How I empowered my kids to clean

Today I woke up and took a different approach to chores. It worked well. The chores got done, and I didn’t have to nag (very much).

Usually Saturday morning chores look like this: I empty the dishwasher, wash and load breakfast dishes, then clean the rest of the house. Meanwhile, I argue with the kids to get them to make their beds (which somehow takes forever, check out this video for a little taste). When they are (finally) done, I delegate more chores until I feel we are done. It’s a very top-down, command and control approach.

I’ve been reflecting lately about how to empower and engage my kids. I want to give them opportunities to make decisions, even if they are small. After all, most of my day job is focused on creating an empowering and positive culture. I teach others how to coach their employees instead of telling them what to do. I encourage creativity and involvement. I don’t always apply these skills at home. Today I tried it, and it felt good.

I started by telling my 7-year old daughter (my project team) that I wanted our home to be clean (our mission). Then I asked for her help creating a list of things we would need to do to create a clean and healthy home. We brainstormed together and made a list (action plan). She added more than I planned on doing today (like cleaning the floors. I was ready to vacuum but not particularly energized about scrubbing them today. Oh well, I wrote it down.)

I told her we would work together to complete the list. I empowered her choose 2-3 chores that she wanted to do first (limiting work in progress builds momentum and is less overwhelming). I asked her to put her initial by those items. I also chose a few tasks and wrote “Mom” by them. I was surprised she picked empty the dishwasher first. That’s usually where I start. I decided to start by making everyone’s beds. She makes her bed every day. I’m pretty sure she’s sick of it. I actually enjoyed making beds instead of doing the dishes. We were off to a good start.

Every time we finished a task we got the satisfaction of checking it off (celebrate every win). When we finished everything we were assigned, we picked 2-3 more items (kept up the momentum). We continued until everything was complete (mission accomplished!). She even cleaned the floor. I empowered her to use her own creative method of wiping up any visible dirt or spots with a baby wipe.

This approach worked today. Maybe it was brilliant. Maybe it was just effective because it was new. Either way, it was a fun experiment!

Note: the words up top on the white board are our words for the year. Mine is adventure and my daughter’s word is perseverance. Yep, my 7 year old chose a more mature word than me. My response when she told me her word was “do you even know what that means?” She said yes, it means to never give up. This kid is my inspiration in many ways.

Click here for more on how we manage morning and evening daily chores.

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