Do you ever get frustrated that your kids just step over stuff – for days?  It seems that kids just don’t see mess – certainly they don’t respond to mess!  Today I’m sharing a newsletter I shared with my readers over 6 years ago – but I really believe kids don’t change much so there is every likelihood your kids are much the same as my kids were!!  There came a day where I decided my kids were domestically blind – they just don’t see the mess.  Though it is frustrating I realised  I could do something about it!  I hope you find this idea helpful in your family.
Though it is frustrating when our kids don't see the mess in front of them - I call it domestic blindness - we can teach them to see it and do something about it.

My kids have been doing chores since they were about 3 – that is between 10 – 17 years!! And yet, there are still times that they simply don’t see what there is to do. They will follow a list well but I want them to learn to be responsible for possessions so they need to show initiative not just obedience in this area.

Over the next little while I’m running “The school for the Domestic Blind” – and I’m enrolling three of my kids! Basically this means, over the next little while, I’ll be focusing on teaching them to see detail, to notice the little things, to show initiative and responsibility.

For many years I have divided my house into zones and each of my children is responsible for a zone for a week, then we rotate. Our zones are: Kitchen/cook, Bathroom/helper, Laundry and Outside which includes rubbish and animals. We have two chore times throughout the day (it used to be three when they were younger but now twice a day works well, taking into account their comings and goings with life). Their responsibilities are to maintain cleanliness and order on a daily basis as well as to do the weekly deeper cleaning. They are also responsible for the weekly cleaning in their bedroom, as well as all the ironing of their own clothes (when necessary).

Yes, they do a lot and my reasoning is that I want them to know a workload of maintaining a home and their personal possessions. I want them to know the whole skill set, not just helping me with the dishes, rubbish, and making their bed. I also want them to know how these tasks help others so it isn’t just about them looking after their own stuff.

Setting up School for the Domestically Blind

When my kids were young they had to report back to me at the end of their job time and I would ‘inspect’ or check to see that they had indeed finished. This of course was a good time to point out the little things that they had missed. I don’t expect this of them any more but it does mean I am not catching the little things they let go. Which is why we need this training for the domestically blind!

Lessons will include:

1–Know your list – check it if you have to. (Our roster chart also includes the actual tasks that need to be done.)

2–Glance around the room. Stand at the doorway (or entry into the room) and start at the left and glance around to the right, cleaning or tidying anything you see.

3–Leave it better than when you walked in – during the day, if you walk into your area of responsibility do something to leave it in a better state than when you walked in.

4–Hotspots – hotspots are the surfaces that collect clutter and each room has them. Know what the hotspot is in your area of responsibility and deal with stuff every day (this could be one of the things you notice and deal with when you walk into a room)

5–Thoroughness – Knowing what factors will diminish your effectiveness to achieve your goal. Your goal is to maintain order and cleanliness in your zone. Know what blocks you from doing a good job (different things deter different people)

6–See what Mum Sees – This is my assignment – to either take a walk around the zone, pointing things out or if I don’t get to it before they go to bed, to take photos and share them with the kids the next day. Be aware they may not know how to deal with these little things – teach them, practice with them, so that they know how, and then expect it.

#6 here is really the issue of domestic blindness – they need to be taught to see what you see. They need to understand that those things that are conveniently ignored are really a part of their responsibility. I need to hold them accountable to those little things as well as I hold them to the main tasks.

For example – in the kitchen:

If my child didn’t do the dishes one night I would have no difficulty in getting them to do it – and maybe a bit more – the next morning. The dishes are definitely their responsibility and they know it. But what about rinsing out the sink when they are done. It is a little thing – that from a mother’s perspective needs to be done, but from a child’s perspective often gets ignored.

Is their Domestic Blindness a Heart Issue?

The question is – are they being naughty or are they being ignorant?

Chances are they are being ignorant. Or domestically blind! We need to teach the little things and then expect the little things to be done as much as we expect the big things to be done. But often we teach the big, and expect osmosis to take care of the little things. It doesn’t work that way.

A friend said to me once, that we need to tell our kids what our brain is thinking. If I remember correctly she was talking about the writing process, but it is true for anything we want to teach our kids. We do things automatically, and somehow we have to teach that to our kids. By slowing down and articulating the sequence of thoughts that your brain goes through as you get things done our kids can learn the same processes.

Domestic blindness is simply not exercising the muscles to see what needs to be done. If we follow up behind our kids and do it – or tell them what to do – we are not training their muscles to see it for themselves – we are robbing them of the opportunity to show responsibility and initiative.

So for the next little while in our house we’ll be focusing on the little things – what about you? Do you have any little things that get overlooked, ignored, conveniently forgotten? It is up to you to help everyone see the things that need to be done, teach them how to do things, and then let them do it!

Further Reading:

Click image to read the blog post

Character is not a head-knowledge thing – it is a life of making wise choices and chore time gives our children an opportunity to make those choices, and grow in character.

Chores teach Character: Character is not head-knowledge; it is a life of making wise choices. Chore time gives children an opportunity to make those choices and to grow in character.

Raising independent kids seems to be a good goal, but when we look at the heart of independence we actually want something else.

Do you really want independent kids: Raising independent kids seems to be a good goal, but when we look at the heart of independence we actually want something else.

10 things we did as intentional parents that have shaped who we are today.

10 Things we Did as Intentional Parents: These 10 things have shaped our family

Though we want to teach our children responsibility sometimes irresponsibility sets in their hearts. Parents need to check on the subtle things we do to keep this attitude in check.

10 Things that Lead to Irresponsibility: Though we want to teach our children responsibility sometimes irresponsibility sets in their hearts. Parents need to check on the subtle things we do to keep this attitude in check.

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Though it is frustrating when our kids don't see the mess in front of them - I call it domestic blindness - we can teach them to see it and do something about it.Though it is frustrating when our kids don't see the mess in front of them - I call it domestic blindness - we can teach them to see it and do something about it.

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