March 29, 2021 by Dymphna

T-Bomb: how to get your kids to do the dishes

Truth Bomb Tuesday: Time to learn a new way of moving in the world.

How do you get your kids to chip in around the house? How do you get yourself to pull the finger out?

These two strategies, more often than not, are exactly the same.

Let’s call it ‘the motivation paradigm’.

Most of us operate in a motivation paradigm of one sort or another.

And I would say for most people in the Western World, we’re living in a threat-based paradigm.

That is, we’re motivated by threats.

So we tell ourselves, you’ve got to go into work and do the things because otherwise you’ll be poor and homeless.

It’s the threat that gets you moving. It’s the fear of the consequences that might follow.

And this isn’t just about work. Some people might be helping out at the Lifesaving Club because they think people will think they’re selfish and uncaring if they’re not getting involved in the community somehow.

Or they might be doing the dishes and folding the laundry because they’re worried their partner will give them a hard time if they don’t.

And they’re mowing the lawn because they don’t want the neighbours to think they’re slobs, and you’ve got to stay on top of the grass or it gets away from you and become a real nightmare to sort out down the track.

The point is they focus on the threat – they focus on the negative consequences – and then build motivational energy out of there.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We could choose to focus on the joy as well. We could go to work because we have a very clear plan for the money we’re earning and that plan is exciting.

Or we could do the dishes because we’re looking forward to seeing our partner with a glass of wine in her hand, unwinding and enjoying some evening time.

Or we could mow the lawn because we like the way a freshly cut lawn looks and how nice it is to have pride in the place you live.

You get the same result, but you’re driving out of a different motivational paradigm.

And most of us, I think, have been brought up in a threat-based motivational paradigm.

(I certainly was! Clean out the stables or I’ll give you a belting!)

But I think we all need to move to a joy-based motivational paradigm.

And I think this is something we need to be teaching our kids. We need to be modelling ways for them to drive out of their joy, not out of their fear.

And so we need to help them see the joy in their chores.

When they chop some veggies, help them see the fun in being part of the kitchen team. When they do the dishes, help them feel the joy of being part of the family and helping to keep the house humming. When they mow the grass, help them see how good it looks, and how much it adds to the capital value of your property (jokes.)

I think this is what we need to show them. And in my experience, kids can respond really well when this is modelled for them properly.

But the key here is that we’ve got to be doing it ourselves!

We can’t ask the kids to do the dishes out of a space of love and joy, if we can’t see any joy in it ourselves – if it’s just another painful chore, and the only way we can summon the energy to get it down is by focusing on the negative consequences if we don’t.

To raise kids in a different motivational paradigm, we need to live in that paradigm ourselves.

That’s where the challenge is.

But it’s the only way to anchor your life – all the bits and pieces of your life – in joy.