Time for a Reset Conversation – with the Whole Family

by cv harquail on July 7, 2015

Things were going to hell in a hand basket.

au pair problems, reset conversationDishes clean but still in the dishwasher. Laundry folded and never put away.

Children announcing that they needed to be driven here and picked up there, at the last minute.

Spouse “having dinner with a client. I told you about it yesterday” but nothing written on the family calendar.

Even Coco was in the doghouse, for eating socks that “someone” left on the bedroom floor.

While I was recuperating from my broken shoulder, finishing up classes, submitting final grades and yes– Kon Marie-ing my office so that I could find the draft of that chapter I’ve been writing since April — standards had fallen.

Entropy had taken hold.

Family members had reduced their contributions to just about nothing.

Time for a Family Reset Conversation.

Really, what’s a mother to do, other than have a Reset Conversation with the Whole Family?     

A Family Reset Conversation works just like the kind you’d have in an Au Pair- Host Parent situation, but this time it includes everyone.

Here’s how to run it down:

    1. Call the whole family together and seat them around the kitchen table.
    2. Remind them of the family vision, family motto, or other similar shared values & vision. Make these up on the fly if you have to.
    3. Create a picture of what you wish things were like– kitchen tidy after dinner, laundry tucked into neat drawers, events put on the calendar ahead of time, kind words between siblings when the dog needs a walk, backpacks hung up and wet bathing suits in the laundry room. Whatever it is that you need to have happen that hasn’t been happening yet.
    4. Ask them– what would you like our home to feel like?
      How you like mom to greet you when you get off the bus from daycamp?
      How would you like our sweet dog to feel when she tells you she needs to go out?
    5. Next, move to — How can we make this happen?
      What can you do differently?
      What can I do to help you get there?
      What matters most to you?
      How can we keep track of progress?
    6. Have everyone choose three things to do, write these onto the refrigerator, and make a note to follow up in a week.
    7. Then, focus your parenting efforts on catching them doing things right. At least once a day, per family member (Coco included), recognize and affirm their efforts.

Reset Conversations: A Handy Tool for (M)any Times

Reset conversations are great to have not only when things are falling apart, but also when change is in the air.

Ideally, once your kids are old enough to participate, a Family Reset Conversation can be a useful tool for helping everyone take advantage of the change that a new au pair brings.

See also:  Take Advantage of Your Summer Re-Sets: Revise expectations

Family Reset Conversations are great for more than talking about how to welcome and orient your new au pair. They can be a great tool for upgrading any family habits and routines that need to be adjusted to fit kids who are now a year older.

And, being ‘more grown up’ and have a brand new au pair are great ‘cover stories’ for requesting that your kids (and perhaps even your partner) change their behavior.

No changes for you, though. You’re already a paragon of virtue, a dynamo of positive parenting energy.

Go have a cookie.

Hugs, Au Pair Mom

rosemary asterisk

Image: TailsAndFur on Flickr


See also:  Micro-Affirmations: Tiny, Powerful Ways to Motivate & Thank Your Au Pair


Should be working July 7, 2015 at 5:16 pm

Any reminders or suggestions for how to have the family reset conversation in advance of a new AP arriving? Every year around now is when I invent new chore-charts, job-wheels, etc., all “to make it look like we kids actually do chores” (son’s words; and see also my response to RHM about how our family generally emphasizes kids’ chores and autonomy less than our APs’ families). And the shiny new system usually sticks a little while before degenerating into a nagging-motivated system.

I know it is important to have the reset BEFORE AP arrives so that the refreshing of the chore-system is a little bit routinized by then. How do those conversations change over the years, as kids become teens and APs become closer in age to kids?

As blog regulars may know, we also have a large issue of HK illness that means that one kid essentially may not have anything to do with kitchen- and meal-related chores, and life has been really, really hard these last six months, so we have made even less effort at chores for kids. Living in our house and rolling with a changing, difficult status quo has required enough effort already. Part of the reset here is therefore a question of readjusting to the new normal, which isn’t always consistent.

Dorsi July 7, 2015 at 5:51 pm

I don’t have any suggestions for you SBW, but I always joke that I have “new AP resolutions” not “new year resolutions”.

Seattle Mom July 7, 2015 at 6:28 pm

Totally! I am miraculously much cleaner and more organized for about the first month of a new AP. How long it lasts after that depends on how much I care to impress the AP.

momo4 July 8, 2015 at 7:07 pm

Haha!! Me too. The house is always spotless for the new AP arrival, and a total disaster by the time they leave.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 9, 2015 at 6:58 am

I call it “putting my best foot forward” – child #2 calls it lying!

TexasHM July 7, 2015 at 6:08 pm

This may or may not be helpful to you SBW but I recently read Dave Ramsey and daughter’s (Rachel Cruze) new book “Smart Kids Smart Money” and we changed a lot of the way we dealt with chores and “commissions” and incentives in our household and it has made a world of difference. I too hated nagging and I hated the idea of paying the kids to do things that they should do as a part of the household or humans in general (morning routine, put backpacks away, etc) but that is no longer a problem in our house! (knock on wood) He does a great job of giving thorough examples of how to motivate and incentive kids in all ages (all 3 kids have different chore charts based on ages and abilities) and the kids drive it. Just yesterday my son asks to revise his chart because washing the dishes keeps getting done by new AP. :) He asked for new chores so he could continue to make the same money or more so we put our heads together and added some more things that I actually want done that he can do and make some cash. It’s made a world of difference for us.

From an AP perspective unfortunately the only thing I have seen work is to checklist and detail for awhile until it becomes second nature. I HATE this and am about to checklist for current AP but I actually think she might love it. Will report back… :)

If any of you are married to programmers you might appreciate that during spring break my husband called a family meeting to have an agile session to discuss our wants and needs for the week. It was super nerdy and a bit much for my younger ones but they got a TON done and had a blast so who am I to judge?! So completely agreed on getting kids/DH/AP buy in and coming up with a plan and deliverables.

Emerald City HM July 7, 2015 at 6:23 pm

I’ve never thought about using agile methods to plan around our house. That might not actually be a bad idea as the kids get older and for use on vacations.

Should be working July 7, 2015 at 9:42 pm

What’s agile methods?

Emerald City HM July 7, 2015 at 10:32 pm

In a nutshell:

It’s a project planning methodology used for software where the priorities change every sprint (usually a 1-3 week period). The whole project is defined by a backlog of tasks that add value to the project broken down in a manner where each task will only take a short amount of time usually. At the beginning of a sprint the team gets together with the customer and decides which tasks will get completed that particular sprint and who will complete them by using a combination of priority and how long the task is expected to take.

It’s pretty much the exact opposite of a waterfall approach (how you would plan a project to build a building perhaps) and takes a very customer oriented objective.

Dorsi July 7, 2015 at 10:42 pm
Emerald City HM July 7, 2015 at 10:45 pm

They really do have TED talks for everything!

FirstTimeHM July 8, 2015 at 1:53 am

Yes, married to a scrum master, but fortunately he leaves that method at work. He and I don’t like it when home resembles work too much, but that’s personal.

We simply tell the kids that since we’re all living in this house together we have to share the workload. Each of them is required to pick up after themselves, put away their backpack, help lay/clear the table and take turns doing dishes and bring the laundry to the bathroom. I know they don’t always like that, but neither do I. I model behaviour by simply doing things, even when they know I’m tired and much rather sit on the couch. I also tell them in the weekend that I’m so glad we already did this and this and this during the week so we can do fun things now. For us pitching in isn’t about money but about living together and making everything work together.

Our AP has been raised by a single working mother so she knows a lot more about pitching in and chores than our kids, and has told them about what she had to do at home. When we listened and asked questions about at which age she/her siblings had to do which chores, the kids suddenly appreciated their current tasks a lot more.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 7, 2015 at 7:51 pm

We have an odd family situation. I have one teenager that requires total care (ironically – and for very different reasons – SBW is very close to being in my shoes) and one that is incredibly independent (because I had to rely on his ability to listen and keep himself safe from the time we got his sister a wheelchair when he was 2). I’ve never had a family reset, but talk to child #2 and the AP separately. When he was younger, we had a lot of conversations with him about treating the AP with respect. Now that he’s going into 8th grade, he’s very independent, and the conversation is more about his gaining responsibility for putting away his belongs, making nutritious meals for himself, and gaining independence both in transporting himself around and tasks of daily living. The AP works for The Camel 100% and that is not going to change.

German Host Mom July 8, 2015 at 3:43 am

That was a very timely post.
I need to have a family reset conversation this summer for a different reason – we are not going to host an au pair this fall. This wasn’t planned – we had matched with a young woman who suddenly annonced 3 weeks ago she had been offered a longer-term contract as a language school teacher instead of it being just a summer job. She was elated at her great news, I of course less so… While I understand – if I were a young person in Spain and were offered a regular job I’d take it too – it has left us in the lurch. It was too late to find a replacement especially as we need somebody from early to middle of August as school holidays finish incredibly early this year. Pickings were thin to non-existant. So we reevaluated our needs and decided to try something new. Our au pairs have always worked fewer hours than normal, which we haven’t grudged, but it is now veering toward half the normal. We have found a young woman locally to collect the kids from school in the afternoon and stay with them until we are home 3-4 days a week, as well as do occasional babysitting. It suits her as she was only offered a half-day job by her employer. It will take away some flexibility, especially regarding sick kids, but we’ll give it a try for some months at least.
Of course that means that everybody will have to pitch in more and the kids will need to be more self-reliant, especially in their morning routine.
I laughed at SBWs description regarding their chore-chart issues, as that’s what happens here, too! And my “chores for pocket-money” system backfired, as my 7-year olds are already very money-savy and why should they do chores for the very paltry sum offered! But one doesn’t want to pay a seven year old minimum wage…
So we now have chores for minutes of media time which works out very well.
And I’ll call them all together for a reset conversation regarding our post-au pair time or au pair-gap, whatever it turns out to be!

Mimi July 8, 2015 at 5:41 pm

A very timely post indeed! Our next AP arrives in 2 weeks and I started this conversation with my family a few weeks ago. Because we’ve been without an AP since March, chores have been done a little differently and the kids have had a lot more independence and leeway. The lack of an AP has meant that HD has had to step up his game with scheduling and communication, too. It will be interesting to see how this is affected by an AP.

Seattle Mom July 9, 2015 at 12:00 pm

If anyone really needs a reset conversation in our household, it’s probably me! Admittedly, I really suck at domestic tasks. I mean, I cook and clean and do laundry and stuff, but I’m not systematic or on top of it at all. My husband is the one who is really in charge. The kids & their health & activities are my little fiefdom, but DH reigns supreme over the food we buy, cook & eat, the way the house is organized, and what gets done.

Partly because I work more hours, and partly because he is just better at all of that. It probably feels like total role reversal to him, but in reality I’m pretty sure I do close to 50% of the household work. I know that there are still plenty of homes where the guy in my position would really be doing more like 20%.

Comments on this entry are closed.