My kiddos don’t like to be told what to do (they're like their mom), but the house was a mess, and it was time to do some cleaning. I was anticipating the weekly whine as I prepared to give out orders.
My oldest is ten. He’s responsible, smart and capable. Yet, when it comes time to clean the house, I find myself giving him detailed instructions:
Take the bowls to the dishwasher
Pick up the books
Fold the blankets . . .
And sometimes, he bristles. Now, I believe in cheerful obedience, but I also believe that parents shouldn’t exasperate their children. I can be pretty exasperating. (If you know me, quit nodding!) I realized that I was not treating him according to his maturity.
But this time, before the barking -- and the bristling -- began, I had a light bulb moment. You see, I’m tired of playing the drill sergeant barking orders, and I think my rascals might just be tired of being bossed. A new approach popped into my head.
I looked at The Thinker and said, “I want to try something new. The house needs cleaned, but I’m not going to tell you what to do. I want you to look around, see what needs to be done and do it.” I walked away and began working on the tasks that I needed to complete.
And guess what? It worked. He began cleaning up everywhere he saw a need. I wasn’t barking. He wasn’t bristling. We both went to work, and the house looks presentable. Along the way, I had chances to compliment him for noticing things and taking care of them without prompting and with persevering. He beamed.
My younger son is a little less responsible, a little less mature and much more distractible. He’s also less bristly, but I get tired of reminding him to finish when he loses focus. I used a narrower approach. Instead of giving him the whole house to think about at once, I pointed him to the family room, the dining room, the stairs, etc. But I said basically the same thing. “See what needs to be done and do it.”
And it worked. As I was upstairs sorting laundry, I could hear the sweeper running in the family room. No asking. No reminding. No ordering.
Now I just need to get started on Baby Girl, the biggest mess-maker of all. I think I’ll ask her to help me pick up the napkins she just emptied out of the drawer. As tough as might be, the Princess needs to learn to serve too.