Editor’s note: While The Power of Moms is a website for all mothers regardless of their religious interests, we feel it appropriate to share some Jewish-centered ideas as many families around the world prepare for Passover.
As part of the preparation for the holiday of Passover, most Jewish families do a thorough cleaning of their home. This tradition comes from the custom of not eating or owning any leavened bread or any bread products on Passover. We only eat unleavened bread, Matzo. Leavened bread symbolizes the attribute of haughtiness–bread puffs up like a swelled head. Matzo on the other hand is flat and humble. The taste is kind of bland and attests to its modesty. So we clean our homes and search for any crumbs that we may have overlooked. Along with physically cleaning our home, we are supposed to take the time to reflect and work on being humble.
Now, Passover is right around the corner and I am just past the nail-biting phase. This is where I just worry about Passover. I think about all the cooking and cleaning, and I feel overwhelmed and not sure how I am going to do it all.
After 13 years of hosting Passover in my home, I know that this is an annoying but necessary part of the process. The anxiety that I generate during this time actually propels me forward into the next stage where I finally organize, clean and cook.
I also need to remember that I am not alone. I do have a family who can help. I do feel strongly that my kids need to get in on the action. It is important that they actively participate in getting ready for the holiday. I know that when my kids are given jobs, they might complain, but they sense that they are contributing something important to the family. Once Passover starts and is enjoyed (as of this writing, my kids love Passover), kids make the connection that they have played a significant role in preparing for the holiday. This helps build their self-esteem and confidence.
Because there is so much work involved and things can get hairy, it is important to strike a balance. We want our kids to help, but if we push them to do too much they might dread instead of happily anticipate Passover.
Here are some ways to help your kids get involved in Passover cleaning so that you get the help you need without getting too stressed out:
1. Inspire Cooperation
When I ask my kids for help I try to avoid saying:
“You are going to clean your room once and for all!”
“That is it, you are going to help, no ifs, ands or buts.”
It seems as if anytime I do this, it creates this “Me against You” environment where my kids just start fighting for control.
It works better for me if I invite them to help out with a positive tone and a neutral manner:
“Guys, I am going to need extra help this year to clean for Passover. You have worked hard in the past and I know you can do it again. This week your rooms need to be cleaned. I need to know by bedtime when you are going to be available to do that.”
If your kids are younger kids you might want to say:
“You know how you learned in school about cleaning for Passover? Let’s pick some jobs for you so you can help clean for Passover!”
When I speak to my kids in this way, I think they feel respected–as if they are part of a team. It seems as if are more likely to cooperate and help out.
2. Make A List
It is hard to work for an employer who does not have a clear business plan and goals. The same goes for kids having to work under a disorganized mom. You know what you need to do–but your kids don’t. They have to be at your beck and call. When I randomly hand out jobs my kids can get confused and frustrated.
I try to get myself organizes before I ask my kids for help. I try to make a list of everything that needs to be done. Then I find a calm time and share the list with my kids. I then ask, “Who is available for what and when?”
3. Get Up Close and Personal
My kids, especially my younger ones, are better able to listen if I give them lots of visual and tactile cues. They are better able to follow my directions if I touch them on the shoulder, get down to their level and make eye contact. It seems harder for them to respond when I call them from a different room.
4. Be Specific
I have found that giving kids jobs that are concrete or have a finite time frame helps kid be more cooperative.
Instead of: “Clean the family room.”
I try: “Everyone needs to pick up 10 toys in the family room.”
Instead of: “Clean your closet”
I try: “Hang up five shirts that are lying on the floor.”
Instead of: “Help me put the laundry away.”
I try: “I need your help for 10 minutes to take the laundry to everyone’s room. It is now 7:00; at 7:10 you will be free to play.”
5. Help Them Develop Good Character Traits.
Kids don’t know that they should offer to help. It know it is up to me to teach them this. Before any of the Jewish holidays, I will say to my kids,
“I would appreciate if you would pop your head into the kitchen every so often and just ask if I need some help.”
My kids now do that and, to be honest, it warms my heart. It makes me feel like I have the best kids ever.
If I need them, I will say:
“I appreciate the offer. Yes, I can use some help peeling potatoes.”
If I don’t need help, I say:
“Thanks for looking in on me. I don’t need anything right now but I do appreciate you asking.”
Getting kids to help can be a bit tricky. Having a plan in place can make a tremendous difference. Have a wonderful Passover!
Question: Is there something your child is good at, and can he/she use that talent to help the family in some way?
Challenge: Find one creative way to help your kids pitch in for the holidays or even everyday.
Image: Gilabrand at en.wikipedia
Sarah Monson says
I love your ideas for getting kids to cooperate!