I've written about working for Joy already, but I'm back today to talk more about it. Mostly because my boy has spent a good portion of the day whining over picking up his toys. He and Ella made a sweet little hideout this morning with pillows and blankets and stuffed animals. They got into the magnetic blocks and My Little Ponies and Legos. I always find that while I'm getting one big task accomplished, today it was cleaning out the freezer and refrigerator, they are creating 10 new tasks for me to manage. Such is life with toddlers!
We've been working on cleaning up before lunch and dinner. We still have a long way to go for the two youngest. Ella's still at the age where cleaning up is kind of fun, but Lukey, not so much. "Why are you making me do all this work? This is too much work! This isn't any fun!" he complains and grumbles.
I find that if we wait until the meals are over to clean up, then we are faced with toy messes and food messes and messy kid messes and my head is spinning and the meal is less enjoyable to say the least. All I can think is, I have a million things to pick up and the baby needs to nap or kids need baths/teeth brushed and it feels a smidge overwhelming. I start yelling and threatening to throw all of their toys away like a crazy person! (Tell me you do too!)
A friend asked me recently how to get her older kids to do their chores, and honestly, I have NO IDEA about teens, but the only thing that works here is the IF/THEN scenario. "If" you want to eat lunch/dinner, "then" you have to pick up your toys first. And then I have to follow through with it. To really check because some of my little turkeys are not good at really completing a task- YET!
At this stage, it feels like more work to train them than to just do it myself. (Which is honestly what I've spent years doing!) It takes them a lot longer to clean up than it does me. It means playtime has to end a little sooner, otherwise they are melting down and the baby will not eat her lunch. It means I have to go and check on them. To encourage them, "You guys are doing such a good job! You are almost there! Keep working!" It means my ears get blasted with some whining, which is another post for another day. It means perfection can't win. I have to think, Is my goal to keep a perfect house, or is my goal to train up our children. Training up children honestly feels a little harder than just going for it on my own, which is why I've mostly just done a lot of the work on my own.
This is what I have done for years. Kicked kids out of one space, only to have them go and wreck another space. (Sound familiar? Please tell me I'm not the only one!) I've wanted them to just enjoy their childhood, playing and being kids. Meanwhile, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, always feeling exhausted and frustrated at them for their non-stop messes.
And then I read this in Proverbs 31....
"She (the mom) keeps an eye on everyone in the household, and keeps them all busy and productive."
Cha-Ching! This verse opened my eyes to a new way of thinking. I'm pretty sure God doesn't want me to raise a bunch of kiddos who rely on someone else to do all of the work.
Everyone is entitled to their own translating, but when I read this I think of productive as "working and helpful." Kids learn through play and play really is kind of their work, but I feel like some real "work" should be involved as well.
It helps them feel accomplished. Making them help me is helping my older kids choose how big of a mess they want to make. Knowing you're going to be stuck with the clean-up is kind of a game changer. They are scaling back on exactly how big of a mess they make, most of the time.
Our 2.5 year old loves helping me unload the dishwasher. Yes, it slows me down, but man, the JOY on her little face is usually worth it! She feels like a million bucks when handing me those plastic dishes. I do have to work quickly to get the glass out!
Here are some chores we are working on:
Lilly is 11: making her own bed, cleaning her own room. My standard is that all of the dirty laundry is out of the floor, the floor is clear of a mess and that the bed gets made. She puts away her own laundry. She loads, unloads the dishwasher if it needs to be done when she's home. She's learning some basic cooking/baking skills. She can pack her own lunch and make breakfast for herself and her siblings. She helps shovel snow at our house and a neighbors. She can also help keep the van clear of trash. She can dust and vacuum, but not to my liking just yet. We have more training to do in those areas.
Carly is 7: She usually gets the job of unloading utensils, setting the table, clearing off the table when dinner is over, some vacuuming, making her bed, keeping her room tidy, putting away laundry, tidying up living room, picking up her toys, and we call her the shoe expert. I love to give her the job of organizing all of our shoes into pairs.
Lukey and Ella, 5 and 2 are just picker-upers. They are both into little toys, blocks, ponies, dinosaurs, etc., so they have to clean up whatever the play with. Both love to help unload the dishwasher and he will sometimes make his bed.
Hopefully, your kids are WELL BEYOND mine! We are late to the game on getting our kids to work, but better late than never, right? To be honest, I want perfection, but I have come to accept that that is not an option while we are in training. The dishwasher doesn't always get loaded the way I want it. And to be honest, I go behind them and fix things to my liking at times. I'm trying to slow down and train them to do things the right way, but when time doesn't allow, I make the dishes in the dishwasher so that they'll come out clean. Sometimes I straighten their beds a bit. But I'm also trying to accept that everything doesn't have to be done my way 100% of the time.
We are trying to refocus our thinking to long-term. Not just about getting everything done today. When we ship them off, we want them to be self-sufficient. For me that means getting over myself a bit. Accepting imperfect help. Accepting the responsibility of slowing down and teaching. Toughening up and giving consequences for work not done. For finding the energy to cheer them on and reward them for work well done. It really means I need to unplug more and get my head in the game. Which honestly, is not always easy! And I really do fall back to my old ways more often than I'd care to admit. But that's okay. Each new day is filled with plenty of opportunities to train.
So that's it for today. Whatever age or stage your kiddos are at, get them WORKING. For us it means turning off the T.V., handing in electronics, and getting stuff done for a little extra Joy in the Chaos!