Help is not a four-letter word!

Purposeful Parent Tip:  Asking your children for help shows strength.

“I can do it faster myself.” This is what I used to say to myself whenever I contemplated having my children help me with chores and small tasks around the house. While this was a true statement, I didn’t know the effects of my actions until they were older.

While I am not a ‘clean freak’, I do like a neat and tidy house. It fosters better focus and clarity for everyone involved. When my children were smaller, I would quickly throw in a load of laundry or clean a bathroom while they napped. On the weekends, a little more was done, but always when they were otherwise occupied. I never thought to involve them in these activities. Likely it was because I did not have the patience to teach
them how to do it and it was just easier for me to do it in the time I had.

Aahh. It was just easier. The problem with this statement is that nearly everything was ‘much easier’ when I did it myself. It was easier to clean, or cook dinner, or grocery shop, or schedule play dates if I took care of it myself. I’m a ‘do-er’ and so I had to-do lists. The more I could cross of a list and the faster I could do it, the better. I remember running around the house at night, after a full day of work, cleaning up or performing some task feeling resentful that no one was helping me. Did I ever ask?

Years of doing it myself had resulted in my children not knowing how to empty a dishwasher or put a load of laundry in the washer or knowing that furniture polish is meant for furniture. Handling these chores on my own taught my children that their mother, already overscheduled and overburdened, pushed herself to do these tasks despite being dog-tired. More importantly, it has taught my children that their mom does not ask for help.

This is not a lesson I want to teach my children. In reflecting over my professional career, I rarely reached out to my colleagues for assistance on projects for fear that they would think me incompetent. Relying on myself, I knew that the work would be completed properly and a quality result would be guaranteed.

However, following this course of action led to me being stressed and frustrated, especially when I would come across an obstacle that I didn’t know how to best address. It was not until I started my own business and began utilizing the assistance of others in my support network, that I realized how much easier my corporate career could have been had I just said these three little words. “I need help.”

A few years ago, maybe it was after a stressful week of running my business, taking care of a home, and raising two children, I realized I needed help. My children and I had a family meeting in which I told them how difficult it was for me to do all I do by myself and that their help was needed. I emphasized the importance of keeping our home clean and of taking pride in a job well done. And of course, I informed them that if they began to help out with the chores, without complaint, that they would be rewarded with an allowance. My how that got their attention!

Today, we have a weekly ritual on Saturday mornings, where each child chooses a bathroom to clean. Both clean their rooms and both help with laundry. During the week, my son sets the table and my daughter clears it.

An added and unforeseen benefit of this new approach has been that we spend more time together. We chat from room to room about the plans for the day or some other timely family topic. Yes there are moans and groans at times, but both have commented how much better the house feels when it is clean and that they love their home. Babysitters are amazed at how neat my children are and how they clean up after themselves after a meal or an activity.

Has this taken a load off of my shoulders? You bet. Are the bathrooms as sparkly as I’d like? No. But I have learned and my children have learned that asking for and accepting help are not a sign of weakness, but that of strength.

There’s no need to be supermom. Ask your children to help you and start early. Teaching your toddler to pick up his toys after playing may take more time than you have. But I guarantee you, it’ll be time well spent.

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Jennifer Covello, Copyright 2011-2024