My unschooled children have never had chores. We have never had charts hanging on our fridge with certain household tasks for them to take care of with stickers as rewards.
Yet, Devin, Tiff, Ivy and Orion all help with the housework because they truly want to.
How is this possible?
For one, when I clean and do the little tasks that I find necessary to keep our house organized throughout the day, I do so joyfully. I never slam things around or get frustrated that toys are on the floor, or dishes are in the sink. I don't huff and puff and talk under my breath about being everyone's slave. Who would want to help if I was complaining about cleaning all the time?
I truly feel gratitude in my heart every time I clean or pick something up because I feel such love and happiness for having my family and for all that comes with having children. I see the little scraps of paper on the floor, or books strewn about and remember the story behind them. I see the craft project that Ivy did, or the books that I read to Tiff and how much she enjoyed our time together cuddled on the couch. I pick up or clean whatever needs to be done in the moment, unconditionally and with love. I bask in the gratitude of our life together without feeling that they are responsible for the "messes" they make. Joe and I are the ones who decided to have children and we accept all that comes with having them.
I value my relationship and connection with my children over the cleanliness of our home.
I think many times parents can think they have no choice but to coerce, reward or force children to do chores to instill responsibility. I feel very differently about this. I feel that my children will naturally be responsible when they feel a partnership in our family. Our home is their nest. It is a place that they feel is theirs as much as it is mine. They love their home! They see cleaning as just something to do that makes sense.
Respectful, non-coercive parenting creates responsible children in a kind, loving, positive way. When children are respected and trusted, they naturally step into the roles that many parents today force their children into, only to create angry, rebellious children and teens. You never, ever have to force, punish or manipulate a child to help with the housework. You only have to do so joyfully yourself and set the standard of what you want your home to be. Your children will naturally assist in maintaining the standard in which they are used to living and they will do so in a way that feels meaningful to them. Model joy and gratitude surrounding housework, but do so authentically. You can't fake it in an attempt to manipulate your children into helping out. Children always know your true feelings and sense the intent behind your actions.
Last night my children were cleaning until almost midnight! Ivy and Orion washed windows and cleaned inside
the fridge. Devin mopped the floors and Tiff vacuumed the whole house, including the stairs! It was a fun
night of housework with music playing loudly in the background. No power struggles. No threats. No punishments
or tears. Just pure, authentic connection and fun as we cleaned our home together - in joy and gratitude.
A La Leche League Leader, Natural Childbirth Educator, doula, and writer, Dayna Martin lives joyfully in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her husband and four children. Visit Dayna's blog