Do You Have a "Chore-Resistant" Family?
What you resist - persists. C.G. Jung
There are days when I just can't seem to get motivated about doing housework — cleaning up, organizing, laundry, and so on — especially during the summer when schedules and routines go out the window.
Here in Vancouver, the sight of the sun streaming through the windows beckons us to head outdoors and enjoy the day. Then before I know it, August creeps up on me and I think of all the de-cluttering I'd planned to do over the summer. And once again I procrastinate because now the job seems too big. My mind resists the chores, and the things I should be doing keep playing in the back of my mind like an App on the iPhone that’s continuously running in the background.
But when I become aware and mindful of what it is that's nagging at the back of my mind, I address it. Inevitably the day comes when I wake up, turn the music up high (and start with my favourite songs) so that I can't hear my negative, looping, procrastinating thoughts, and the chores become part of the dance. The music is playing in the background, and I insist that it has to be my music 80% of the time, because I need to have words I can hear, words I know and can sing to.
My daughters watch as I start dancing and singing and de-cluttering. Before I know it, they've started doing the same in their rooms and closets. Organizing is contagious!
Mindfulness can be practiced by parents and kids anytime, every day. From full-blast cleaning, to daily grocery shopping, laundry and folding, to just day-to-day washing and tidying.
August is a great time to get kids involved in the routine of daily chores. It is also a great time to mindfully get kids to start thinking about time management, schedules, and organizing their space.
Tips for mindful moms
There will always be days and weeks when kids will do all they can to resist and procrastinate when reminded to do their chores. You will probably hear "Aw, Mom!" or "It looks fine to me!" but if you follow these three tips, eventually looking after the things in their world becomes second nature.
Smile, breathe and go slowly. Thich Nhat Hanh
1) Start early
Children thrive when given responsibilities. My daughter will be in Grade 7 this fall, and she is most excited because they "get to have responsibilities" in the school. While I don't always see that excitement when I ask her to do something around the house, there's one thing I know for sure — when she completes a chore, she feels better. She also tells her friends of the chores she does around the house.
Giving our children responsibilities early in life sets them up for successful behaviours. Children as young as two can help with dusting, watering the plants, and filling up the dog's drink bowl. Start early to instill pride in a clean and tidy house, and the value of being tidy and organized. What we teach them from the ages of 0 to 6 has been shown to stick in their "internal hard drive," usually for life.
School kids love sorting and grouping objects, so encourage them to sort their own laundry into whites and darks and help stack and empty the dishwasher.
Get your kids cooking as well as helping with household cleaning. Parenting guru, Steve Biddulph says that by the age of 9, kids are able to safely use a knife and boil water without accidents. He also suggests they cook a meal for the family once a week. The experience not only lets them develop an essential life skill, it also instils confidence and pride in their abilities.
2) Get organized
Teach them to begin the day with a neat bed and a calm mind: rolling out of bed with a long stretch and a deep breath in and slow exhale out will be a practice they will always use.
Have designated storage places for each child's belongings – hooks for school bags, racks for shoes, a bookshelf for text books and supplies – so they know where their things are stored when not in use.
Likewise, have specific boxes for Lego, soft toys, books, and other precious items, so that toy tidy-ups are easy. Having a giant toy box that is like a bottomless pit means that things are bound to get lost.
3) Do chores together, make it fun
Now, it doesn't take three people to load a dishwasher, but it is more fun when everyone is involved in cleaning and tidying.
Having a set time that is designated for clean-up, just like they had in kindergarten, and carrying this through their teens is a great way to teach good habits.
There will always be days, (or months!), like mine this summer, when things were a bit crazy-busy, and I wasn't able to keep up with my chores. But the key is when kids have been taught that they can make chores fun by turning on the music, singing along, and enjoying the process, then they will always have that learning.
When the whole family takes a couple of hours out of their Saturday or Sunday to clean, tidy, and organize then it's not only family time, but it's also a life skill.
Enjoy the process, savour the rewards of feeling organized and then take a moment, breathe in deeply, and pat yourself on the back for being a great parent.
Mindfulness courses, classes and workshops in Vancouver
Come join me in upcoming parenting courses at the West Vancouver Community Centre. I also offer tailored mindfulness classes and training. Contact me for details planned for the fall.