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5 Steps to Get Kids Helping with Chores

5 Steps to Get Kids Helping with Chores

You’re in the middle of cleaning up the kitchen, you pull out the broom to sweep breakfast up off the floor, and like sharks attracted to blood in the water, the sound of the broom hitting the floor has your toddler running into the kitchen. Honestly, the last thing you want is your toddler helping with chores.  You can do it so much faster (and better) without their help.

But fast forward to middle school.  For some crazy reason, the sound of the broom no longer calls to them.  In fact, the sound of your voice calling to them doesn’t always get a response!  But now you want them helping with chores around the house – they just don’t want to do it.

 

Why is helping with chores important?

Doing chores is a life skill that our kids need. 

More than just a task, doing chores can be highly relational.  When your kids are helping with chores, they’re engaged in an activity that impacts someone else.  Picking up their toys helps with getting ready for Grandma’s visit.  Cleaning up the dinner dishes provides the time and space for the family game night.  Doing chores together provides opportunity to learn negotiating skills and hone cooperation, things that I want my kids to be able to do well with anyone.

More than that, the countries longest running longitudinal study, the Grant and Glueck Study out of Harvard has found a correlation between helping with chores as a kid and being successful as an adult.

When it feels easier to just “do it myself”, it’s important to remember the long view impact that helping with chores can have on kids.

What can they help with?

It’s important to keep chores age appropriate.  Google chores for kids and you will find an endless array of lists of chores broken out by age.  As you use these lists, remember that you can scale chores up and down.  Don’t expect your three-year old to be able to move furniture around for vacuuming, but expect them to learn to vacuum.  As they get older, you can scale this chore to include steps for a more thorough cleaning.

Learning to do Chores

While all these things are true, helpful, and important, there is often a huge disconnect between assigning a chore and the chore being completed.  Why?  Because too often we do a poor job of teaching how to do chores.  We go straight from telling them to do something to expecting them to do it.

Think about when someone gives you an instruction.  At some point you needed to be taught how to do it.  As adults we don’t notice the process as much because we have greater life experience from which to draw from.  We’ve also learned how to ask clarifying questions.  So when someone asks us to vacuum the living room, we might need to ask where the vacuum is kept but we don’t need to ask them what a vacuum cleaner is and how to use it – we’ve already been taught that.

5 Steps for Teaching How to do Chores

Teaching our kids how to do the chores we assign them does take a bit of effort, but it isn’t difficult.  And the good news is that this process can work for children of all ages.

1.     Tell them

 

 You always want to start by telling them what it is you want.  This is an important step to laying out expectations.  Be specific while remembering their age.  Remember that toddler who wants to help sweep?  Maybe you tell them they can sweep the middle of the kitchen while you do the edges and under the table.  Telling them what you expect keeps you from tripping over each other and let’s your child help in a meaningful way.

Laying out the expectations not only helps our kid know what we want, it helps us not to expect things we didn’t ask them to do.  You want your 4-year old to be putting their toys away, so you tell them to put their toys away in the bins on the shelves.  This provides the expectation of what they should do, and what they shouldn’t do.  So when they pick up their toys but don’t shelve their books on the bookcase, go back to what you told them to do to make sure they met the stated expectations.

2.     Show them

This is where you can help them understand exactly what you want.

If you just want toys in bins and don’t care about keeping sets together, then show them that it doesn’t matter.  But if you want like items together, show them how to do that.  Side note: If you want to keep like items together, it can be helpful to print out pictures of container contents and tape those to the bin so that they know what goes where.

While you’re showing, talk about what you’re doing.  “Oh, this is a car, so I’m going to put it in the car bin.”  “These are blocks, so they go over here.”

Depending on the age, you may need to do this several days in a row.  It might feel like you’re doing it for them, but you’re not.  Showing them what to do is foundational to their ability to do the job on their own.

3.     Help them

 Now trade spots.  Have your child take the lead on the pick-up process with you helping them.  If they miss or forget something, you can gently remind them.  This is your opportunity to make sure that they fully understand what is expected of them.

4.     Watch them

After a few days and once you are comfortable that they “get it”, sit back and put your feet up in the same room as your kids.  For a few days to watch them handle this chore doling out very little direction and tons of praise and affirmation while you do it.  (Just remember to be commenting on their efforts and not their character.  Things like “Nice Job!” or “I love how you remembered to look under the couch” and not things like “Good boy” or “You’re so smart”.  Why, you ask?  Because it encourages kids to focus externally on process and outcome rather than internally on their self-worth.)

5.     Empower them

Once they have it down, you can officially make this their responsibility.  They now have the skills to be helping with chores so you can do something else.  Trust them to do their job, but verify that they are doing it well.  This means following through by checking that they did their chore.  Depending on the chore and the age, you might find it helpful to have a checklist of pictures or words to help your child remember the steps.  In either case, have them let you know when it’s done so that you can not only verify, but positively affirm their job.

When should your kids be helping with chores?

We’ve talked about being observers in our homes to see patterns of how things are done (see 7 Secrets of a Well Organized Home).  So far we’ve talked about this with regard to structuring space and storage, but it’s also true of time and schedule.  When chores should be done will depend on how your family functions.  If mom and dad both work full-time, then the weekends might be when chores are tackled, but if mom is home with the kids, then these chores might fit in best after breakfast or before dinner.

Regardless of how chores are structured into your home life, they are an important part of growing up.  Putting the effort into teaching kids to do chores well is giving them a life skill that will carry them far into adulthood.

Planning Summer Memories Your Kids Will Love

Planning Summer Memories Your Kids Will Love

Summer!  It’s a word filled with a deep breath of hope, fun, and adventure.  As it looms around the corner you can feel the excitement and anticipation.  It’s charged with promise, sunshine, and spontaneity.  The possibilities it holds are endless.  The potential it holds for shaping this summer into one full of memories is endless.  Planning summer is going to be great!

You find yourself saying things like “We should do that this summer” “We have all summer to do this” or “Let’s save this for the summer”.  You are lulled into a false sense that there is plenty of time to do it all.

Then suddenly, you realize that it’s already July and you haven’t done any of the things.  Planning summer becomes a bit more urgent but regular life (oh, yeah, that pesky reality that doesn’t take a vacation) gets in the way.

Before you know it, your hopes of planning summer are dashed as you find yourself switching gears to planning for school to start and Fall activities to ramp up.  Sigh.  Another summer of missed opportunities.

Once again summer is peeking it’s head around the corner, but this year, planning summer can be a successful reality.

Planning Summer Family Summit

We’ve talked in more detail about the value of choices, but one benefit is buy-in.  When your family is part of the process they’ll tend to be more willing participants.  The purpose of the Planning Summer Family Summit is to create a bucket list of ideas from everyone.  The things I think might be fun might be things that the kids didn’t think of, and the things the kids want to do might be surprisingly simple or easy to do. For example, I might be thinking that we need to plan a full-on outing to a downtown museum and all they want is to have lunch as a picnic in the park one day.

Idea Bucket List

This is as simple as it sounds. Grab piece of paper, use a poster board, start an Excel sheet – however you want to curate your summer ideas list works well.  If you have younger kids, consider using a different color pen or crayon for each person so that they see that their ideas are on the board and you can see if everyone has pitched in.  If you have older kids, after your initial brainstorm session hang up the sheet so that as new ideas come to mind they can go ahead and add them.

Tip: This is something that we do before grandparents come for a long visit so that they kids make sure they do everything they wanted to do together.  It’s less outing based and more activity based.

First Things, First

As mom, you may need to make some executive decisions and veto some of the ideas, but once you’ve approved the rest of the list, the next step is to decide what’s most important.  One of the clearest ways to do this is to individually speak with each person and have them pick their top 5 or 10 activity choices.  You keep track of the answers and tally it up.  By doing this one-on-one, it reduces the chance that someone will be swayed or influenced by someone else so you get more honest answers.  As you tally things, you will also be able to make sure that everyone’s choices are represented.

Maximizing Impact

Take a look at the list of things and see if there is a way to combine them.  Maybe ‘go to the pool’, ‘play at the park’, and ‘have a picnic’ are all separate items on the list.  But it wouldn’t take much effort to combine these into one outing.  You can do them separately and multiple times, but combining them now makes it one item to check off the list which gives you opportunity to maximize the number of experiences you have with your kids.

Planning Summer Parameters

The next thing to look at is what the activity needs to happen.

Does it need to be scheduled or can it be spontaneous?
Do you need to purchase anything in advance (like tickets)?
Is it weather dependent?
Does it involve travel?

Deciding what needs to happen can help with actually making it happen.

Finding Time

Now the important piece comes into play – planning when to do these things.  This flips the statement of “We should do this this summer” to “We’re planning to do this this summer.”  Print out a simple calendar for the summer months and mark off any of the big knowns – trips, summer camp, visits from family, etc.  Then take the list of top 10 choices and begin to plan them. 

Don’t over plan, but focus more on getting one big thing in each week and then maybe one or two smaller things.  If you have season passes to a pool, zoo, or other outdoor venue, maybe that becomes your once a week destination.  You might need to plan a rain date each week to accommodate for weather. 

Visualize What You Did

Hang up that original bucket list.  Circle the Top Ten items in green and the easy to do spontaneous items in another color.  Nearby hang the summer calendar that shows the tentative plan.  Both of these will help your kids begin to see that while you can’t do everything, you can do a lot of things.  As you do something, cross it off the list.

When summer ends and the kids begin to whine that they didn’t get to do anything, you have proof otherwise.

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Relive the Memories

I grew up in a family that took pictures.  I am so thankful for this.  I have a handful of memories that don’t have pictures to accompany them, but having the picture let’s me remember more often and more accurately.

With a phone in every pocket, it’s so easy to take pictures.  Take a family selfie at each outing and a handful of key photos.  Then at the end of the summer, make a photo book with pictures of the adventures.  All the effort of planning summer can be rewarded as the kids relive these memories when flipping through the book.  Plus, it reinforces the memory in their brain and solidifies the idea that they had a fun-filled summer.

Enjoy Your Kids

The bottom line is that you can’t do everything, but you can intentionally do many things.  These are the moments that build the memories of childhood.  Make this a summer of creating memories.

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I Blinked…and You Grew Up

I Blinked…and You Grew Up

I’m in a strange mothering season.  I can flip like a light switch from a conversation about potty training to high school graduation because they are both realities in my life.  It is the fact that they are both in my life right now that shines a spotlight on the truth of these words. 

They grow up too fast!

This week we are preparing for my firstborn baby to graduate high school.  It marks the end of her life at home and the beginning of life on her own.  She will always be part of our family, but her presence in our family is changing.

This week I have begun the walk down memory lane while gathering pictures, elementary school projects, and other things to share at a small dinner we are holding to honor her.  I hold the evidence in my hand that she did grow up too fast.  I’ve already cried my fair share of tears.  (And I know there are many more to come.)

Let me tell you about Emma.  It’s easy to focus on the resume of accomplishments, and while there are plenty, those things aren’t really her.  In fact, those things are can often drive a wedge and they become points of comparison, discouragement, or envy. Instead, let me tell you about who she is.

Emma is kind and tender-hearted.  When she walks into a room, she is drawn to the person who is alone or feeling out of place.  She has an inviting presence that draws you in.

Emma is a good conversationalist.  She asks good questions and is genuinely interested in knowing more about you.  She finds out interesting things and connects with people at a level deeper than what meets the eye.

Emma is willing to try new things.  From speaking a new language or traveling overseas by herself, to trying a new food or game, she is willing to give it a shot and try something new. Sometimes she finds that she loves it and can develop a new interest, but sometimes she realizes that it wasn’t what she thought and can stop spending energy wondering about it.

Emma is a learner.  Lots of us say we are, but I have seen her do it.  She wanted to play guitar for Wednesday night youth group, only she didn’t play the guitar.  So she learned.  She wanted to be a lifeguard at her summer camp, only she didn’t swim.  So she learned.  She wanted to paint pictures to give her grandparents, only she didn’t have any knowledge on the mediums.  So she learned. 

As she heads off to college, I am excited for the opportunities that face her and seeing where she will be 18-years from now. 

As I continue to muddle through this week of tears, I want to share something I wrote for her 18th birthday.

They Told Me…

They told me 9-months of pregnancy would go by quickly, but I was so sick I couldn’t imagine it ever ending. And then you were born. And I was in love.

They told me you would be sleeping through the night before I knew it, but I was so exhausted from your (multiple) nightly feedings that I couldn’t imagine it. And then one night you did. And I did. (And I panicked!) And we began to find our rhythm.

They told me not to worry about when you would start to walk, but I did worry. And when you were ready you did start to walk. And now you run far and strong.

They told me that no one ever went to college still in diapers, but I was convinced you would be the first. And then almost overnight you mastered the skill of using the potty. And you gained independence.

They told me to enjoy the toddler years because the school years come around quickly, but I was sure they would never end. And then one morning you were off on the bus eager to for your new adventure of school. And I began to feel the momentum of time pick up speed.

They told me the days would feel long, but the years would fly by!

They told me to revel in the moments you wanted me – needed me – and to embrace them not as interruptions, but to cherish as precious mommy moments. But I took them for granted and believed they would never end. And now you are a strong, capable young woman who doesn’t need her mommy the way you used to.

They told me that if I blinked, you would grow up.

I did.

And you are.

No matter what season of mothering you are in, enjoy today.  Look for and create those mommy moments.  They do grow up too fast, and after today, those moments will either be a memory or a lost opportunity.  What will you choose?

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The Importance of Self-Care: YOU!

The Importance of Self-Care: YOU!

Recently I heard a friend of mine say, “Your kids want to be you.  Be the best you, you can be.”  It was said casually but it resonated.  It was in line with something I share in “9 Things Moms Can Do to Raise Confident Kids” but it put it in a new light.

“Your kids want to be you…

In  “9 Things Moms Can Do to Raise Confident Kids” I talk about how our kids often want to be just like us and then raise the question of what part of mom will they be emulating?  Someone really good at planning meals, or someone really good at connecting in relationship?

It’s a valuable thing to consider and something which I strongly believe will transform who we are as moms.  Are we family CEOs or primary caregivers?  Even without a salary, both can easily sound like jobs if we lose sight of the mission we’ve been given as moms. The specifics of our mission are going to look differently depending on the resources we have to work with and the needs of each of our kids, but the general goal is to love, nurture, teach, and raise up our kids to become kind, thoughtful, and generous people who positively impact the world around them. 

So we focus on the relationship and character and support it with all the things that make home safe, comfortable, and inviting.  Sounds good, right?  Yes.  But it’s still missing something.

You.

On my homepage my core values are “Taking Care of Kids, Taking Care of Home, Taking Care of You.”  It is so easy to focus on the “Taking Care of Kids” and “Taking Care of Home” aspects and to set aside or even forget the “Taking Care of You” part.

So that’s why this next part really got me thinking.

…be the best you, you can be.”

When I say “self-care” what do you actually hear?  Pampering?  Selfish? Rest? Or something else?

We’re told about the importance of self-care, but even so, I find myself bristling when I hear the term self-care.  It has often been couched as a way to legitimize doing what you want over doing something for your family.  Manicures, massages, and girls nights out are all marketed as self-care things that are good for you.  But if time and money are your limited resources, they might begin to feel more selfish than important and just exactly how do you justify the importance of self-care when it feels selfish?

So instead, let’s call it soul care.  That sounds more noble, right?  Set aside time to read and meditate and care for your soul. Just a few minutes each day all to yourself.  But sometimes that even competes with something else.  I have a 20-minute window of calm and quiet.  I also need to make that phone call, get dinner started, and gather supplies for the school project we have to get done tonight.  Taking that time to read feels selfish when I could do that later when the kids are in bed. It’s easier to understand the importance of self-care if it’s about my soul, but my soul is just part of who I am.  Even in its nobility it’s still not enough.

I started using the term smart care because that felt less focused on what I wanted and what I needed to do.  As a description it still feels like the best fit for me, but even so it is still a touch manipulative because it can’t be selfish if it’s smart, right? It’s just not quite right.  It doesn’t go far enough.  It’s still too much about labeling.

But…

…when it was couched in terms of my kids wanting to be like me, it flipped the equation.  How I care for myself is now no longer about me and selfish desires.  It’s about what I need, not only as it relates to raising my kids but even more so when it comes to what I want to model for them.  How I take care of myself will influence how my kids take care of themselves.

Modeling the importance of self-care

I have the benefit of having toddlers, tween, and teens in our home.  With the older kids I can see how what I modeled when they were younger has been embraced and emulated.  It’s natural to see the negative patterns, but trust me when I tell you that it’s easier to help your kids course correct when they’re younger.  I have a new opportunity to intentionally do some things differently as the Littles grow up.

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As I think about good days in our home, I can see some common threads begin to emerge as far as the things I need for myself – things I want my kids to see modeled – and I made a list:

Things Jenn needs:

  • Sleep! I’m a 9-hour a night girl and while I can get by on less, it catches up eventually.
  • Solitude! I don’t want to miss out on anything, but I need times of quiet to myself.  Sometimes I need a nap, sometimes I watch tv, and sometimes I even do a mundane chore, but mostly I have space to hear my thoughts and let things mull around in my mind.
  • Soul-care! I need time to read my Bible and share my heart with God through prayer.  As a mom I find myself praying often throughout the day and while that is a great habit to nurture, I also need intentional time.
  • Spontaneity!  Being a planner means I really like to know what’s coming next, but within that I enjoy fun.  If we see a gorgeous sunset brewing, let’s grab our shoes and chase it down.  When we hear fireworks, lets go see them.  If a neighbor is having a garage sale, let’s stop and meet them.  Spontaneity doesn’t have to be huge, it can be simple.
  • Spouse!  This should be marriage, but I had to keep the S theme going.  When my marriage is good, the tough challenges of parenting are easier to tackle.  I feel loved and supported.  My kids feel secure. We feel like a team and not just a household of individuals.

When I remember the importance of self-care and have these things in place, my kids get a mom that I am much more willing to have them be someday.

So, what do you need?

What do you need to be the best you, you can be for your kids?  It might be hard to come up with a list out of thin air, so over the next week or two, stop and think about your day.  If it’s a good day, think about why it was, or if it was a rough day, think about what was missing.  You will begin to see the patterns emerge so that you can figure out what your “best you” needs to breathe.

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7 Reasons Why Giving Kids Choices Matters

7 Reasons Why Giving Kids Choices Matters

“Do you want the blue plate or the green plate?” I asked my daughter.

“Ummm…the green one.”

My mom was visiting and observed this interchange.  “Why does it matter what color plate she gets?  Just make a decision and give her one.”

I think my response was something along the lines of “you’re right, it doesn’t really matter, so that makes this an easy decision in which to get her input because sometimes I need to make decisions without her input.  Then I can simply say, ‘You’ve been making a lot of decision today, it’s now mommy’s turn to decide.’”

And life went on. 

Until we unexpectedly adopted a sibling set and found our parenting world turned upside down.

We were now learning about trauma and secure attachment.  We were now learning the “why” behind what we did as parents, and it was causing us to not only rethink some things about how we parented these sweet babies, but it was also helping us parent our older kids in a more intentional manner.

So let’s revisit the question my mom posed to me originally.  Why does it matter?  Why give our kids choices?

 

Here are 7 reasons why giving kids choices matters:

Choices give our kids a feeling of control

If it doesn’t matter which color plate they have, then it shouldn’t matter that we let them make that decision.  If we feel strongly that they need to have the plate we gave them, maybe we need to stop and ask ourselves why it’s so important?  Maybe we have to think about our own need for control?

Feeling like we have control over something small begins to give a sense of say or buy-in, which in turn provides a sense of security.  According to PennState Extension, learning to engage that desire for control over what they do is simply an important aspect of growing up and something our kids need.  Giving them choices so they have control is developmentally healthy and necessary.

Giving kids choices helps outline expectations

None of my children like to be told to do something now, but my adopted son has a particular aversion to it.  I suspect it may be something subconsciously tied to how often he was moved to different homes in the 16-months before he gained permanency.  Regardless, for him, how we transition can make or break the next thing we do and it really comes down to setting expectations.

Clear choices help with this transition by laying out the expectations.  A couple weeks ago we were at a friend’s house and the time to start walking home was approaching.  I hadn’t brought a wagon, so I needed him to walk and to do it willingly.  (He’s a big kid, so carrying him was not going to be a good option.)

Here’s how it played out:

Me:  (Getting down to his eye level) Wayne, it’s almost time to go home so we need to finish playing.  Do you want to go home now or in 4-minutes?

Wayne: Can we go home in 5-minutes? (I was so surprised that he asked to compromise, but it was a great opportunity to say yes to him!)

Me:  That sounds great.  I’ll set a timer.  Do you want to hit start or shall I?

He chose to hit start, and when the timer went off, he put away the toys and walked home without incident.

True confession: When this played out, my mama pride level spiked.  This was a textbook perfect interaction (which is probably why I remember it) and we had an audience to witness it!  It was that one moment that counter-balanced the hundreds of much less than perfect interactions.

Over time as I have consistently given choices to outline expectations, smooth transitions are becoming more and more of the norm because he is prepared for and can anticipate what is coming.

Choices help with participation

As our kids begin to feel a sense of control and know what to expect, we start to see our kids begin to participate without resistance.  They eat their food without complaining about the plate choice.  They put away the toys and leave when the timer goes off.  And they do it willing.

When our kids feel like they are part of the process, they engage more readily.  Chores need to be done, so the doing of the chore isn’t a choice we will offer, but maybe we can offer our kids choice as to when they do them.  It changes the chore from being an order to a responsibility.  Choices invite their input into the process as well and begin to lay the ground work for our kids to negotiate their perspective into it.  Some of our best ‘tweaks’ to how we do chores have come as a result of our kids willing engagement in things they would rather not do.

Giving kids choices provides practice making decisions

In her book, The Next Right Thing, Emily P Freeman says that “we make better decisions by making decisions, not by thinking about making decisions. It takes practice…”

Giving our kids choices is providing them opportunities to practice making decisions.  When we begin with inconsequential decisions, like what color plate they want, then they can move on to things that are a bit more challenging.  Over time, the implications of these choices will become more significant, but with practice making decisions, the ability to make them will become more natural and easy.

Blue or red?  Now or in 5-minutes?  Today or tomorrow?  Stay home or come along?  Everyday practicing of choices continues to grow and strengthen our decision-making muscles.

Choices keep us focused

Sometimes things are just too big and choices help us focus.  Have you ever seen a flow chart?  It starts with a big either-or option and you answer yes or no.  Then you follow the arrows on the chart that corresponds with your answer until you find the next set of options.  This continues until you have an “answer”.  Choices become a verbal flow chart to help our kids process and stay focused on what they are thinking about.

For example, “what do you want to do?” or “what toy do you want to play with?” feels like we are giving a choice, but it’s really an open-ended question with endless possibilities.  That can be overwhelming.

Instead, start broadly and work down to the decision.

“Do you want to play in your room or the family room?  The family room? Great.  Do you want to build something or just play?  Build something? OK, would you prefer Legos or Lincoln Logs? Legos.  Excellent.  Let’s get that bin out for you.”

Each set of choices kept the focus on the original open-ended question in a manner that led to a decisive answer.

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Choices help us achieve our desired outcome

Sometimes giving our kids choices helps us achieve the desired outcome we are looking for.  By setting expectations and keeping the focus, we can help our kids choose things in a way that they are on board and believe they made a decision, even though it’s one that we had already determined to be the best option.

Similar to helping provide the expectation of what is about to happen, choices can guide our kids to choose what it is that we wanted in the first place.

For example, if we want them to play inside doing something quiet while we get ready for having company for dinner, then we don’t want to give them any choices that involve playing outside or messy crafts with glitter.  Using the flow chart example above, while keeping our kids focused on making a decision, we can also gently guide our kids choices toward our desired outcome of playing with a quiet toy indoors.

Giving kids choices makes us trust-worthy

This is really the bottom-line goal of giving our kids choices.  We want the trust that is found in secure, connected relationship.  As we give choices and provide follow-through, they see that we do what we say.  The more they experience this, the more they can trust that our choices and decisions are for their good.  So when there are times where choices aren’t available, we can tap into this relational trust.

Sometimes we say things like, “You have done a lot of choosing today, so now it’s my turn.”  Sometimes when safety is at risk we have to just act without explanation.  Regardless, giving choices provides the framework so that when the choice is not theirs to make, they can engage willingly.

It’s your choice…

So, are you going to choose to practice giving choices or just tell your kids what to do?

Here are some questions to help you start thinking about how you will implement giving your kids choices:

  • What are some inconsequential things where you can offer your kids choices and invite their input and involvement?
  • What transitions might improve by giving your kids choices to better prepare them?
  • What are 3 simple choices you can begin offering your kids today?
  • What is one area where giving your kids choices would improve their participation?
  • What questions can you switch from open-ended to providing your kids choices which are more specific?
  • What is one way today that you can use choices to gently guide your kids toward your desired outcome?
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5 Things Every Mom Needs

5 Things Every Mom Needs

The laundry is piling up.  You forgot to change the loads and are re-washing it.  Again.  Dinner didn’t get pulled out of the freezer so it isn’t thawing but it doesn’t matter because the dishwasher isn’t running so there aren’t clean dishes anyway!  The finger-painting keeping the kids occupied so nicely while you were talking on the phone was holding their interest because they were creating a mural on your living room wall.  It’s a swirl of chaos.

Suddenly you feel a hug on your legs and hear these words.

“I’m going to be just like you when I grow up, mommy.”

Melt my heart!  You can be in the middle of the worst day ever, and when sweet, innocent eyes look up at you and that little voice says those words time stops and everything melts away.  It makes it all worth it.

In that moment, being a mom is The. Best!

Unfortunately, those moments can be more like cameos than they are leading roles.  But what if I told you that we can lay a foundation that would make the joy of those moments become something that becomes a more regular part of being a mom?

Then, read on…

Thinking about my kids wanting to be just like me when they grew up, made me panic.  What if they did grow up to be just like me?  It struck me that I was creating a childhood for them full of the importance of cleaning and cooking but I wasn’t really building into them relationally.  I want my kids memories of their childhoods filled with doing things together and enjoying each other.  I want my kids rememberng these “mommy moments” and I knew I needed to be creating more of them than I was currently giving.

If you know my story, you know that I was deep in the depths of overwhelm.  Enjoying each other was not something that was happening.  My kiddos had a stressed out, burned out, checked out mama.

As I tried to climbing my way out of overwhelm I was assuming that I was the problem.  ‘What’s wrong with me?’ I asked myself. Often.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that nothing was wrong with me.  The problem wasn’t me or my desire to do all the things of being a mom.  The problem was that I didn’t have the right structure in place tomake doing the things moms need to do run smoothly.  The things that would let me simply be mom.  Wanting to be a mom who rocks at being a mom, I knew I was needing to make some changes.

What do moms need? Here are 5 things:

1. Relationship

Relationship is what being a mom is all about.  This includes relationships like those with our spouse, our friends, and our own moms, but when it comes to our kids, intentionally nurturing a relationship isn’t always on our radar.

When it came to parenting my kids, intentional relationship wasn’t something that I had ever consciously thought about until we adopted our youngest kids.  As we were learning about the steps that we needed to be taking to intentionally develop and nurture attachment, frankly it added to my overwhelm.  But the more I was learning, the more I began realizing that this was actually the heart of being a mom.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

It was all about the relationship.  A lot of effort during the toddler years is what would be providing the framework to better navigate the teen years.  Why? Because of a deep-rooted relationship.

I began applying this to my older kids, and the changes, though slow (have you ever tried to redirect an ocean liner?) are noticeable.  Things like focusing on what they did right rather than what they were doing wrong, learning to say yes more and saying no less, listening to understand and not just for responding, and stopping to look them in the eye when they were talking to me.

When relationship is the goal, it puts everything else into perspective.

2. Operations

When we were moving into our house almost six years ago, our move was “squeezed in” between a lot of life that couldn’t be slowed down or postponed.  The day after our move I had a fundraising gala that I was organizing.  The kids still had six more weeks of school in 2 different buildings with 3 different schedules, so my days were spent driving and in the car rather than unpacking.  

And then we left on a 2-week trip just days after school ended.  It was literally months before I was able to start to settle our family into our home.

Settling in is more than unpacking and hanging pictures.  It’s just as much about learning patterns and rhythms that work in your space and with your people.  Noticing where coats are dumped, where the mail is naturally being set down, and how convenient it is put clean dishes away in a cupboard are all part of settling in.  Settling is is about operations.

When the operations of the home are running smoothly, the things that build relationship (and memories!) begin happening without becoming major productions themselves.  Last minute invite to the beach?  No problem.  The gear is where it needs to be, and the tasks of the day can be quickly assessed.

3. Cleaning

Everyone loves a clean space.  But cleaning that space is not always very fun.

Why?  High expectations and low appreciation.

When I was in High School, I was hired to clean someone’s home. While I was learning a lot, but I didn’t enjoy it at all.  The list of things needing to be done was lengthy (who dusts their baseboards every week?) and after I was done cleaning, I was told everything I did wrong or missed.  Even though I was rewarded with cash, it was still discouraging.

Whether you hire someone to do this, delegate to your kids, or do it yourself, cleaning is simply part of life.  So why is it overwhelming?

Most likely for the same reasons I dreaded my job – high expectations and low appreciation.  (High expectations are not the same as high standards; Expectations are about quantity and standards are about quality.)  Most often it is literally expecting too much.  There are too many steps.  One job could be broken down into 3 jobs.  Then once it’s done, no one notices when it’s done right, just what was missed. And if no one is going to appreciate your effort, why try?  That’s when standards slip and the whole thing falls apart.

After battling with our kids about dinner clean-up, we finally took that one large task that was taking them 90-minutes or more to do, and broke it into 3 smaller tasks, none of which typically should take more than 15 minutes.  It cut the time in half!

And by using a simple checklist [link to checklist] to outline the expectations, when it’s done, we can focus on what is done well and work on improving specific steps.  Our kids begin to take pride in their work.  And the cleaning becomes a natural part of life.

4. Kitchen

Have you ever seen the meme that says something like “If you could choose to never do one of these things again for the rest of your life, what would you choose?” Following it is a list of things like cooking, cleaning, yard work, and other tedious chores.

I always choose cooking.

Similar to cleaning, cooking just has to happen.  Eating is something people like doing.  And while we have choices about ordering in, eating out, or cooking from scratch, whatever we choose has an impact on our time, money, and long-term health.  No pressure, right?

But similar to cleaning, there are too many things wrapped up in cooking.  It should really be called “Kitchen” because it involves planning meals, shopping for meals, managing food inventory, prepping for meals, and then the actual cooking.

It’s a lot to process at 4:00 in the afternoon.  And that’s why I always chose cooking.  It was too overwhelming to wing it.

Breaking this down into the smaller parts and learning to make those part of your family’s rhythms can flip this on its head and make the kitchen run effortlessly.  (I’ll even let you in on my secret weapon: Plan to Eat.)

5. Simplicity

This feels like a no-brainer, right?  But it’s not as simple as it seems (see what I did there?).  When something is simple, it works.  Most of the time something doesn’t work because it’s too complicated.  And, funny enough, most of the time it just requires a simple tweak to make it less complicated.

Simplicity is the key to success. And success is the desired outcome pretty much across the board. So, don’t overcomplicate things.

Want to be a mom who ROCKS?  Join me on this journey.  Start by downloading your 9 Things You Can Do To Raise a Confident Kid.

 

 

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