“When I let go of the whole idea of “chores” I was surprised at how willing people I’d been wanting to coerce became to just pitch in and help clean up any given mess. I also learned how much certain people had hated certain things that had been forced on them by the bogus idea of a family chore chart.”
From the archives: Posted on 30th July 2000
“Why isn’t it a kid’s responsibility to clean up mess THEY make? I’m having a hard time getting my head around this one. I kinda know it’s not, but when dh argues with me I can’t give a convincing reason why it’s not their responsibility. Help appreciated!”
If I make a mess I do happen to think that it’s a good idea for me to clean up the mess but I also think that it’s a good idea for me to clean it up when and in the way that I want to do it. I know many kids who feel the same way. However, it can also be a nice thing to work together to clean up, as people see fit. There are a lot of things that I like to do better with company and housework is one of them. I also like to cook with someone hanging around talking to me, even if the other person isn’t cooking along with me (though that is nice too).
I feel like a kid’s room is their own domain to keep in any way they choose. Our house is as much my kids’ house as it is mine. My husband and I don’t tell each other “you made this mess, now you get to clean it up.” If there’s a mess whoever can or is willing or both of us together (or whatever combination of people) cleans it up. I’ve known of a Taking Children Seriously teen who likes to clean cleaning up a mess that hir parents have made just to make a room look better in hir eyes. Unasked. I don’t think it’s right or necessary to make anyone else clean up around here.
Young children aren’t aware of messes in the same way that I am, being well-coerced with too many entrenched and weird ideas about what is “good” in this area. They are very aware of having fun, creating cool things, learning, etc. They have good reasons when they don’t want to put something away, I listen to their reasons.
I think it’s fine to share my ideas about cleaning with my kids. I think this is useful stuff to know—how to clean a toilet, a shower, how to dust with a damp rag or furniture oil, how to wash dishes, how to use the washing machine and dryer, etc. I like to approach all of this in the same way that we’ve approached washing a car. It CAN be fun. My kids all love to wash the cars because it’s not anything like a chore (it could be in a coercive environment though)—it’s a lot of play and the car gets clean too. Some people like to put on a CD when they clean, or the radio. Either of those things are great but the main thing I like to do is talk with my kids or husband while we work and show the kids how to do something if they want to know. If they aren’t interested in my way of doing something that’s fine—we’ll work side by side each doing it our own way. My husband is the kind of guy who wants to pack the laundry into the washing machine with a broom handle. It’s just the way he wants to do it. We have a lot of laundry in our household—why in the world would I complain since he sees plowing through the laundry as just part of what he wants to do??? Same with the kids. I think it’s great to have an environment where people work willingly together to get something done…
I have a lot of ideas about housekeeping to let go of and lots of attitudes to relearn. When I let go of the whole idea of “chores” I was surprised at how willing people I’d been wanting to coerce became to just pitch in and help clean up any given mess. I also learned how much certain people had hated certain things that had been forced on them by the bogus idea of a family chore chart.
I have heard of some families that do decide to assign themselves certain household jobs on a regular basis and the parents say that it’s all done noncoercively. That hasn’t worked here but I suppose that it could be done in a noncoercive way. Maybe I’m just too lazy to wade through the common preference finding to get to it. I think I have more reassessing of the whole idea of housecleaning to do before I could begin to approach something like that with eight other people. Meanwhile everyone around here cleans what they see fit and anyone who feels the need asks for help.