3 Ways to Get Your Kids to Help Clean…and not moan about it

Every night (well most nights) I do what I call a “power blitz” clean up in my house. I motor through the house picking up items and putting them where the belong.

I shut closet doors, push dining room chairs in, put shoes back in shoe baskets, hang up jackets…that kind of thing. It’s so damn satisfying to see how much better (cleaner) everything appears after just 10 minutes.

Often I ask the children to help with the tidy up process. They groan (and moan and complain) and I ignore it.  Rushing by them with a ‘whoosh’ I give them simple requests such as:

“Just tidy up the bathroom and put stuff back where it belongs.” {like putting the toothbrush back in the basket instead of leaving it on the counter…}

“Make sure all your dirty clothes are in your hamper and not stuffed under a couch.” {true story. the sock is purple. I refuse to pick it up…}

“Empty your backpacks completely so I can get all the Tupperware back that currently lives in the bottom of them.” {thank god for Menchies spoons or my kids would be eating pudding with their fingers.}

Simple stuff. But the moans and groans always come…

Now I  get that they are kids. I get that they don’t wanna clean up. I get that they will cut corners to be able to go back to playing whatever they were doing before I so rudely interrupted.

But seriously…how hard is it to hang up your damn jacket when the hook is LITERALLY right above the place you chose to drop it? Apparently pretty hard.

So here’s what I’ve started to do to get them to do their part and feel good about it:

Be an Example

If I don’t make my bed everyday why do they have to make theirs? If I leave my shoes sitting out why would they put theirs away? If I leave my dirty dishes on the counter.. You know where I’m going with this. Be the change you want to see in your home.

Set realistic goals

Remember that kids have varying capabilities based on their age. My girls are 3 years apart and yet I often find myself expecting the same of my youngest as I do her older sister. Setting realistic goals for each individual child will help everyone feel accomplished.

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Follow Through

This is one I really need to work on. Like most parents I’m really good with saying “if you don’t do this then you wont get that…” and then not following through. Often it’s because taking away a luxury like TV time will make my life harder and so it’s easy to give in. And my kids were on to me. Now I’m taking a harder line and following through on punishments and – surprise, surprise – things are getting done.

By sticking to these three rule I’m finding it much easier to get my kids to help around the house with a smile on their face.  I hope they work for you too!

Good luck!

 

Letting them learn the hard way…

Last night I asked my youngest daughter for the 400th time if she had done EVERYTHING on her bedtime checklist (knowing full well she hadn’t) and as she confidently nodded and climbed into bed…I felt myself start to lose it.

She saw it too and quickly scrambled out of bed to consult the checklist that hangs conveniently on the bathroom mirror – where it has hung for almost a year now – and figure out what she had missed.

“Sorry mummy…” she called from the bathroom. “I forgot to pick out my clothes for tomorrow.”

And then she proceeded to happily pick out an outfit, lay it on the end of her bed and climb back in. Smiling at me sweetly as she settled her head onto her pillow – her pink blankie clutched in her hand – not a care in the world.

“That’s one mark off for you.” I said and immediately her face changed into a mask of rage.

“That’s not fair!” she yelled.

A “mark” means a dollar off her monthly allowance. Losing just one seriously impacts her ability to add to a growing pile of annoying little Shopkins.

“Of course it’s fair,” I responded in a voice that was much more calm and composed than I felt. “If you don’t do your jobs you don’t earn your allowance.”

The argument that followed was not epic by any standards but she was certainly passionate about her defense. Which was that it was obviously all my fault for not reminding her enough to do her jobs.

And that brings us to the real issue. How many chances should kids get?  How many gentle reminders?  How many helping hands?  How long until we let it go and simply let them learn the hard way.

Because I know deep down that letting them learn things the hard way is important. That letting them fail and face the subsequent consequences is a valuable lesson…

“oh you forgot your gym shoes (after I reminded you 8 times to pack them!) well I guess you have to sit on the bench and watch your friends play without you.”

“You didn’t hand in that field trip permission form in time (that I signed 2 weeks ago and put in your planner for you!) I guess you can’t go then.”

“You didn’t eat your yogurt tube (again!) and now I have to throw it away (again!) so no dessert for you tonight.”

This last one – not eating the healthier parts of the lunch – has been a battle I have waged with both my girls for years. I hate the waste so much that I immediately go code red. They beg me to let them eat it now instead. They argue that I packed them too many things in their lunch so it’s my fault.

Then they cry and look at me with such betrayal and resentment that I feel myself start to cave. Because it just feels wrong – like against my nature – to not swoop in and rescue my girls from themselves. Even knowing it’s the right thing to do doesn’t make it any easier.

Because as important as the lesson is and as much as I know they must learn this for themselves – I hate how real the tears are. And how deeply they feel the anger and frustration – even though they have brought it on themselves.

I know every battle scar will be worth it in the end. But that doesn’t make each one hurt any less…

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A Girl and Her Lamb

The very first baby item I bought when I found out I was pregnant with my first baby was a stuffed lamb.

I had a stuffed lamb when I was a little girl and when I spotted this one in Chapters one day and absolutely had to have it. It was pure white, soft as – well – a babies bottom, and had the perfect little sleepy expression on it’s face. I fell in love.

Lamby lived in the crib long before we brought our first baby girl home. They bonded right from the start and he has slept with her every night since.

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He has gone on all of our trips with us.

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Accompanied my girl to every sleepover.

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He has played many different roles in my girls imaginary worlds.

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And provided comfort when she was scared (like her first visit to the Orthodontist)…

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He isn’t as white as he once was and his neck is a little more wobbly than it used to be. But that sleepy look remains…

Last week, one more before school, my girl came into my room with a dark, concerned look on her face.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, expecting a complaint about her sister to be the cause.

She shocked me by bursting into tears and sobbing. Like from the depths of her soul sobbing. She was wounded.

I dropped everything and ran to her. It was that kind of sob…

“I can’t find Lamby!” she finally managed to get out between her cries of anguish. “He’s just gone.”

Now…I relaxed slightly at her words because really…it’s a stuffie we’re talking about here. Plus, where could he have gone since bedtime when we hadn’t left the house?

“I’m sure he’s in your bedroom.” I reassured her as I wiped the tears from her face. “He’s just hiding on you.”

And you are absolutely the worst “looker for things” I have ever met. I thought…but didn’t say…

Little sister joined the hunt and we tore the room apart. And we found him. Squished between the bed and the wall – his little face looking up and just waiting to be found.

The relief on her face was so evident. She pulled Lamby to her into a big hug and looked at him right in the face as if to make sure he was okay.

And that’s when I realized that Lamby was much more than ‘just a stuffie’ – he’s a member of our family.

Three Phrases Parents Really Need to Stop Using

One thing I’ve noticed in the ten years since I’ve become a parent is that parents really like to tell other parents how to be parents.

Some of this advice – while not solicited – is well warranted. Some of this advice is passed on from well meaning place.

And some of this advice is simply given to give the giver a sense of serious superiority.

The common thread I have found that connects all of the advice giving and parenting banter is the continuing need to justify what has been said. To back up where the wisdom comes from. To validate. But why do we need the validation?

I say we don’t. I believe that we can change the tone of our conversations with each other by simply eliminating a few key phrases from our vocabulary. So here – in no particular order – are the 3 phrases I believe parents need to stop using:


Don’t get me wrong I love my kids…but…

I am pretty sure all parents are guilty of saying this one. And guilt is the driving factor behind it. We shouldn’t feel the need to add this preamble when we want to talk about how tough being a parent is – because it is tough. And it’s also human nature – however wrong – for us to want to share our negative experiences more than our positive ones.

When it comes to the ups and downs of raising children I totally understand why we want to share the negatives more. It’s because we crave understanding. We need others to say that this too shall pass. We need to gather hope from other parents that have been where we are.

I think it’s time we owned up to that need with out adding the caveat about loving our kids. For the most part we know that the good outweighs the bad here. That we didn’t make a huge mistake having kids. So drop the preamble and let’s get right to the part where we tell each other its all going to be okay.


It’s not that I’m complaining but…

Stop right there because I know where this one is going. You are about to complain. And I for one believe that you should never lead off a complaint by saying you are not complaining.

As parents – hell as people! – we have a lot to complain about. There is always something that isn’t going our way. Someone that is letting us down.  And so please…feel free to complain about said things. Let me commiserate with you. Let us suffer in this together.

Let free your complaints…and let’s start calling a spade a spade.


I’m not saying I know better but…

Let me guess…you do it differently and find it works better for you. I knew it! Parents, can we just stop with this one? Like really.

I don’t mind you sharing with me how you might choose to do said thing – be it sleeping arrangements or food prep or breastfeeding or discipline or whatever – but please don’t be so naive to think that your way is the best way for everyone. Just…no.


Parenthood is a club with millions of members. There is no crazy initiation ceremony required, there is no application review process.

This not-so exclusive club has members from all over the world and from all walks of life – and sometimes the only common thread we have between us is that we produced offspring.

So let’s stop the sugar coating and the prefacing of the things we say to each other. Parenting isn’t easy…and none of us are doing it perfectly. But if we can own our imperfections and find support in each other it’s going to make the experience a lot more enjoyable.

I’m not saying I know better…but…

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The Adultiest Adult

Every once in while – during a random moment carrying groceries in from the car, folding laundry or paying bills – I have a strange sensation come over me. This weird feeling of wondering what the hell I am doing.

When did I become a grown up? When did I become a person that’s responsible for running a house and raising kids and making sure everyone flosses?

I must admit sometimes the shock of it is overwhelming enough to make me stop in my tracks…literally frozen with confusion.

Wasn’t I 25 just a few minutes ago?

Who are these children and why can’t they stop asking me so many damned questions?

Because this is just too much. I don’t wanna be a grownup…its way too much responsibility for me.

And then…just as quickly as the thought appears…it’s gone. And my brain switches right back into mother mode and I start mentally scrolling through my to-do list.

The moments are fleeting and infrequent but they always manage to surprise me with their conviction. And how they make me feel like an actor in a movie playing the part of busy working mum. And they leave me with one little nagging thought…

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Are we really the worst parents ever?

I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about today’s generation of parents and how we indulge our children too much, give them too many choices and too much control.

Many of these articles have awesome click bait headlines like “Are We the Worst Generation of Parents Ever?” and the like. And despite the sensationalist nature of the headlines, many of them also make a whole lot of sense and speak a crap load of truth.

I found myself nodding in agreement with many of the statements. And also feeling guilty of the failures I was clearly making as a parent. Like trying to hard to make sure my kids like me…

I’ve had the “can parents be friends with their kids?” conversation with many of my friends. And the conversations usually end with us all in agreement that we can’t really be both friend and parent…but also that many of us are still trying really hard to make the impossible happen. What is lost in that quest is our level of authority as a parent. Our very important role as the rule setter, the boss, the one in charge…has been lost.

Russell Peters touched on this phenomenon in his latest Netflix stand up special “Notorious”. Granted he was referring to “white parents” in the show but I’ve seen it cross over all ethnicities.

The joke was – and I’m totally paraphrasing here – about a mother asking her 5 year old son what he wants for dinner. She didn’t give him any restrictions or parameters – “when you know what you want you tell me sweetie. I love you. kiss kiss kiss.” Basically handing the kid all the control.

Peters jokes that the kid could have asked for a shoe for dinner and she would have said okay – that’s how accommodating white parents are. While in his childhood experience he ate what dad wanted for dinner – every night, no exceptions, eat it or else. So which approach is the right one? Or are they both just a little bit extreme.

At our house there is only ever one dinner prepared and everyone eats it. No kids meals and adult meals – its all for one and one for all. Sounds like I’ve set good parameters right? Good ground rules?

Doesn’t mean I don’t still negotiate with my kids through the meal. Doesn’t mean I haven’t said – many a time – “just eat 5 more bites.” or “okay, one more carrot and you’re done.

And that certainly doesn’t mean that my kids never get dessert unless they have finished every last lick of food on their plate. Often they win the dinner battles and I know I have exposed weakness. I know they have worn me down at the end of a busy work day. That they saw their opportunity and pounced.

Pick your battles right? But does picking our battles and letting our kids win sometimes really earned us the title of the “worst generation of parents EVER?”

My girls play soccer and they have one other creative class – acting for one and art for the other. 3 nights a week each for lessons. Am I over programming them? Or encouraging them to try new things – both athletic and creative?

I was happy when my oldest daughter said she wanted to get more serious about soccer and join a select team next year meaning more practices and more effort on all our parts. Am I putting too much pressure on her to succeed? Or supporting her desire to excel in her chosen activity.

I’m not ready to let my almost 10 year old walk the 4 minutes on super quiet side streets from school to our house on her own even though at her age I walked 15 minutes down a major street to get home.  Does that mean I’m too overprotective? Or just cautious?

My kids have chores that they are supposed to do regularly. They don’t get allowance for doing them…and they don’t always do them regularly. Am I being too easy on them by not making them do them every day?

I honestly don’t know sometimes. Because there are days where I would give anything to not have any damn classes at all. And then other times where I watch my kids perform at acting or on the soccer field and I swell with pride at what they are able to do. So determined and successful at such a young age.

I pretty much had no programming in my childhood. I think I must have taken a few swimming lessons and I also remember going to Brownies but that’s about it. And I don’t think I turned out that bad.

Often I look at my girls and am struck by how well rounded they actually are. How when they play they still use their imagination – hell…they still have an imagination. And they are able to write stories and create art and play games and laugh. And then I see them at soccer practice working on new skills and trying them out. Focused and determined.

Parenting is a crap shoot. We do our best, we make our choices and we choose our battles. And all with the goal of raising our kids right and preparing them for the world.

The thing that puts a kink in that plan is the world we are preparing them for is not the same one we experienced when we left high school. And in knowing that we as parents find ourselves forced to change the game plan on the fly. To adjust our strategy and our trajectory.

And we do so with the hope that we manage to stay just enough on target for both their sakes and ours.

Are we the worst generation of parents ever? Maybe. But I suspect that many of the follies that have earned us the label of “worst” have come from a place of love for our children, concern about doing what’s right by them and also – a shit load of articles that make us think we’re doing this parenting thing all wrong.

Ultimately the only judge that matters is your own kid.

Ask them if you suck at being their parent. But be prepared for the answer. Because if there is one thing you can count on your kids for…it’s brutal honesty.

 

Saturdays at the Park

Saturdays are soccer day in our house.Little one has soccer first…in the gym…and then after a quick bite of lunch we rush off to big sister’s game outside.

When you’re 6 it’s hard to sit for an hour and watch the big kids play soccer…she can usually manage half the game if I bring snacks.

So the other half of the game we hit up the park and see what kind of fun we can get into.  I’m starting to really look forward to these moments with her. When we talk about our days and our dreams and our hopes.

She’s funny and sweet and a little crazy. And she’s all mine.