We are not our children's slaves.... - %%sitetitle%%

We are not our children’s slaves….

I just did a phone interview with my friend Marcia, the Organising Queen, from South Africa. Acck, could a person say ummm anymore than I did. Good grief! The phone delay totally threw me off but I figure it just adds to my freakness which is, as you know, my excuse for everything…LOL. Anyway you can have a listen to it here if you want.

One of the things we talked about though was how important it is to get your kids involved in the organizing process as well as doing age appropriate chores. It’s something I believe strongly in and so in addition to what I had to say about it in my interview I thought I’d elaborate a little more here.

As a stay at home mom it would be so easy for me just to do everything for my kids and not take the time to show them how to do things for themselves. In the grand scheme of things that wouldn’t help them much though would it. Organization is a life skill that we should be teaching our kids. Believe me I would love to march right on in to my kids rooms when they aren’t home and just have my way with their rooms. Instead I choose to work along side of them to help them learn to make the tough choices themselves about what stays and what goes.

Using containers is a wonderful way to teach kids limits and boundaries. For instance my daughter adores notebooks so we mutually agreed on a container that would hold a reasonable amount of notebooks. She now knows that when that container is full she has to decide which ones to keep and which ones to go. That is a hard decision for her to make because of course she loves them all and of course they all hold special meaning to her in some way. As tough as it is though and as hard as it is for me to watch her struggle with the decision I have to remember that she is learning skills that will be invaluable to her in the future when she has a whole household full of stuff to contend with. I regularly walk through the PROCESS with my kids and guide them to an organized space that fits in with their personality. I try hard not to set my kids up for failure. Creating storage for items where they use them and can easily access them can make the difference between success and failure. Just as there is with adults so many different systems and ways to organize any one thing so is there with kids.

Does that mean their rooms are always immaculate and never messy? Ha! Does it mean I don’t have to constantly remind them about what needs to be done and get after their behinds to do it? Ha! In fact if you saw their rooms right now you would wonder if I really was teaching them anything at all. I often wonder that myself believe me. However every once and awhile they will do something that gives me hope that they really just might be catching on to what I’m laying down. It would be unreasonable for me to expect their spaces to be tidy 100% of the time but because we’ve created designated spaces in their rooms for their stuff it’s a relatively quick and painless process to get their rooms back in order on the weekends. I posted awhile ago about some of the other chores my children have here.

I know it’s frustrating and I know that it’s so easy to want to throw our hands up sometimes and say it’s useless but if we are consistent about what is required of our children and consistent with the consequences if it’s not done, results will come….eventually. Also, as Marcia and I talked about in the interview, it’s important to set the example for our kids. If our spaces aren’t organized how can we expect our kids to be any different, we really can’t expect the kids to keep their clothes off the floor if we can’t.

It’s our responsibility as parents to teach our kids responsibility and what better way than with chores and organization. So put together some chore charts and let em have it….they’ll thank you for it……eventually :)

Related posts:

Free Responsibility Chore Charts

Age appropriate chore lists

Organizing all that school clutter, get the kids involved

Lots of chores!


34 Responses to “We are not our children’s slaves….”
  1. 1
    Marilyn says:

    I completely agree with you. My friend is always complaining that her house is such a mess and she is always picking up after her kids. She is always tired and she wonders why. She is always telling me how lucky I am that my kids help. I have tried to tell her it pays to teach your children to organize and to help with chores. It takes effort to do this, but the rewards are worth it.

  2. 2
    Monica Ricci says:

    Amen! I am constantly teaching my clients this and harping on how important it is that they realize just what you’re saying… you are NOT YOUR CHILD’S SERVANT! :)

    Woohoo great post!

  3. 3
    Jena says:

    I really enjoyed these thoughts–they were very heartfelt and true. I am trying to homeschool as well as everything else, so there’s no way we can survive unless they help! It’s so great when you can see that they finally get it! Good job. May God bless you in your journey.

  4. 4
    Debi says:

    What a wonderful post, Laura! It really can be so tempting to “just do it myself, because it’s easier than getting them to do it”…but in the long run that attitude only makes things worse. Another thing I have to battle with within myself is the perfectionism, you know the thinking that if I just did it myself it would be done better…even though they’re really doing a fine job themselves and I’m just being obsessive.

  5. 5

    WOW, you’re quick. Please tell me you had this ready and you didn’t just churn it out after we spoke:)

    I LOVED talking to you – sorry about the abrupt end BUT when I checked back later, I had 2c left so it would have cut us off had I not ended the call. Close call :)

    You know what? I realised I say “you know” a lot! My word – I will have to work on that :)

  6. 6
    orneryswife says:

    You might add here that you might not see the fruit of your teaching while they live in YOUR home, but if you do your job well, they will have an appreciation for having things neat and decluttered. So, don’t despair, don’t give up, don’t quit. It’s worth the hassle and all the whining. Trust me!

  7. 7
    Susanne says:

    I have to go through my daughter’s room with her this weekend. It’s been on hold since I broke the hand, but now I have no more excuses. Sigh. Pray for me would you? LOL.

    I talked to my friend in China at Christmas and that phone delay was totally crazy. What a weird way to try to hold a conversation.

  8. 8
    Amy says:

    What a great post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and those great links!

  9. 9
    Mrs. Wilson says:

    Great post! Apparently I’m seeing you on Saturday!!

  10. 10
    Sandra says:

    Why did you get such a big delay???? I speak to my family in south africa all the time with no problem???

    Thanks for the interview clip though, listening to Marcia was like listening to myself speak before I lost my accent LOL
    Who knows, when I return I’ll probably sound like that again LOL

    Great post Laura, I snagged all those links I definitely need them for my kids.


  11. 11
    Okie Sister says:

    My own Mom did all the housework. I would get up to go to the bathroom in the morning and come back into my room to find my bed made.
    When I got married, I didn’t know how to keep my house clean and in turn wasn’t able to teach my daughter to clean.
    Nowdays I crave oranization and feel uneasy if things are out of place. This is what lead me to your organinzing blog.
    Thanks for all the great tips.

  12. 12
    Laura says:

    here’s a quote I had found that I posted on my blog.

    Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing. ~Phyllis Diller, Phyllis Diller’s Housekeeping Hints, 1966


    Off to read your blog recommendations. Thanks.

    • 12.1
      Brigitte says:

      Which if you’ve ever lived somewhere that it snows, you understand that shoveling the walk while it’s still snowing is the best way to ensure that you don’t break your back on it later. So actually that quote means that keeping up to begin with is the best way to make sure your house doesn’t get too cluttered.

  13. 13

    You are so right on. I passed on your article at Homemaker Barbi . Thank you for the sage advice about teaching our children by working alongside them!

  14. 14

    I love this quote from author Elizabeth Pantley:
    “Every single time you pick up a dirty sock, a used tissue, a crusty cereal bowl or a misplaced toy-every time you do this- you teach your child to believe in the “cleanup fairy.”

    I grin and bare the mess in my boy’s room some days, until they can come home from school and clean it up themselves. Some days this requires me to use more restraint than others!

  15. 15
    Lora says:

    Thanks so much for these links! I’ve found some great ideas!! I especially love the article on Stages of Responsibility. Very helpful for me.

  16. 16

    When I see clients with young children, I always say: “It is never to early to start… just like a time out, use the one minute per age rule… they can clean for two minutes straight if they are two, three if they are three etc. Make it fun but be consistent!”

    Lastly, I have to thank my mother-in-law for teaching my husband to do laundry at 16. He still does it…even though he has shrunk a sweater or two…

  17. 17
    bettypro says:

    Teaching children is a LEARNED process.
    Just telling someone “teach your child to pick up” doesn’t register for some.
    “We only know what we are taught” so if we dont have the information, it must be taught to us,,,,yes for some it is harder then it sounds.
    Knowledge is power, so ask your friend if she knows HOW to teach her children to pick up after themselves, you may be surprised what the answer may be.

  18. 18

    How great to hear you talk–and laugh!


  19. 19

    Great post – I love the way you empower your kids and teach responsbility! You are modeling the developmental assets – http://www.theassetedge.net. :)

  20. 20
    Jean says:

    Just to let you know, the website for “Age Specific Responsibilities” has changed. I found the new address here:


  21. 21

    Thank you Laura – I needed this. I definitely am “the cleanup fairy” for my kids, AND worse… I am a horrible example because of my own piles of clothes and clutter everywhere. I am going to get off the computer right now and go put my own clothes away! Then tomorrow, we will make a chore chart (again), and maybe this time I’ll actually follow through with it! Thanks again. – Iris

    • 21.1
      Brigitte says:

      HOW the chore chart was set up can be a huge difference in whether a chore chart works. Stickers, white board, magnet board, chore basket, calendar, checklist, game points for chores, everybody does things differently and what works for Mom may not be what works for the kid(s)! Heck, what worked for me in college doesn’t work for me now, just because my life itself is different. What worked before may not work now; what didn’t work before might work better now. Don’t be afraid to try things again or change them when they’re not working!


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