I said that I have to be a good example if I want my children to help me get the house organised each morning… I have to jump out of bed and go out there and dive into the chores. I have to be willing to help so that my children are willing to help me.
Sometimes when I go to the kitchen and see the dishes (waiting to be washed), I don’t want to do them. I think: Somebody else will come along and do that in a minute and they probably would. I have to fight the temptation (to ignore the dishes) and go off and do what I prefer to do. I could get away with that because I’m the mother.
Sophie once said to me, in an interview, that sometimes she gets the feeling that parents think they’re better than children, that children have to do all the hard, dirty, uninteresting work of the family. They do all the chores while the parents just make all the decisions. She was saying that she’s glad that I help and that my husband helps. We all dive in and are part of the team, and she’s thankful for that because she doesn’t mind working when she knows everyone else is working as well. We’re all in this together. We support each other.
And working together has great benefits. It draws us together. Even though we might not like the work, it does strengthen family bonds…
It took me a very long time to work out how to get kids to do chores. I guess I was of the mind that kids have to do the work while the parents do the organising of the chore list. I thought that for quite a long time and I was always doing a lot of shouting about it: “You haven’t done your chores. You haven’t done your jobs on the list. Come on, you’re lazy. When are you going to get them done? You’re letting the family down.” And then when the chore list didn’t work, I would try bribery: a reward system.I tried lots of different things before I worked out exactly how to get everybody to cooperate.
It was very, very simple. I have to be a good example. I have to help others if I want them to help me. It’s a very, very simple idea, but it’s a very, very difficult thing to do because all of us are tempted to be lazy. It isn’t easy to keep on being a good example. Sometimes I get fed up. I want to be lazy. I just want to sit there and do nothing. Being a mother can be very difficult.
I had a moment… where I let myself down, where I just didn’t want to be that good example for my children. And I didn’t even realise it at first. It happened one lunch time. My daughter Imogen had decided she wanted to go shopping after lunch and she invited Gemma-Rose to go with her. Now Gemma-Rose was drying dishes and Imogen told her to hurry up: “Hurry up and get those dishes done because I want to go out. You’re holding me up.”
And I told Imogen that instead of nagging her sister to dry the dishes more quickly why didn’t she pick up a tea towel and help her? The dishes would get done a lot faster and it would be a lot more pleasant. There was some truth in what I said, but what I should have done was get up off the sofa myself and say, “Look, you want to go out shopping? You go. I’ll finish those dishes for you.” That would have been the better thing to have done. Because I ended up nagging in my own turn.
Now, Imogen, because she’s a very nice person, didn’t complain. She just went and dried those dishes with Gemma-Rose, but I felt bad later. I thought, If I’m not willing to step in and do something above and beyond what I’m expected to do, how can I expect my children to be generous as well? We want to teach our children to do, not only what has to be done, but to go beyond that, and be, as I said, generous.
I had another occasion… Every Saturday morning, Imogen has a singing lesson. She has to leave the house just before 9.30 in the morning. The rest of us have a leisurely morning. We might get up a little bit later than we do in the week, get in the shower, potter around doing the morning chores because they still have to be done, but do them at a more leisurely rate.Anyway, Imogen dashed out of her bedroom. As she was thrusting on her shoes, and pulling on her coat, I said to her, “What chores have you done this morning?” And she said, “I haven’t had time to do any.” And I said, “You didn’t get up early enough to get yourself organised. You should have got up a bit earlier to get some chores done to help the family.”
Imogen didn’t say anything. She just went out the door. But afterwards, I thought, no, that wasn’t very nice. What I should have said was, “Don’t worry about the chores. I will do them for you.” Kids don’t need to be told that they have to get up earlier. And the act of me doing her chores for her would have, I am sure, inspired her to step in and help somebody else in a similar situation another time.
It’s not about doing things evenly. It’s about helping each other out and doing things in a loving manner.
Helpfulness begets helpfulness. I wrote that in a blog post once…
This transcription was taken from episode 41 of my unschooling podcast: Chores and Our Typical Unschooling Day
The next section of this podcast starts with the words:
I’ve been thinking about how our life does look rather conventional. What makes our life… different from any structured homeschoolers’ life? Is it any different? How do we tell if someone is unschooling or not? We don’t stay up really late at night, we don’t drift through our days doing exactly what we want at all times, we get up very early in the morning… We don’t share these things with some unschooling families. Does that mean we’re not unschooling?
I could answer that question next time.
My children are always asking me, “Can I do anything for you, Mum?” I get asked that question dozens of times each day. Do I have exceptional children? Maybe I’m just lucky. Perhaps this simple idea of being a good example won’t work for everyone? I don’t believe that. I think all kids are capable of being generous. (It just might not happen overnight.)
That’s my opinion. But what do you think?
I’m sorry about the poor sentence structure in this transcription. I didn’t say things perfectly in the original podcast. I was tempted to rewrite the whole thing, but maybe you can understand my thoughts without me doing that.