall of the wagon on this, here's what's working for us at the moment.

Do chores in the morning.
I have a window of motivation that lasts through about lunchtime. Not that I do nothing all afternoon; far from it. But mornings are good for getting things done. Last year, mornings were all about school. I felt like I couldn't cram in anything else in the pre-lunch hours, but that meant I was trying to do housework in the afternoons and wound up procrastinating a lot. And forget getting the kids to do any of it. I often feel like I'm herding cats, and that doesn't just apply to those times I'm trying to round them up as we walk to the car and they want to go in three different directions. At home, there's a rhythm to the day that tends to break apart into a mess of free-play-don't-try-to-make-us-do-anything-according-to-your-schedule time in the afternoon. Trying to bring everyone back together to be productive, whether for schoolwork or chores, is difficult in the afternoon.

All that is a long way of saying, we're doing chores in the morning, even before we do school. They already are in the habit of helping me unload the dishwasher after breakfast. Now we've added one "job" to do each day, and we get it done after the kitchen is tidied up, before we start school.

Do chores together.
I can't claim credit for this idea. I read it somewhere, and I wish I could remember where. I think it was a blog post someone pinned on Pinterest. (See, further proof that Pinterest is most definitely not a waste of time). Instead of assigning chores for the kids to do while I do something else, we're focusing on one thing or area and working on it together. Monday is vacuum the downstairs day, so one of us runs the vacuum while the others pick things up and move chairs, that kind of thing. The boys fight over who gets to vacuum first. Tuesday is bathroom day, so we all squeeze into the upstairs bathroom; they wipe down the mirror, sink, counter, and floor while I clean the toilet. Working together makes a huge difference. They're actually excited to help me and they want to do a good job.

Be consistent.
We've only been trying out this new "system" for a couple of weeks, but I was amazed at how quickly they adapted. The biggest killer of this is honestly going to be me, not them. I need to make sure that I don't start foregoing our chore time because I don't really feel like cleaning the kitchen floor that day. I've had a couple of days when I was very tempted to tell them, "Nevermind, let's just go read!" But doing our one daily job doesn't take very long at all and once it's done, it's done and we all feel good for having accomplished something. Plus, I know myself. I'm lazy and if I get off track on something like this, I have a hard time pulling myself back up and starting again.

Forget perfection.
Ok, this one was super easy for me. My house is cleaner than it usually is because of them helping, even though they don't do as thorough of a job as an adult would. Things are getting cleaned on a much more regular basis, so I can easily overlook the fact that they missed a huge streak on the window or that only half the floor got mopped. I can let my daughter walk around with a spray bottle full of water and a rag, spraying and wiping anything and everything. It's fine. They're doing a good job and it doesn't have to be perfect.

I feel good about this new addition to our routine. And the crazy thing is, they do too. Not that they don't complain sometimes, my oldest especially. Actually, only the oldest has complained, now that I think about it. My five year old asks every morning what our job of the day is. I had to buy two more swiffer dusters because they were fighting over the one I had (using a plain old rag is so not as fun) and we're going through an awful lot of windex. Time to head back to Pinterest and look at all those natural cleaning posts I pinned and then they can go to town spraying everything with some combination of vinegar, water and, well, who knows... But I'll make my Pinterest time worthwhile once again!

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