When Bonnie from The joyful organizer asked to write a guest post for her blog on my top 8 ways to reduce clutter or top 8 ways to involve kids in home management. The three top things that came to my mind were:
1-oh my GOD!!! It is the first time I am being asked to write a guest post!
2- “Clutter’ seems to be our middle family name like Hispanic families have, we are redlipstickmama, DH (Dear Husband) and their children ‘Clutter’ Mxxxx.
3- Taking care of three kids (the twins, G and P, are 2 and a half and my baby boy L is 16 months old) and the house does require strong organizational skills, but I cannot in all truth say that I am very joyful about it.
For all these reasons, I thought I may end up being the worst guest blogger in WordPress history. However, after 5 minutes deliberating, I finally accepted. I was way too flattered about the request. It was actually a fun exercise and quite empowering too. At the end of it, for a split second I thought ‘maybe I don’t suck as much as being a mom after all’. That was of course until I failed to stop L from doing an Arabian forward salto from the couch and falling flat on his face…
Anyway, here’s my top 8 ways to involve my 3 (lazy) kids in house chores:
1 –Let them watch you work hard
I know some moms like to do things like cleaning or ironing when the kids are napping so they can have some quality time with them when they wake up. I can see the value in it but to me, it distorts reality in their little heads: they think, they go to sleep, that you go to sleep too and then suddenly the house has magically turned immaculate and tidy. So they really don’t understand why you are so wiped out when they want you to throw them in the air after ‘your nap’. Plus, I truly believe in the motto: ‘kids live by the example you set’ but then they have to see you do the heavy lifting.
2- Involve them as early as possible with very simple tasks
As soon as the twins could walk (around 9 months old) I would take them to the building laundry room to help out. They would watch me load the machines because they were a little too young to understand the concept of whites and dark colors. However, they would be the ones to put the laundry card in and push the start button. They still do now.
3- Suggest chores that celebrate their individual skills or interest them
G is very strong and has a borderline pathologic sense of chivalry when it comes to me (it’s actually very sweet) so he is the one pushing the laundry basket or cart down the hallway. P has very nimble fingers so she loves helping to assemble Dr Brown’s milk bottles for the last milk intake of the day. It seems ludicrous but believe me, when there are 4 distinct parts for each bottle (Dr Brown, what is wrong with you guys???) and 3 bottles to assemble, it really helps! As for L, he has sheer destructive power so I let him rip off the delivery boxes and empty its contents.
4- Do not let them do something that you know damn well that you are going to end up doing
A while ago, I decided that I was going to teach the twins to make their beds. It lasted one week because every day I was losing my patience watching them trying to strangle each other or using this opportunity to jump on their beds. And every day I ended up making their beds. This whole experience was a complete failure because they completely lost interest and knew that I would eventually be folding the blankets myself anyway…
5- Make it a team challenge
One of the items in the ‘plus’ column when you have more than one kid is that you can use friendly competition to get things done.
6-Bribes and rewards
Yes, unfortunately it does work. In an ideal world, you would ask, and they would reply: ’Of course my darling mom, I will help you with pleasure’. In my reality, that’s what happens.
G is Mister denial so he pretends he cannot hear me.
P is confrontational and often says: ‘No, I don’t want to’.
And L is …well just drooling.
So yes, I have used bribes (chocolate, screen time etc.). More recently, I have been experimenting a good points system for good actions including contribution to house chores. DH and I are still perfecting the system but the idea is to collectively attribute stickers (good points). At the end of the day, we discuss as a family whom should get some good points, whom should lose some good points and whether it is fair or not. The kids seem to get some kind of pride out of their stickers and of how they have helped us.
7 – Consistency
I have found that if you start letting them help with a chore, it is very hard to prevent them from accomplishing the task because you find it very inconvenient on some days. Put yourself in their shoes: they are given an important job, get rewarded for it and then out of nowhere the job is taken away from them? Public demonstration is likely to ensue.
8- Make it fun for you too or at least make yourself feel better about screwing it up from time to time
Cooking is the ideal activity to involve kids. To be honest, it took me a while to try it out because I could not deal with the mess they were making and I thought: ’what’s the point of all this if it is going to create some extra work?’ But after the twins turned two, I did not care so much of the flour or eggshells on the floor because they were learning vocabulary while helping me…and learning something more important: the value of work. Two days ago, P loved some Farfalle pasta I made with peas, cilantro and shrimps and she said for the first time: ’It’s really good; how did you make this?’ This was priceless.
Redlipstickmama lives in Harlem (NYC) with her Dear Husband and their 3 kids under 3. She is Lao, French, a bit of of a Londoner (England) and an enthusiastic New-Yorker. She is trying to survive (with lots of self-deprecation and blogging) through diapers, toddlers’ tantrums, job search, losing weight, becoming a New Yorker, keeping her husband and doing all this while trying to look amazing (or at least human)… But most importantly, she is a big fan of women, always unapologetically rooting for them. She wants all women to love, be loved, kick ass, laugh, cry and laugh again. You can read her (ad)ventures on her blog http://redlipstickmama.com/