My children like cleaning windows – and what this has taught me about engaging them in other household tasks

My children like cleaning windows. This fairly unremarkable fact is something that I’m immensely proud of. It warms my heart to see them joyfully clean them. Apologies if you know me and I’ve already bored you with my pride on this subject!

In all honesty, while this domestic task is one they will ask me if they can do, there are others which have taken more effort to enthuse them about.

This led me to wonder what is it about the windows?

Window cleaning for me is a lovely thing when it’s done. I love the extra light and the sense that life just feels a bit more shiny. It is not something that I have ever felt guilty for not making time to do. It doesn’t really need to be done very often. If it’s not done, we can still play or bake or have friends over. Windows aren’t stressful for me, but they take time to do well and I am full of appreciation for anyone stepping in to do this job.

Many other domestic tasks are much more loaded. They easily get wrapped up in stress, shame, guilt or anxiety.
We worry that visitors will judge us for not doing them or not doing them well enough, we can feel less for not doing them, feel anxious about when they will get done or how we will do necessary things while the jobs left undone.
Anything that has those sort of worries or negative associations is hard to ask others to help with in a motivating way.
When we feel anxious, ashamed or frustrated before the job is started, those around us will pick up that stress and feel edgy and reluctant to engage.

Since I realised about the windows, there are things I do to help my children engage more around the house.
I check how I’m feeling before I ask them to get involved
– Am I feeling frustrated, anxious or stressed? If so I need to deal with that before speaking to them or maybe leave it until a better, calmer time.
– Do I need a drink of water? Am I tired?
– How do I feel about what I’m asking them to do? Are we getting together to give the house some love or am I desperate for them to get competent at housework because other wise something terrible may happen in the future? Knowing if I’m coming from a relaxed, purposeful place or one of anxiety and stress, lets me know if now it the right time to ask them to join in.

– I make sure there is enough time for what I’m asking them to do, so they don’t feel pressurised
– I make sure they have the equipment they need and that the job is simple enough to do, or is broken down into simple steps
– I frame the job simply as a task that needs to happen, avoiding blaming anyone for it not being done already
– I make a point of appreciating their work

In short I try to make their involvement in looking after the house and their things more windows and less stress, knowing that they are going to be happier and crucially, more likely to engage , if that is my attitude.

Along with some of my APDO colleagues, last week I was at a talk by Shiri Atsmon, founder of Helpful Kids. Shiri has developed some really helpful resources for encouraging kids to help around the home and I would really recommend visiting her website and etsy shop if any of what I’ve said above has struck a cord.
I don’t get any payment for recommending her products. I am simply recommending because, as a parent, I think Shiri’s products are great.

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