Tuesday, May 28, 2013

On Kids and Chores and Gratitude

(This post is in response to a sweet comment on the girls’ garden party post. Although I didn’t intend originally to make my reply a blog post (!) by the time I was finished I couldn’t post it in my comment section because it was too long, and I thought maybe someone else might find something of benefit in our conversation.)
Hi Sandy!

I'm very glad you commented! It brought tears to my eyes when I read that you had a miscarriage, (I'm so sorry!) and that God used the words He gave me in that letter to comfort you.  I kept thinking about that yesterday - with amazement.  Truly it is not to us, but to Him belongs glory.  His kindness and mercy reach beyond anything we can imagine, don't they?
Thank you for your kind words about our home, too. Oh my! How God has sanded some pointy corners off me in that area.  :)  I'm thrilled for you that you can be home and homeschool your 2 little littles.  You'll never regret it!  It's hard work - but it's the best kind of hard work I've ever known.
I am happy to share some of the things we do in our efforts to maintain order around here.  Feel free to sift through them and add them to your mixing bowl as your family grows and changes.  Although I imagine your philosophy will remain consistent, your approach will most likely have several transitions.  I know mine has!  
I look for ways the kids can learn to be responsible and feel their contribution is important to our family. For instance, everyone has a laundry day, where they are in charge of running all the dirty laundry through the washer and dryer. We all help fold and put away each day, but only one is in charge of making sure it all gets clean! During busy school days, they can change a load in between subjects, or before or after lunch.

For years, we've had "teams" for kitchen clean up. I spent time in the beginning showing them the things I wanted them to do, wipe counters, clear the table, vacuum, etc. The makeup of the teams has changed many times, depending on the age and ability of the kids.  For a while we've had the girls alternating days with the boys. Recently Glenn had a great suggestion for a change that we are all very pleased with! Instead of the teams doing all 3 meals for each day, we have switched things up.  So now the twins and Olivia take care of breakfast clean up, Kate and Noah do lunch, and Alix and Luke do dinner.  The kids think this is great! So you see how we have maintained our philosophy that the kids should be helpful and learn responsibility in the kitchen - but our approach for the way they are doing that has modified.

We don't have assigned jobs for the kids regarding most things. If they want to assign the tasks within their teams when they clean, they do. But our attitude has been that we all are blessed to be in this family together, so we all work together. I'll call different kids to set the table each night, or to run in and fold a couple of loads, or to take the trash out.  And although I try to mentally keep track and spread it out among them, we emphasize that there is no perfect "evenness" of effort.  Life will never be perfectly "fair”, and we want them instead to feel thankful.  Thankful they have healthy bodies and minds and can do the things that need to be done around a house. Thankful they are blessed with many sisters and brothers and can serve each other... and know the blessing of being served! :) We want them to have willing, obedient hearts no matter what they are asked to do.

We clean house on Saturdays - sometimes Friday afternoon if we have time.  I showed the kids the way I wanted them to clean the kitchen/bathrooms, vacuum, etc. when they were younger. When they were little, they all came with me with rags in hand and we worked together. Now they can do it without me.  We wipe down the kitchen and bathrooms, clean the toilets and wash the bathroom floors, take out trash, and vacuum. They take turns each week, deciding among themselves now and pairing up for the jobs they know need to be done.
Their rooms are their responsibility, and although we like them to be generally picked up by the end of the day, I don’t require everything in its place. I used to, but not anymore. So they help each other pick up toys and clothes.  But sometimes after a particularly busy day, I may find myself stepping over clothes that were tossed aside, or books strewn about, as I sit down to read to the little girls in their beds.  And it’s ok.  Even though I like things tidy, I’d rather spend time at night reading to them, then cleaning up.  I’ve realized that now is when they are my little babies, too soon they won’t be little anymore.

I've learned to alter my expectations of them, depending on age/experience, etc.  And although they work hard, they aren't going to do it exactly like I would.  And that's ok!  I just try to be part of the teams every couple of weeks so I can catch something they may have missed. 

Can I share a funny story with you about this?  One night after dinner, about 7 years ago, I remember feeling frustrated with poor 10 year old Luke.  He was using the shop-vac in the kitchen after dinner and I noticed he was missing what I thought were incredibly obvious crumbs! Probably on purpose! I began to point out the error of his ways to him, when Glenn stopped me and pointed out something *I* was missing.  I remember saying something like, "I don't think you care about those crumbs on the floor" to Luke.  And then Glenn gently said, "He's a 10 year old boy.  You're right, he doesn't care about the crumbs on the floor."  :) What a light bulb moment for me! How ridiculous I had been! I laugh right now as I think about it.
The kids are learning practical, helpful things about stewardship and responsibility as we teach them how to clean, and how to order things, etc. But their motivation for doing this is entirely different than mine!  They want to please me with their efforts. They really don't care about how many dangerous germs they have just removed from the bathroom. What matters to them is that I am happy with their efforts, and that God sees their obedience. So I try to remember to encourage them as they are working.  They love to hear words of praise, it makes them work even harder! Especially if I point out something specific they have done well, when they didn't realize I had noticed. And when we're finished with our Saturday chores, or preparing the house for company, I often call everyone to me and say something like, "Thank you for all your hard work!  I couldn't have done it without you! You've blessed me."  Even the big kids love to hear that.

Well, I was afraid I would have a hard time keeping this short!  And I was right! :)  I'm glad to share the things God has taught me with you, anytime you ask, Sandy. I'm learning every day myself.


  1. Mommy, I am one hundred percent sure that we love you tens of thousands times more than children whose mothers don't punish them, or make them clean their rooms the kitchen the laundry, etc. I am positive that an enormous contribution to our love for you is your loving spirit and actions toward us, but a large part of it is all the hard work you and Daddy put into raising us. I can assure you that I will be calling you a lot when I have children of my own to raise. ;) You two are wonderful parents. Thank you. I love you!

  2. Mrs Orr, thank you! That is so helpful. I come from South Africa, where it is the norm to have just 2children, and to employ someone to help in the house. I grew up like that, and was in for a big surprise when I got married, and we didn't have anyone to help out. I had no clue! I learnt a lot from reading your post, and I think my girls will be much better prepared to run their own homes one day by having a "team effort" attitude in our home. Your daughter's comment is such a testimony! It is such an encouragement to see your children "rising to call you blessed-" I pray that my girls will one day be able to say the same of me- a big motivation to keep going during these little years;-) And yes! Isn't it amazing that the Lord uses even the internet for His glory and purposes? We will probably only meet (in the usual way;-) in heaven one day, but your faithfulness has encouraged a Christian sister thousands of kilometres away:-)

  3. Alix - I love you soooo much!! Thank you, Sweetie!

    Sandy - You're welcome! Keep up the good work!

  4. Sandy,
    I was in a hurry before, but wanted to tell you how you have encouraged me, too. I pray the Lord will bless you with many more babies!

  5. I'm not sure if I should say this or not, but I'm going to! :) There are some large families that make me quite thankful that I only have two. And then there is your family. And the Worley's. And I get quite jealous! You make me want to be a part of it all.

  6. Sharron - you are a part of it!
    Your family is like family to us.

    Love you!

  7. Ended up at your blog somehow - via Miss Mustard Seed, I think -- but I wanted to tell you what an encouragement it is to read the stories of your family and home. Your home is filled with grace and I am inspired to learn from you. Thank you for sharing your family's ways... I have three littles and definitely need to start involving them in chores in a family way! Thank you, in any case. Bless you.

  8. Sarah, Thank you so much for your kind words. They are an encouragement to me! God bless you and your husband as you love and train your three little Treasures.