Family Systems

A couple of months ago we'd had it!  My hubby and I returned home from our anniversary date, excited to take the kids out to spend some time as a family. When we walked through the door, only one of our daughters was home and the house was a MESS.  Yes, their list of chores I'd left them was checked off, but beside that nothing had been done.  When questioned, we got more than mediocre answers from our children.

So what did we do?  Well, after a nice long rampage about how we were not going to deal with such disrespect anymore, we declared the family outing was cancelled and shut ourselves in our bedroom to watch our annual Christmas movie.

Things had to change. 

There's so much out there about having family systems and chore charts and check off lists.  There are incentives and even allowances given to get kids to clean the house.  Until recently, I was quite proud of the many systems we had tried with our family through the years.

But something was missing...

Our kids were learning that as long as they did just what was on their list, they didn't need to do anything else.  Then, when asked to do something extra we'd end up getting some sort of argument about how it wasn't their job or the annoying question, "Why do I have to do it?"  I had sworn with all our systems in place I had trained my kids (especially the now teenagers) how to clean and help out around the house.  After all, they had their jobs and it was pretty structured.  So it must have been working, right?

The funny thing is, before the returning home fiasco, I'd been trying to explain this very thing to my husband.  I didn't feel the kids were pitching in.  It seemed everyone would get up, get ready to go and leave their messes behind for me to clean up.  So, inwardly I was very grateful for this opportunity for him to see what was going on "behind the scenes," so to speak.

Things did change. 

We not longer have dishes days or assigned chores.  We believe in a system called: The Family Works Together.  After dinner nobody leaves the room until it's clean...Mom and Dad included.  On Fridays, the kids come home and we spend an hour or two cleaning. I do have a chore list, but it is a community list.  When a job is done, it gets checked off.  Nobody stops until every item is checked off the list.

Can I just tell you what a difference this has made in our family?  We still get some grumbling, but it's just not a battle.  And the weekend begins with a beautifully clean home (I love that part).  Friday cleaning also makes Saturdays more enjoyable.  I don't wake up ready to micromanage the kids into cleaning up all the things they didn't pay attention to throughout the week!  We can plan more family activities or work on our own individual projects without housework hanging over our heads.  This has also alleviated the feeling that I'm just left behind to be their maid.  I take care of the basics, but leave the rest for Friday Family Cleaning Day.

Ethan asked me today, "How long are we going to do this Friday cleaning thing?"

I responded, "Until it stops working."

And for now....IT'S WORKING!

 - - - - - 

If not me, who?
If not now, when? 
 - - Todd Merkley


  1. Great idea! I'm filing that away for when our current system needs a fresh look. =)


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