Routines that Invite Cooperation

Being a facilitator of Positive Discipline really allows me to see that all of the systems our family has put into place has created an environment of cooperation and contribution.  Each week I meet with a group of thoughtful, loving parents who are looking for tools and answers for getting their kids to behave better, and to be more cooperative.  As I share the principles of PD with them, I also reflect on how far my own family has come in embracing those principles.  And honesty, I'm feeling pretty bad ass about it these days...

Take for example, rewards and punishments.  Many parents who come through the Parenting with Positive Discipline class have a hard time believing that children are able to contribute for the sake of contributing.  We play with the idea of creating routines with them and making agreements and the follow up questions is always, "Well, what about when they still won't help out?"  

Thank you to all the "yes, but" parents out there, you are valuable members of the class and allow for a much deeper discussion of the principles behind the Positive Discipline philosophy....

Here's the deal, we all want to know that what we do matters.  We all are looking for connections and a sense of belonging.  When helping out around the house becomes a way to get those needs met, rather than a power struggle, or a chore imposed on our kids, they are much more likely to cooperate.

Mutual respect is all about respecting ourselves and respecting the other person.

We aren't respecting our kids when we give them a laundry list of things they have to do.
We aren't respecting our kids when we yell, bribe or threaten them into getting those things done.
We aren't respecting ourselves when we get emotionally attached to what our kids do or don't do.
We aren't respecting ourselves when we avoid the fight by just doing all the housework ourselves.

So what is a mutually respectful way of inviting our children to cooperate?  

Well, at our house we call it Family Work.  We all live together, share space, and share the work.  Granted, my husband and I have a much larger "share" of the work than the kids, but contributing to the housework has become a given.  Contributing to the good of the group is a value that we hold, and it is modeled and practice on a daily basis in our home.

Routines are also a big part of encouraging our kids to contribute.  We have three specific routines in place that help with keeping the house tidy.

*  Sunday House Cleaning Routine - Every Sunday morning, our family cleans the house.  This is a chance for my kids to do a big room clean.  They clean surfaces, vacuum the floor, take out their trash, start their laundry.  This is a big job for the kids.  Some weeks they are quicker at getting to it than others.  They are welcome to take as long as they want, playtime happens after the room is done, that is the routine.  Ben and I do the rest of the house (yes, my husband is the MAN when it comes to helping out with housework!!).  This routine has evolved from how we started it.  In the beginning we had them doing more than just their room, but what it turned into was a power of wills, not respectful to us or our kids.  This led into making some changes to the After School Routine.

Above is a poster that Ian made to remind him of what his room looks like when its clean. :)

*  After School Routine -  I was noticing that the kids would come home form school and drop their stuff on the floor and be out the door before I got a "how was your day?" out of my mouth.  Homework wasn't getting done, snacks weren't eaten (which lead to hunger induced meltdowns) and there was just no sense of connection.  To remedy this, we created an after school routine.  The kids are expected to empty lunch boxes, make a snack, and take out homework.  They are available to play after 4:20 each day.  Because we lightened the load on them during the housecleaning day, we also added in the expectation of choosing a "Family job" each afternoon.  There are 7 things they can choose from, and this has become a part of what gets done after school.

This is what our Daily Family Work chart looks like.

*  After Dinner Routine - Each night, after we eat dinner, the kids are expected to do their Family Work.  There are four jobs that need to get done, wipe the table, organize the shoes in the "red room" (our version of a mud room), feed the dog and take out the recycling.  The kids have been extremely creative in how to decide who does what - their techniques have ranges from alternating weeks, to flipping coins, to picking sticks.  I am not attached to how they decide, only that the work gets done.

The after dinner family work sticks...

These three routines have been golden for inviting cooperation, especially around housework...  But a key piece is that I didn't create them alone.  The kids were with me every step of the way, voicing their opinion, sharing ideas and solutions, coming up with plans that work for all of us, compromising.  By asking for their help, providing choices, and letting them know that their opinions and needs matter, we have created by in.  And when things start to fall apart, one of us writes it down in the agenda book to be discussed at a Family Meeting and together we come up with a solution that we can all live with.

My seven year old was the Family Meeting recorder this particular night...
Notice it says "two cups, 1 for Big job and 1 for smol joB."

So no, really, you don't need to punish or bribe your children to get them to help out.  All you have to do is respect them, listen to them, and engage them in creating systems in your home that invites everyone to contribute.

I swear, if I wasn't living the results of this, I wouldn't be writing about it.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes!!!1