Jen had a great post the other day about accepting imperfect help. I got to thinking about that again in my own life. A while back I realized that I could not keep up with all of the children, all of the schooling and all of the household chores. I also realized that I couldn't afford a nanny, I wasn't going to send them to school and I couldn't afford a housekeeper. For the longest time I thought that it was just easier for me to do the work than it was to take all that time to teach my children how to do it. I finally reached a point where I figured the only way to maintain my sanity was to give in and teach my children how to help me with the upkeep of the house.
I tend, by my nature, to be a very organized and, yes, anal person. I like things done the way I do them, with the care and attention that I put into them. Naturally, with children, this is not going to be the case. It is very hard for me, and quite often I fail, to hold my tongue about the way in which a job is done.
I also find that my knee-jerk reaction to a little one who wants to help with something is NO. The other day my five year old wanted to wash the dishes. I had to stop and have a brief conversation with myself about the pros and cons of this request. Pro - she could try to wash them and feel good about helping and about her accomplishments and I could have some help with the dishes. Con - She could make a mess that I would have to clean up and I would probably have to wash them over anyway. Well, I gave in and let her wash the plastic stuff, and guess what, she did a fabulous job. I didn't have to clean up anything, nor did I have to rewash one plate. It was then that I stood back in amazement at how industrious she has become.
Over the years, I have also realized that there is a big difference between a child who is doing a job half-heartedly and a child who really does try and complete the job to the best of their ability. The challenge comes for me in stopping to figure out which one it is and then responding appropriately. I know that there are many times when I should have praised or kept my mouth shut, but because I was trying to do 10 other things at the same time, I took the easy way of criticism.
My advice: Mothers, let your children, no matter what age, help you with something! Go against that urge to just do it yourself and get it done faster. It really is a win-win situation. You get some help with the chores and they gain some valuable confidence and a good feeling that they are being helpful. I have seen the benefits in my own house as I have some very capable and industrious children (when they want to be, of course :)