When people ask me, what is the one mindful parenting win that I achieved during these first years of parenthood? I tell them that it’s definitely establishing a cooperative household. The cooperative household helped to teach my child respect, sharing and work ethic from a young age.
What is a cooperative household?
A cooperative household is a household where each individual takes part in that household’s activities. Empathy and sharing are at the heart of running a cooperative household.
- Chores are shared between household members.
- Empathy is used to establish connection between group members and contribute to group spirit.
- Activities in a cooperative household are decided by the parents with input from the children.
- Respect is demonstrated at all levels of the household.
- Parents use regular fun activities to establish and keep a group connection within the household.
What are some benefits of a cooperative household?
When children are young, they need to feel safety and security in their own homes. Toddlerhood is the ideal time to establish routines that will create a cooperative household.
- When there are multiple children in the household, a cooperative household can bring the siblings together to reinforce positive sibling interactions. Rivalries and fights are common and necessary in childhood. However, a cooperative household can help remind the children that each of them are a part of the same team.
- In the early years, the struggle for independence and the frustration of seeing his or her own limitations is often the reason for tantrums. To bridge the gap, parents teach children to take part in the responsibilities of the household. While performing the chores at the children’s ability levels, children will feel ‘capable’ and ‘independent’. The whole family learn to respect each other’s needs in the process.
How do I establish a cooperative household?
A cooperative household is established by modeling group behavior through group activities. Parenthood should not be a time of stress for the parents. It should be a time to slow down and enjoy the simple things in everyday life. Parents can establish a rhythm in the household by moving from activity to activity with the children: get up, self-care, breakfast, chore time, play time, reading time, nap time etc.. Children participate in all the activities. When parents do chores, children can help. When parents cook breakfast, children can help. When children are playing, parents can observe and facilitate. Moving through the day as a group, children will feel that they are an intrinsic part of the family. At night, when they go into their own bedrooms to sleep, they will feel safe enough to separate in peace. Some cooperative households choose to sleep together in the same room. That is very helpful in keeping the connection when parents work all day. As long as there’s a mechanism in which the children can feel the group connection, then a cooperative household can be established whether the parents work outside the home or not.
How do I give my children chores at a young age? When do I start?
I started giving my child chores at the age of 13 months. They were simple chores such as putting toys back into the bin and wiping the table.
Chores at a young age can be in the form of Practical Life activities. In Montessori Education, activities such as wiping the table, pouring water, scooping beans and cutting banana are all good examples of chores for a toddler.
Below are my favorite household chores that we do together:
- Wiping toys, tables, chairs and windows.
- Setting the table to prepare for eating.
- Using a dust pan and brush to clean up crumbs.
- Pouring flour and baking ingredients for baking.
- Washing fruits and vegetables in preparation for cooking.
- Putting toys back onto shelves and bins.
- Cutting cakes, bananas and pizza with a butter knife.
I’m a working parent, how do I establish a cooperative household when I’m away from my children for so many hours of the day?
When parents work outside the home, it’s difficult to establish a cooperative household. Often, parents seek help from the teachers at daycare or preschool. For a while, I was a working parent too. During that time, I used the following routine to help reset the rhythm with my son after I picked him up from daycare. The first thing I did was to give my son a snack in the car so that he’s not hungry waiting for dinner. When we got home, we performed this routine.
- 10 minute “mommy and me yoga” and dance party to de-stress together.
- I cook dinner while my son stands on a stool over the kitchen counter for a sensory activity: water transfer, flour play etc..
- After dinner is prepared, we set the table together, then we eat together.
- After dinner, my son free plays while I cleanup and do the dishes.
- After some time, I join my son at his free play where ever he’s at.
- Soon, it is time for bed and we go through our bedtime routine: bath, reading, sleep
In the beginning, it was difficult to go through the entire routine. We did whatever we could do on a given day. It took about 6 months of consistent reinforcement to get our routine down. But, it was well worth it. After I started staying home with my son, it was easier to transition him to a full day routine.
A cooperative household is not for everyone. If you are having trouble achieving peace in your household, If you are having trouble loving parenthood. Give this a try. It may help to improve your children’s behavior and improve your connection as a family overall.
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