Our culture has lowered standards in every area of life. Let’s reverse that trend, starting with our own families. In the workplace studies have shown that people will rise to meet your expectations when you respect and appreciate them. This is even more true with family members whom you love and cherish to the extent that you let them off the hook and do too much for them.
So here are 4 strategies for getting more help around the house right now:
Raise Your Expectations
Because of all the conveniences of modern society, we are all capable of more than we realize, and this is especially true of our kids.
- Consider each family member’s uniqueness – Take into account your kids height, weight and temperament and then start to look for age-appropriate tasks that they can do to contribute around the house. Can they sweep, load the dishwasher, put away laundry, feed the pet, line up shoes in the hallway, change a diaper? For each of your kids that is 3 or older, look for tasks that they can do and don’t be afraid to find their upper limit.
- Find challenges for each age level – My eldest is always up for helping and sometimes I end up saying “oh man, thanks for trying, when you’re a bit taller you’ll be able to help me with that!”. My other school age son is quite a bit strong-willed, and has been slower to want to help around the house just to be helpful, but I’ve found he loves a challenge and is more likely to embrace a task if there is a question of whether he is in fact able to do it.
- Identify obstacles – Changing the status quo can be difficult, but each family member will likely have different ideas for why they haven’t been doing the household tasks that you are now expecting them to help with. One my sons didn’t know that he could sweep and is eager two. Another one had no doubt that he could pick up his toys and just doesn’t want to. I praise the first one and he’s good to go and we’re moving on (his Love Language is words of affirmation). I have to take time to reason with the other one and explain consequences. Try to stick to natural consequences such as “the toddler might play with your toy if you leave it on the floor”, or agreed upon ones such as “we’re not getting the duplos out until the animals are picked up”, rather than more arbitrary consequences such as not getting dessert if they don’t pick up their toys.
I encourage you to raise your expectations to both what your kids are able to do and also what they could be willing to do. And although the dynamics are a bit different, the same principles can work with your husband. Just communicate honestly about how things are now, and what could be done differently.
Teach Them Good Stewardship (Let them really own stuff)
Good stewardship is characteristic that will serve your kids well throughout life. I think we are on a trend back toward character building and understanding the value and necessity of making life harder for our kids in appropriate ways in order for them to learn important life-long skills. Here is how to get started in 3 easy steps.
- Identify what is theirs – Within reason, allow your kids to have favorite toys, shirts, etc. Even if they share a room (my older two boys do), let them each have their own bed, dresser, and desk or toybox where they keep their things and make sure there is a place where everything that is theirs can be put away.
- Hold them responsible – Tell them regularly to keep track of their things and put them away. Supervise activities such as sharing with siblings as necessitated by you or them.
- Allow them to make mistakes – This is key, and I’m still experimenting with this, but I know it’s important. We want to protect them from disappointment and we want them to take care of their good things that we spent money on. Use wisdom and your parenting instincts, and let them mistakes. If they leave a toy outside, remind them once or a few times if you wish. But then try leaving it outside instead of getting it for them. If the money cost is too much and you need to bring it inside, take it away and have them do some chores to earn it back. Tell them they lost the privilege of having it by not practicing good stewardship. If it is a smaller item and it gets left out and ruined, talk to them about it. Help them to process and learn from the experience, and then allow them to do extra jobs to make the money to buy a new one.
Give Them Choices
This works with husbands and kids. I have heard stress defined as needing to do two things at the exact same time. That phenomenon is one of the biggest stressors for moms. Why can’t anyone just wait? So whenever you feel that happening, look around for any able-bodied older person and ask yourself what they are physically capable of helping you with at that moment. I like to give two choices and make one clearly more desirable. If more than one person is potentially available (they are in the room or within earshot) state what you need, “I need someone to either change Andrew’s diaper or help Ben with that toy.” My older boys think this is funny and will jump up and help Ben. Or if one person is available or I specifically want my husband’s help, I will get his attention – if he’s on his phone I wait for him to answer after I say his name – and ask something like “Do you want to hold Andrew or watch the boys ride bikes in the driveway?” If he’s watching a game this allows him the option to continue but to help me by taking responsibility for the baby. Although crawling now he is young enough to still need to be held a lot, and this avoids me having to stand in the driveway holding him.
I got this tip from one of my favorite parenting books. As much as possible avoid lecturing, especially if your kids just need a reminder and they really know what to do. If you’ve recently ask them, saying one word is a great strategy. After asking them to put their shoes away, just say loudly and firmly, “Shoes!” Other times, instead of asking them to take care of something, make a statement such as “I would like to sit on this couch”. My boys will look at the couch and pick up their toys off of it. Or you can tell your husband, “The van is really dirty” or “We are out of milk”, and he will likely respond with “I can wash it tomorrow”, or “Is this a good time for me to go to the store?”
I think the powerful truth here is that our kids and our husbands actually really love us and want to help solve our problems. Making an observation instead of proscribing a solution or giving a direction gives them the opportunity to think and to help take ownership of them problem and the solution.
Which strategy is your favorite?