Tidy strikes are the answer?

What’s the inside of your home like – not the decor, the state of the kitchen? Especially if you have kids  living at home.

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post looks at how to turn a stick into a gift. For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of ideas about parenting click here.

The moment you hear about the Canadian mum of three girls – 12 year old twins and a 10 year old – going on strike because her kids wouldn’t clear up after themselves you start to wonder if that’s what you should do to get your home under control.

Jessica Stilwell says she has a busy family (I heard her on Radio 4) which is code for she drives her kids to a million activities, which obviously makes it hard to catch up with all the domestic tasks at home. She’s also a social worker, and during her strike had a foster baby in the house.

The strange thing is that she (and her husband) never told the kids that they’d gone on strike. It took five or six days for the girls to notice, and by that time Jessica had a massive Facebook following, and a new blog, and has become a national hero. She is insistent that her tidy strike worked because she didn’t nag the kids; they had to work out that there wasn’t a magic someone picking up after them.

Luckily we have a house elf, Dobby.

And a very high tolerance of disorder and dirt – though not chaos.

Actually I’m not keen on neat freaks, puzzling throughout my life why the neat freak has to win the battle ensuring that no one can relax until the house is dazzling.

Obviously I was a very annoying child in not helping much around the house and kids do need to learn basic tidy-as-you-go-along skills. But I’m in two minds about tidy strikes. Tidying up is partially my job as a parent (and the house elf, obviously who I’m sure you know is me).

Right now most children do not have enough down time or time to play outside. They have hours of homework, sports and music practice. Plus many have long commutes to school. Do they also need to learn to tidy? Yes if it’s clear they aren’t respecting how boring such a repetitive task can be. No if it means that this is just creating another way of eating into their limited free time.

So holidays, half-terms, weekends – yes they should help out. During the term, I think give them a bit of a break. Unless of course you are tidying and the little minxes are lolling in front of the TV or pinging away on Facebook…

If you want to give a tidy strike a try have a look first at the Daily Mail’s Julia Lawrence who tried it with her two. And here’s some feedback from the Huffington Post which makes it clear that Jessica felt she was failing her daughters, by not allowing them to fail. In other words they may be busy but they have to be responsible for some family tasks.

Also see my post about whether children should wash up, posted almost a year ago, here.

Over to you
So, are you tempted by taking a tidy strike and making the kids clear up after themselves. Or will this whole experience simply make you more disgruntled with the state of your home, leading you to nag the family that bit more? If you can think of a middle route, do share.

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2 Comments on “Tidy strikes are the answer?”


  1. I’m with you here. I think kids should be allowed to be kids, and not have too long a list of chores to do; they have enough with their homework and everything else. The main reason I insist on my kids doing any chores at all is just as practise for the future, so that when they leave home they don’t expect some magic fairy to come and tidy up after them. I do aspire to have a permanently clean and tidy house, but that aspiration is based around being able to afford staff! In reality I accept that there is mess and I try and be a bit relaxed about it. The only thing I always insist on is that if they make any mess in the living room, they tidy it up fairly promptly because I want one room at least that is clutter-free and that I can take people into if I have unexpected callers!

    • homemadekids Says:

      Vanessa, yet again you have a good solution – one tidy room. In the winter we tend to have one warm room (usually the kitchen). Realistically the tidy room and the warm room may not be the same place!


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