***This is the third post in a series called Quit Your Job as the Maid. Post 1, Post 2
You’re probably thinking “inviting” your kids to do chores sounds like a joke. Sure, we can invite all we want but they won’t do anything unless they are bribed, nagged, reminded, and punished if they don’t. People who talk about “inviting” kids to do stuff they don’t want to do are up in the night.
I hear ya. I think about my two-year-old who is the Queen of Stubborn and think, “Invite her to pick up her toys? Haha..riiiiight.” In fact, one day when I told her to pick up her toys, she grabbed them and started walking toward the toy box. About halfway there, she stopped, threw them on the ground, and started waving her arms in the air and screaming. As if to say, “Wait, what?! What am I doing?! She wanted me to put my toys away and I almost actually did?!”
So then I started thinking about this idea of invitation. It’s so counterintuitive to think that if kids won’t do it when we tell them to, what makes us think they will do it when we ask them to? Except that, it’s also insane to think that the way we’ve been telling them to do it all their lives isn’t working, so we must need to keep doing that. I was ready for a change. She’s not doing it when I tell her to, I guess I could try asking…
Then something amazing happened. She actually picked up her toys! Like, several days in a row now. And it’s funny, I thought I would feel like a grovelling mother who turns all parental authority over to a two-year-old tyrant. But it didn’t feel that way at all. I am confident that if I keep up this patient, inviting parental role, she will continue to pick up her toys. It’s really me I’ve got to worry about. I know how close those raging feelings of frustration are to the surface. If I can keep those feelings under control while I “invite” my kids to clean up, I actually believe they will do it.
Granted, they are young enough to work this reverse psychology on. Older kids will probably get that you’re trying a new tactic, and that’s ok. They will still feel empowered by this process and hopefully more aware of the “why” behind it. Just trust the process and give it a try.
If you’ve been following this series and doing the “homework” then you are aware of what your children are capable of and where they technically should be and are ready to fill in the gap. You should have a list of:
• What your kids can do and will do
• What your kids can do but don’t do
• What they can’t do because they haven’t been trained
It’s important that in these 2-3 observation days, you commit to not reminding or nagging your kids to do anything. This is the only way to get accurate information. If they only do it when you remind them, then it falls in the second column of things they can but don’t do (on their own). This list is an excellent starting point for you to build on what they know and help them create essential habits that will make both of your lives easier in the long run.
As a quick sidenote, don’t expect this to work like magic in one day. Vicki explains that when kids are used to a certain behavior from their parents (ie. yelling, nagging, reminding) and there is a sudden change, they become suspicious. This is a good thing because it gets their attention. Expect them to decline your invitation the first few times. As long as they are in the position of choice, they will feel empowered and will eventually be intrigued by this new way of getting them to do chores. The younger the kids, the easier it will probably be to get them to say “yes.” Keep at it and don’t give up!
1. Choose the time
Choose a time to have a conversation with your child (individually) when you are feeling patient and calm. Remember you may have to have this conversation many times in the future but lay it all out in the open and explain to your child that there are 3 main reasons you are committed to training him to learn how to run a home:
- He will leave home eventually and it is your job to teach him how to take care of himself and his future home.
- It is the only way you won’t have to resort to nagging, reminding, and threatening him about helping around the house.
- If he wants you to spend more time with him doing fun things then you need some help around the house because you can’t do it all by yourself. Would he rather have a mom or a maid?
Brainstorm together tasks and skills your child wants to learn and master. If she is included in this process it will have her even that much more invested and she will feel listened to and validated when it comes to what she knows and what she still needs to learn. Go ahead and point out what you noticed during your observations and see what she thinks about it. You may want to explain that you noticed she always gets dressed by herself but doesn’t always remember to put her dirty clothes in the hamper.
Let your child make the decision to choose one skill from the list that she would like to learn first. Don’t jump in and say which one you think is best, allow her the power of choosing. This will keep her motivated and eager to learn since she was the one who chose the task.
Finally, invite him to learn how to do it. Next week we will talk about a training approach that sets your child up for success. The art of invitation is where it starts though. When children are in a good place, a place of empowerment and choice, they are so much more eager and excited to learn. When they are coerced to do something unpleasant, the outcome is infinitely different.
Try to talk to each of your children this week and explain that there are going to be some changes. Work through this invitation process to explain why you’re making some changes and to get a clear plan of what they want to work on.
This concept of extending an invitation isn’t as crazy as it might seem. Think about how you react when someone tells you what to do as compared to when someone invites you to learn something new. Our children are just tiny, emerging adults and if we want to be respected, we must learn to respect them as well. This doesn’t mean we are undermining our authority as the parent or the adult, it just means that we are teaching respect by example.
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What do you think about the concept of inviting our kids to learn new skills? What are your concerns with trying this method?