Bet you didn’t think the words “gratitude” “chore” and “game” really went together did you? With all the holiday stuff I’ve been doing lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about another word, one that can sometimes arise as a consequence of too much focus on the gifts: entitlement. I started to think about this discussion we had on mindfulness and daily chores as part of our virtual book club last year.
Do you remember discussing this quote?
Housework may be the best opportunity to practice being present. If we choose, mindful house cleaning can be space away form the noise of our racing thoughts and feelings. The back-and-forth motion of a broom creates a rhythm to focus on. The act of preparing a meal invites all the senses to attention.
Whoa. The idea of seeing housework as an opportunity for focus and calm – a gift even – in the midst of a busy day, that kinda turned my world on it’s head.
Actually getting myself to do this, though, seemed tough. Then, as I often do when thinking about habits I wish I had, I started thinking about the best way to instill this habit in my kids… And that seemed even more tough.
“You should be happy you have a bed to make” is kind of along the same lines as, “Eat your food – there are children starving in Africa.” Good in theory but did that line really ever make anyone more grateful?
Nevertheless, the tactic was worth pondering. Not only because a new, more grateful, attitude would make us all happier folks, but also because what’s the opposite of entitlement? Work ethic.
And then it came to me. Do what I always do when trying to get the kids to do something they may not want to – turn it into a game. If you’re still having our doubts about all this, don’t worry, I’ve broken it all into a simple 3 step plan. Ready?
Step 1: Sit Down with the Kids & Identify Their Jobs
Get your kids engaged in this idea from the start by asking them to collaborate with you on a list of jobs they can accomplish around the house. Need help? Here are some suggestions broken down by age:
Housekeeping chores for children ages 2+
- Put toys away
- Fill pet’s food dish
- Put clothes in hamper
- Pile books and magazines
Housekeeping chores for children ages 4+
- Make their bed
- Empty wastebaskets
- Sweep floors
- Sort laundry (match socks)
- Unload utensils from dishwasher
- Water flowers
Housekeeping chores for children ages 6+
- Put away own laundry
- Wipe down counters and sinks
- Weed and rake leaves
Housekeeping chores for children ages 8+
- Fold clothes
- Load dishwasher
- Take out the trash
- Mop floor
- Clean the shower/tub
Housekeeping chores for children ages 10 and older.
- Unload dishwasher
- Fold laundry
- Clean bathroom
- Wash windows
- Iron clothes
- Do laundry
- Clean kitchen
- Change their bed sheets
Step 2: Make Some Fun Props
I’m not completely delusional here – I realize that it’s going to take a little more than wishful thinking to get kids excited and even thankful about doing chores.
Take a special trip to the store and once again enlist the kids’ help, this time to put together some special cleaning kits, either for each room or for each family member. Little kids will especially enjoy making a miniature version of Mom’s kit as shown above.
This may seem a little unnecessary and not really inline with the anti-materialism theme we’re going for but it will help reinforce to both you and the kids that this new positive family attitude is sticking around every time you see your shiny kits. Plus, we’re only human. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you like a pretty dish rag or a brightly colored basket – these things, too, can be something to be thankful for.
Step 3: Play the “Thankful for Chores” Game
Is this going to be a little unnatural and awkward at first? Yep… Is it worth it? Absolutely.
Now that you have your tasks and supplies, it’s time to change the way your family tackles chores. The approach will vary some based on the age of your kids, the younger they are the sillier you can be, but the idea here is to make chores more enjoyable. Here’s some tips.
Do them together.
You don’t always have to do chores as a family. But picking a time to do them side-by-side will give you a chance to model, model, model a new thankful attitude and to get the kids in the habit of playing the game.
Challenge each other to always find something to be thankful for in your duties.
Use your shiny new kits or start off with something a little silly, “I’m thankful for the guy who invented the mop so I don’t have to scrub the entire floor on my hands and knees”.
Take turns naming things and make it into a game, injecting both off-the-wall and serious thoughts. How many reasons can you think of to be grateful? Go back and forth between family members, trying to top each other. “I do not love cleaning floors, but I’m thankful…
- “…my dog is a living vacuum cleaner so I don’t have to sweep before mopping”
- “…the baby got over his ‘throwing all his food on the ground’ phase”
- “…I have strong hands to do it”
One of the biggest lessons we’re teaching our children here is that not every moment in life is about self-gratification. It’s ok to just be in the moment without spending the whole time thinking about how long it will be until you get to do something you enjoy more.
Acknowledge that no one likes doing some things – in fact, go over the top.
Every time you start a particularly horrible chore, huff and puff – sigh and moan – use your silliest, most overly dramatic voice and declare, “I do not love cleaning the toilets, but I’m thankful for the long handle on the toilet brush.”
Lead by example.
It’s great to approach this as a game and go over the top to get the kids involved. But it’s also a good idea to sometimes lead by a quieter example. Mention to your daughter that it makes you smile every time you use your pretty bamboo dish brush instead of the moldy old plastic one you used to have.
Comment on the fact that it’s nice (and relatively new) to have affordable non-toxic cleaning options readily available. Or just that the clean design and pretty flowers on the bottles make you happy. Again, every thought doesn’t have to be profound. It’s ok to be thankful for pretty stuff too.
What do you think? Does this sound doable? I know it will take some practice, and probably some modification for older kids – but isn’t the pay-off worth it?
Question of the Day
How do you combat entitlement and incorporate thankfulness into your day with the kids?
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