If you’ve been around long, you know by now that I have learned to love keeping a tidy home, even with 5 little kids! But I refuse to be a slave to my housework or let it take valuable time away from interacting with my family.
Simple and efficient living has become a passion and it’s oh so very connected with the way my husband and I raise and train up our children. Please note, I’m talking about my family, not pointing fingers at anyone else’s.
The mental shift that started it all…
Several years ago, I got to the point where I was tired of being a slave to my stuff. I didn’t want to admit it, but it ruled my life. It took up so much of my time, and more importantly, my mental and emotional energy was spent managing our family’s possessions. Ugh!
I’m glad to say, I finally managed to conquer the clutter, and ever since then, keeping my home, while still some daily work, has actually become a pleasure. Not only did I have to get serious about decluttering, I had to overcome my horrible attitude toward keeping house, and viewing it as drudgery!
That’s why I’m being very intentional about teaching my children to have a great attitude about keeping house and taking care of what we own!
Keeping house isn’t horrid.
I don’t use housework or extra chores as a disciplinary consequence when my children exhibit bad behavior. Say what!?!?
I won’t take a basic life skill such as being responsible for our possessions and living space, and demote it to the category of “Things To Loathe And Be Avoided.” In this house, it’s not drudgery. It’s not a repulsive task that’s designed to teach us a lesson. It’s not something that happens when we act badly.
In this family, taking care of our home and things is normal. We take pleasure in living in well-kept home, and keeping it well is a part of the pleasure of living here.
Habits – helping or hurting?
The habits and associations my children form now, when they are young, will last for a very long time. If they develop a positive, “can do” attitude about housework, this will be a great, lifelong advantage for them! This is a very important life skill and I want to set them up for success!
If they get into the habit of thinking about their basic responsibilities in a negative way, that will stick with them for a long time, too!
Just because it’s common, that doesn’t mean it’s great.
Just because parents have been assigning extra chores and housework as behavioral deterrent for generations, it doesn’t follow that we must accept that is the best idea. Shocker here, but humans are great at proliferating poorly developed ideas.
Don’t worry, I still think kids can turn out great if they are assigned housework as discipline. Because here we all are! But when I consider the long-term implications of this super common methods, it’s not worth it to me.
I won’t make housekeeping or daily chores into a drudgery or a result of bad behavior. It may produce the short term regret for a child’s misbehavior, but it can have unintended long term side effects, too.
I don’t want to send mixed messages…
Before you think I’m afflicted by some kind of rose-colored glasses effect, or that this is some theoretical musing of modern parenting, please keep in mind that I spend all day, everyday, with five kids under the age of 8. Reality dwelleth in our home.
But after working hard at being an example of a hardworking and cheerful mother, it would inconsistent of me to start assigning chores to deter bad behavior.
How could I say “Let us work cheerfully as unto the Lord, and enjoy our tidy home, the fruits of our labor” one moment, then the next be saying “This will make you sorry and teach you to check yourself, kid!”. Do you see the disconnect between these two mindsets? There are two essential ideas…
Work = A result of bad behavior, unpleasant, should be avoided, drudgery
Work = Normal, can be done cheerfully, should be expected, a pleasure to have completed.
To be sure, we are a work in progress, not perfect, still prone to wander from our ideals. Don’t worry, I teach my kids to respect me and each other, and I do certainly require my children to work as part of this family.
I take very seriously my job to train them up in the way they should go. But the age old notion that work and negative consequences are synonymous? I think there are more effective and simply better ways for me to train my children.
The proof is in the pudding…
It’s working. My kids don’t dread or avoid housework or chores! They aren’t naturally flawless little servant-hearted worker bees either. But the idea is sticking.
For the most part, they get their jobs done quickly and cheerfully, and they do a good job too. They even love to help me out with extra chores, like cleaning the bathroom, washing walls and baseboards, or organizing stuff. And what’s more, when we are done with a job, they often survey their work and say “WOW, that is so much better!” They are learning to take a genuine pleasure in a job well done and that, my friends, brings joy to the heart of this mother.