From: Urbfarmp (
Date: Fri, 29 Nov 1996 15:48:10 -0600
I'm not yet living in coho, so this is based on experience in other
(non-resident) communities (e.g. a school).  

But, has anyone thought to ask the kids if they want to help?  Individually?

My experience is that when kids are ready (and it varies from task to task
and kid to kid), they get great satisfaction from taking on responsibility
(even if on a one-shot basis) for a mundane task contributing to a larger
whole.  And, even a few kids doing "housekeeping" <because they want to be
doing it> begins to create a model in which that is appropriate behavior (not
*required*; appropriate).   

This is different from formally creating a norm which people within a
category <must> adhere to or risk social disapproval (e.g. the "agreements"
about mutual responsibility and task definition which adults tend toward).  

It is also my experience that it may take dozens of very innocent offers of
an opportunity to help with the dishes before a particular kid takes you up
on it.  And, you can ask if there's a problem or concern (they feel like they
might mess up and be judged, they don't know how...) or if they just don't
feel like it -- so long as you are clear that you are honestly asking if they
<want> to help.  Eventually, however, a kid who've you've been asking if they
would like to help wash dishes may wander up out of the blue and say "Can I
sweep?"  At which point, you calmly say "Sure." and ask if they need any help
finding or using the tools, let them actually be responsible for the work
(though you, or a friend, may need to hold the dustpan), and compliment them
on their work when they have finished.

Regarding relationships with other parents, you as an individual have only
asked a kid to help, being very open to being told "no."  If the kid says
"yes", then they have made a choice, and are doing it because they want to.
 If their parent shows up, and seeing the kid helping out, gives you or the
kid grief for some reason ("Aren't you supposed to be doing homework?  What
are you doing sweeping?"  "Did you tell her to sweep?") this is mostly
between the kid and their parent.  You merely asked, did not "tell" --
offered the opportunity.

I suggest just asking a kid to help you out on something....

Paul Wilson
urbfarmp [at]

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