Three Kids Peeking_1733

I was with a group of women a few days ago, talking about ways to motivate children to step up to the work of maintaining a home.  Interesting topic, isn’t it?  And one that’s on the mind of every mom hoping to a) outsmart entropy, which can swallow an otherwise clean house faster than you can say “entropy,” and, more important, b) teach children (even/especially of the teenage variety) that the work of the house belongs to everyone who lives there.

Quick disclaimer. This is one of those posts where I’m talking myself through something, and you, dear readers, are along for the ride. If I were an expert at this, I’d have signed a book deal.

‘K. Back to the discussion of a few days ago. One woman, the mother of two grown children, said something that struck me.  The conversation was in Spanish, but the phrase she used translates perfectly.  When it was time to do chores, she always said, “Vamos a . . .” or, translated for context, “Together, let’s go.”  “Vamos a,” she repeated, explaining that creating a feeling of teamwork made her kids feel like they were indeed part of a team.

Vamos a–

She’s not the only mom I know who has used words like these.  Another mom back in the states, a woman whose kids are also grown and who has periodically been a wonderful mentor mom to me, told me once, “I always worked alongside my kids.”

In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, well-known author and speaker Stephen R. Covey points out that there are only two reasons kids don’t step up when it’s time to work.  One, they haven’t been properly shown and therefore really don’t know how.  And two, they don’t want to.  The first problem has to do with know-how.  The second is obviously one of motivation.  How often have I mistaken one for the other!?  For example, when does my Platonic vision of The Perfectly Clean Bathroom finally coincide with my children’s vision of that same bathroom? Shouldn’t it fall to me to demonstrate what Ultimate Clean looks like, rather than expecting my kids to puzzle out why I wasn’t entirely happy with their efforts?

Occasionally, in my more lucid moments, I have indeed said something like, “Come on, guys, let’s go to work.”  And you know what?  The job gets done in a fraction of the time, with disproportionately better results, with shockingly happy attitudes, and with that palpable “vamos a” feeling carrying the day.  So my question for myself is, Why don’t I say “Vamos a . . .” more often?  Really!  Why don’t I?

I think it has something to do with the fact that as moms we feel responsible for raising independent thinkers and doers–definitely an important goal.  But does a “vamos a” style of work necessarily weaken our kids?  I know I too often forget the value of collaboration and the way in which doing certain kinds of tasks repeatedly, right alongside my kids, allows them to develop the muscle memory to begin doing it on their own, with better results.

I’m inspired by the idea of teamwork.  My older son didn’t learn to cut the grass, use the edger, trim shrubbery, and all the rest of the business that goes along with maintaining a yard (I imagine you’re smiling to yourselves, realizing I am NOT the one typically doing the Saturday yard work!) without his dad out there both instructing and modeling.  And I suspect that if you asked him, my son would say it was the modeling that worked better than anything else to get him up to speed.

Another thing.  The fact that teenagers are simply bigger in size than their younger siblings doesn’t automatically mean they won’t benefit from a little “Vamos a.”  You know what I mean?–as if bigger-ness automatically equals a certain fitness for sizing up a task and executing it with the kind of “perfection” we imagine it demands. When Covey was teaching his son how to maintain the yard, his motto was “mean and green!” But it wasn’t until his son understood the vision of “mean and green” to the extent that his father did, after they’d worked together at it enough times, that he was able to take over the job and do it with the care, attention, and level of rightness Covey felt the job demanded.

And, frankly, why not crank up some “happy” music?  (Part of yet another mom’s Saturday chores program.) It’s easier to scrub a toilet, inside and out, well enough to please Mom and Plato when the 80’s tunes cover the moves.

I’m going to have Miss Lavender make a Platonic Bathroom playlist and load it with 80’s music. And I’m going to start saying “Vamos a–.”  Way more.

Let me know if it works for you. (And if you’ve got a great choretime playlist, by ALL means foreward it to me!)

{ Comments on this entry are closed }