This Parenting Expert Says You Need to Give Your Kid More Chores
Say there was a professional organizer in your life who had also worked on organizing projects for Oprah Winfrey — would you trust her to help you whip your home and family life into shape?
Um, I'm thinking the answer to that is yes and also, where do we start?
Well, we start with meeting Julie Morgenstern, a world-renowned organizational guru and author of the new book, “Time to Parent: Organizing Your Life to Bring out the Best in You and Your Child.” Sounds lovely, right? I sure as heck could use a little more organization in my life and I know I definitely could use more of bringing out my best. I mean, my “best” right now looks like a lot of thrown-together dinners, exhaustion at the end of the day, and less-than-stellar parenting moments. I pretty much go to bed every night hoping to do better the next day, only to repeat it all the next.
So, what's the solution? In a lot of ways, my family is pretty typical; my husband and I both work and have businesses on the side, our kids are involved in activities, and did I mention we are just plain tired? I have plenty of resources, from calendars to digital tools to things that I didn't even have as a new parent 10 years ago, like online grocery shopping (game-changer!).
And yet, life still feels tiring and overwhelming at times. Could organization really make it better? According to Morgenstern, the answer is yes, but the real key isn't just about us as parents doing more —
Instead, the real key is getting our kids to.
Yup, you read that right. According to the master Morgenstern, the real reason so many parents get overwhelmed and exhausted trying to keep a household running is because the success of a household system relies on every person in the system fulfilling a role; it can't succeed if only one person is doing their part.
In other words, moms of the world, it's time for us to stop trying to do it all and realize that we're only doing a disservice to our whole family if we skimp on the kids doing chores.
In her book, Morgenstern recommends presenting “chores” as “family tasks” and working within your family member's strengths and preferences. That doesn't necessarily mean that your daughter or son gets to dictate what they do, but that there's nothing wrong with dividing tasks in a way that makes sense for everyone. If your daughter loves taking care of the dogs but hates setting the table, go with it. The point overall is to not break down tasks or chores one-by-one, but instead to see running the house as a family responsibility — as long as it gets done, you're all winning.
If you have trouble breaking down the tasks, Morgenstern also advises using index cards as a simple way to visually show your kids what distribution of labor looks like. Write down all the tasks and pile them in front of the person who's been doing them all (hint: you), so they can get the picture, quite literally, of how unbalanced the tasks are.
On her blog, Morgenstern revealed that the key, after assigning out family tasks, comes down to parents who 1) don't nag and remind about tasks that need to be done, but set the expectation early on that everyone completes their work and 2) doesn't “just do it” when the kid inevitably forgets. Instead, each family member must recognize their own role and how the rest of the tasks suffer as a result.
Now, as wonderful as all of this sounds, I do have a confession: I am writing this after spending a literal four total hours today cleaning my kids' rooms. When they got home, I was so excited to show them the fruits of my labor. (And yes, I know I need to get out more, but in my defense, I've been home for a month straight with sick kids, so you'll have to forgive my excitement over organizing some Shopkins …)
I started with my son and excitedly told my son to go check out his room. He sprinted upstairs, then came back down, thoroughly unimpressed, an annoyed look on his face. “Mom, it's just clean,” he remarked, almost as if he felt sorry for me and my extreme naivety. “That's not a surprise.”
Clearly we are all in need of a little intervention around these parts. Kids, meet your chores, er, I mean family tasks.