Parents: The Most Fabulous Chores Saga EVER!

If anyone had told me at the start of this school year (Feb 1st – you know, sensibly following the *actual* year) that Mr Hare (aged 10) would be not only out of bed before us but have half his chores done before I had risen, that he’d have all his chores done by 6.50am AND that he’d very sagaciously say to me, “You know Mum it’s good being organised, then I get more time to play,” – I would have thought you were completely insane.

He’s had chores for a very long time. We’ve told him and told him that if he’d just get on and do things, he’d have more time to play. But no. Some mornings there’d be a few reminders and other mornings there’d be a lot. At times there would be an angry voice or two. Even Mr Owl, who is naturally more organised, would drag his feet. Thank-goodness, that is all in the past!

We have no stress mornings. We have boys who get up and get organised with no fuss. We often remind (in a normal conversational voice) Mr Owl of a few things, because he’s six – and his brain isn’t built for sustained personal organisation yet. Usually he’ll ask for reminders, which we happily provide. Mr Hare might get a prompt (more about this in a minute) but we don’t help him at all. It’s H.E.A.VE.N.L.Y.!

Want to know how we did it?

1.We set a non-negotiable time limit of everything done within 45 minutes of rising. We also have a 45 minute/1 hour time limit (depending on what needs to be done) on evening chores, including homework.

2. I wrote up the chores to be done morning and afternoon – none of them new, and put them where they could see them. We read through them together.

3. I told the boys that they would have a boring and practical chore to complete if they weren’t finished (weeding the garden mostly – one bucket full for every chore incomplete).

 4. We told Mr Hare we would only give him one time reminder (the prompt) during the time-frame. Mr Owl is allowed reminders until he is aged nine-ish.

5. We did as we said. Without raising our voices. Without nagging. We said nothing – other than giving the prompts we said we would give.

6. In the afternoon, before we got/get home, I’d ask each of the boys what their first three things to complete would/will be.

7. We got on with our own morning/afternoon chores and paid them no attention at all, apart to say, Thank-you, when they had finished a task. And to speak pleasantly to them about other things, give them cuddles etc.

8. If they had a consequence to complete – it happened the same day.

It didn’t start well. It nearly killed our levels of frustration not to nag or cajole – or say anything. Mr Hare had a hissy-fit with the piano and bashed it with his hands and feet the first morning. Nine buckets of weeds that afternoon…

The first week was horrid. The second week was too. Then things began to change. Piano practises calmed. Chores were most often done on time. This week – week five with the time limits – and we have this magical household.

Why does it work? Simply because our words and actions now match one another. We gave them the realistic and manageable tasks to complete; then we butted-out and showed, through our calm non-nagging, that we trusted they would get things done.

We had lovely cuddles, the same as we always had. We had pleasant conversation, the same as we always had.

We just simply gave/give one time prompt to Mr Hare and gave/give Mr Owl the next chore (or chores ) on his list – often he asked/asks anyway. Otherwise we don’t mention chores.

The consequences are useful because they are boring – their intuitive/emotional brain has a chance to process, they are working physically – their cortisol/adrenalin levels (from being cross that they have to work) are reduced, and their reasonable/rational brain is put on hold because the first two things are taking up all the space in their heads.

So, this morning on the way to the bus-stop I asked the older boys how it felt to be organised with no fuss in the morning. They both said, “Great!” I could tell they felt better about themselves from their posture and the general happy noises/conversation.

They are more self-assured because they know they *can* get themselves organised. And that we appreciate their efforts.

How was getting out the door, in your house, this morning?

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About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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6 Responses to Parents: The Most Fabulous Chores Saga EVER!

  1. hakea says:

    I love my mornings since I introduced the concept of ‘rhythm’ from the Steiner community. Lisa Boisvert from http://www.celebratetherhythmoflife.com/2010/02/rhythm.html writes about it beautifully, and I did a brief write-up here http://oranaplaygroup.wordpress.com/2012/02/18/rhythm/.

    My kids don’t have chores they do on their own, we do things together. I ask, they volunteer, at different times for different chores. They learn alongside me, and it creates space for chat and connection. It’s very pleasant, and it works for us.

    • Hi Narelle,
      Yes, we also have the alongside/volunteer version of things to get done too – usually the big tasks like stacking a trailer of wood or picking fruit. And think it’s great that you can manage that with your regular chores too.
      I really like the Steiner approach to rhythm as well, and liked the first link you gave us. Lisa mentions things like: the balance, ease, strength and predictability of a strong rhythm and this is what the boys have gained for themselves. I have seen so many clever and sometimes clever/well-nurtured children not go on to thrive in life, that developing the ability to organise themselves was always something I wanted for our boys. The degree to which they have taken it on is what surprised and thrilled me. There is definitely the calm and sense of safety Lisa mentions within them now (not that it was absent, just is more so) and they have found their own balance in the process, from us providing clear directions and the strength and reassurance of a quiet and firm boundary. As she says, “To find and provide a healthy rhythm is a form of discipline rooted in guidance through deeds not words.” Our not reminding them, but indicating through body-language that we believe they can manage, has been very powerful, and these are not onerous or difficult chores. These are things which they have watched and learned alongside us and their grandparents for years, and now they have taken ownership for themselves. They’re not rushing, just steadily working through what needs to be done, without us having to nag or guide or suggest or show, and that to me is where the magic lies.

      • hakea says:

        Since we’ve found our family rhythm, and doing more alongside, I’ve found that the boys take more on for themselves. I can’t believe how organised they are with their homework this year, everything is handed in on time and done with pride. We tried for a while to give them their own chores and it didn’t work, for us it wasn’t a natural process.

        I don’t worry at all about what my kids are going to turn out like. I work with kids whose lives are in complete disarray. I work with parents who are so confused and unhappy. I am just so grateful to come home to relative order and peace and joy and care and connection. My kids will have plenty of time to reflect on what that was like for them when they get older and sorting out who they want to be and what they want to do. For now, I’m just enjoying the process and not worrying about the product.

  2. Elena says:

    Oh, this post makes me want to pour my heart out. I’m not sure you want to hear it all, and I’m not sure I want to even go there. I think I could do this with the 9 year old. My 19 year old has become a responsible adult and so she does her assigned tasks with absolutely no fuss or prompting. It’s my 15 year old son. When I start to think of it, I don’t even know where to begin. He’s a good, smart kid, but chores with him is nothing but nagging and grief. His anger is a definite deterrent for me, as well as the fact that there is conflict between him and my husband, who was his step-dad since he was 8 but who adopted him a year ago. I can’t stand for anything to make that conflict worse. I’ve recently started having Garth babysit the three littlest ones when I teach on Thursday nights (I’m gone for about 3 hours) and he’s handling it beautifully, as I knew he could. His other chores I’ve just started doing myself, because it’s just easier and less stressful for me. So maybe because the babysitting has a time frame and he’s gotten used to it, that’s why it’s going so smoothly.

    Anyway, I don’t mean to use your blog post to air out my issues, but I can see how your plan is a good one, and my brain immediately comes up with a bunch of reasons why I “can’t” (=don’t want to) implement that sort of thing with Garth, and so I can see that it’s something I have to really examine.

    • Elena, I am always happy to hear from you. I don’t like to talk about parenting I haven’t experienced myself, as I have a healthy mistrust of academics or experts who aren’t living what they talk about. I don’t have teenagers…However, the things I have learned about teen boys, which may or may not help you with Garth: from around age 14 boys need a man outside the house as a mentor; working alongside them doing something like old fashioned washing and drying of dishes with no eye-contact or intrusive questioning (just listening and ahhha-ing, with a few ‘what do you think?’ comments) can help them to feel connected and understood; tasks with ‘real’ responsibiltiy, like having to babysit the younger kids, mean the most to them. Perhaps a change in the chores he is to complete – could he teach the younger ones how to do something like vacuum/lawns and leaving him to work out how/when – just with a deadline from you? (It needs to be done by 1pm or I’ll have to do it and won’t be able to drop you off xyz?) Just thinking on the hop here. Take what you can and all the very best. 🙂

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