Are your children resisting their “age-appropriate-chores”? It’s because you’re being too ambitious!

Wouldn’t we love to get a glimpse of the Holy Family as they went about their “morning routine”?  To see Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus get ready for their day and look after their home.  

How did they go about their normal daily jobs of living as they worked their daily rhythm?  

I am confident the Holy Family’s home was filled with love and simplicity and natural beauty.  I imagine an inviting home filled with the gentleness of Our Lady.  And I am pretty sure that Jesus probably did some regular “age appropriate chores” as the three of them loved together side by side as they went about their daily work of living.  

So why can this be so difficult for us to pull off in our own homes?  Especially now that we are doing ALL our living inside our home.  

All I want is:

  • a clean decluttered house, filled by
  • an atmosphere of gentleness, and with
  • my children doing some cleaning and tidying!

Why does it all go wrong?  

Because it takes a lot of concentration to manage one of these goals, never name all three.  And it’s because I try and achieve too many different things all at once…..    

…. and then i get a bit dizzy and start to lose my cool... (and we all know how that goes).    

For example, when I am dusting a room in my home with my 3 year old, these are some possible intentions or end results that I could choose to work towards:

  • Teaching my child to dust (I recommend having some small dusters stored in a basket on a low shelf) OR
  • Cleaning the room (by, you know, actually doing some dusting!) OR
  • Connecting with my child and showing him/her how to embrace their daily chores (having fun and building happy memories of working around the house together)

THE PROBLEM comes when I GET OVERLY-AMBITIOUS.  Perhaps I start off the process with one of these intentions, and it goes so well I then ADD ANOTHER intention to my (invisible, mental) list.    

For example, maybe I start off the morning determined to teach my child how to dust.  I choose exactly the right moment, my child is receptive to my “lesson” and we get going.  They actually start doing some dusting and the room starts to get a bit cleaner.  Do you know what I should do?  BE with my child, ENJOY the process, END the cleaning session BEFORE my child is completely sick and tired of dusting, PUT AWAY the duster (back in its basket on the low shelf or into the wash if it is dirty), and END the “LESSON” with some connection.  Maybe a song or a snack or a fun game.  

That is what Montessori theory tells me I SHOULD do.  

Do you know what I really do?    

Yep, I get overly-ambitious…  I start to move furniture and go on a mission to dust the whole room.  Perhaps the whole house.  Or I start to declutter, and mop, and take out the rubbish.  All at the same time.  And before I know it the whole thing is falling apart…   

Everything is falling apart NOT because we do “TOO LITTLE” but because we try to do too much, all at once, without pausing to check our children are still with us.  Which means that next time we get out the cleaning supplies our children have lost their enthusiasm and willingness…  They remember how it finished last time….  

So NOW, now when I find myself going on this “increasingly-ambitious-cleaning-spiral”, I try to check the goals, the intentions, that I am carrying.  I try to choose just one.  What do I need?  Do I need this space mopped really quickly, right now?  Well then I do that without trying to get the kids involved.  Do I want to teach my child to mop?  Well then, I do that, treating it like a “Maths lesson”, and keep my eyes on the long-term goal of equipping my child to be a proficient mopper in 5 or 10 years’ time.  Or do I want the whole family to spend a fun ten minutes doing a little dusting together?  In that case, I put on some music, hand out the dusters, get going with as much infectious enthusiasm as possible and TRY not to “quality-control” the work.    

And I trust that maybe if we embrace simplicity-of-intention with our minds, our homes might follow…  

And if we slow down and try to achieve less, we might end up achieving more.  

Even in lockdown!


Kate Cavanagh,
Raising Happy Healthy Christian Kids
Your Domestic Ark

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