It's easy to feel taken advantage of, to feel like household staff, and at least for me it's easy to feel invisible.
The lunches make themselves. The beds are always freshly made and laundered. The floors are mopped and gleaming ... until a kiddo dumps the contents of their shoes into wee sandcastles. Dinner magically appears on the table. Life is effortless. Right? Soooooo easy!
Wait a second. Someone actually does stuff around here? The Keebler elves don't work part-time as overnight lunch-makers and house-cleaners?
The truth is, it's so much easier to just do everything yourself. Plus, you totally get to play the martyr. That's gotta be good for kids to see! (Totally kidding, by the way...)
After years of just doing it all myself, or rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock-ing with SuperHub over scrubbing the shower, I realized that I was creating my own problem. I was manufacturing my own teeny army of lazy humans who would not know how to live in a thoughtful and appreciative way.
*The best part about parenting is spotting your mistakes and changing course mid-stream. It's totally doable! Kids are so teachable, and surprise, so are we. :) The younger they are, they may not even have memories of your previous parenting. Phew!*
Everyone has their own priorities. Here are mine.
- Teach the kids to appreciate, to the best of their abilities, what goes on around here.
- Make sure to be doing housework often in front of the kids. Whether I'm handing them shoes to put away, or taking out the trash, they need to see me doing it.
- Give them small tasks that benefit the whole family. Piper sets the table. She loves it! Liam organizes the shoe area by the front door. This is done every day or at least several times a week. We're a team!
- Get the kids involved in the cooking process. Whether it's helping put away dishes from the dishwasher, bringing plates to the sink, measuring sugar, etc. This is actually the hardest for me. Apparently, I'm a kitchen control freak. Thankfully, SuperHub loves to cook with the kids. Phew!
- All clean clothes go in drawers. All dirty clothes go in hampers. Sounds simple, took YEARS to achieve.
- Toys must be put away, and books stacked, before dinner, or iPad time, or bedtime. I set small goals with cleaning up toys multiple times a day. It's always a team effort, especially since Piper started only playing in Liam's room so she didn't have to clean. :) On weekends, toys must be cleaned up before lunch, and again before dinner. This eliminates the weekly room cleaning, and sometimes I actually hear "Let's put this away first before we take that out. It will make cleaning easier later." Success! Lesson learned.
- Nothing is owed. You don't put your toys away, they go in garbage bags for a week. When this happens more than once in a week, your play options are getting slim! You don't get iPad after being rude all day long. You hit someone with your dinosaur, he goes on top of the fridge for the rest of the day. Nothing is "yours".
- Don't underestimate sending your kids to the backyard with no toys. Keep the TV off. Allow them to have times when they are not entertained. Nowadays, we are so consumed with instant gratification, we can hardly stand in line for three minute without checking Facebook or playing Angry Birds. Teach them to enjoy the quiet moments of life.
The goal is to teach the kids a little responsibility. I want them to know that our family is a team effort. We all have jobs. Daddy brings home the bacon, and Mommy cooks it. ;) Piper goes to school, her job is to learn and to be a good friend. Liam goes to preschool. His job is to learn and to be a good friend.
Today, Liam's preschool teacher said they were talking about cleaning your room. She asked how many mommies help the kids clean their rooms. Liam said "NOT MINE!" Proud Mom moment. You are right buddy. I'm not going to do it for you. It's a gift to teach your children autonomy. To celebrate their achievements and teach them to be proud of their good behavior.
Piper often makes a huge display of showing me how clean her room is. She waves the door open and flicks on the light like a surprise party. Celebrate it! AWESOME job! I knew you could do it! Taking that time to show appreciation for their hard work might just spur them to show appreciation for yours. You might just build up a little of her self-esteem. He might realize he's not a baby anymore, he's a big boy who can put all his blocks away by himself.
You are teaching them not only to pitch in, but to join the team effort of a family. And it's totally worth the years of investment. Your kids are worth the investment.
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