Family & Education

How to get a little help at home

Do your kids groan at the prospect of household chores? Shiri Atsmon can get them motivated


With Pesach looming and spring cleaning awaiting, what if I told you that your home maintenance duties are about to be lightened? And what’s more, there could be an end to “floor-drobes” and teenage dishwasher-loading dramas? ANo more battling with the kids to tidy their rooms, lay the table, put their clothes in the wash – only to end up doing it yourself?

Meet domestic fairy godmother Shiri Atsmon and her “Helpful Kids” workshops.

Israeli born Atsmon, 43, is a qualitive consumer researcher with nine years’ experience at Kantar, the world’s leading data, insights and consulting company. Now she runs her business from her home in North London, where she lives with her husband and three children.

Atsmon’s experience in behavioural science and habit formation inspired her to create the business. Her workshops — for which parents pay £15 per session — explore how to teach children to engage positively in household chores, rebalance the domestic load curtoo often left to mothers, and communicate that household chores and responsibilities such as laundry, dustbin emptying and keeping ones room clean, are essential life tools, rather than punishments. The methods used aim to build children’s personal, social and development skills to ensure that tasks around the house get done in a fair manner — and can help to raise responsible children in a calm and positive manner. Sound too good to be true?

Atsmon has spent her professional years analysing people’s habits and behaviour. In the Israeli army she worked in a unit shaped by Nobel Prize winning behavioural economist Daniel Kahnemann, and was responsible for interviewing new recruits to assess where they would best fit in the army structure. Following a law degree, she and her husband moved to the States to pursue MBAs, and Atsmon took a career jump to marketing. Two years later, in 2006, the couple moved to China where Atsmon was hired by Kantar in the qualitative research department.

“My role was to facilitate face to face focus groups and I went to people’s homes to observe their habits,” she says. “I looked at their shopping, cooking and consumer habits, identifying issues and problems. Often if we would ask people to record themselves. For the first two days they are self- aware and make an effort to change their habits, but then they revert back to normal behaviour. It’s fascinating.”

Atsmon began to develop her thoughts around child involvement in household chores. “In the US it is much more common for children and teenagers to be more independent and to get involved at home. Whereas in China, I observed that kids are cossetted all through their primary years, then pushed into adulthood and extreme studying. Hence we hear about ‘tiger mums’.”

Settling in the UK in 2012, Atsmon took a job with Kantar, as Head of Digital Innovation. The role became extremely demanding and she decided to step back, spend more time with her children and focus on her new project.

“I started to read books on how to get your kids involved,” explains Atsmon. “They were all a bit old fashioned aimed at stay at home mums. I asked myself questions, with tiny practical details in mind. I looked at how things would fail, and how to design the methodology so that it wouldn’t fail.”

Atsmon studied mindsets such as how to instil in a child that they should fold everyone’s clothes not just their own, and how to minimise the pain for an eight-year-old who has never done anything and suddenly has to help. She dissected habits — how to automate behaviour rather than thinking about it too much. And how to encourage working as a team. “I had to seek solutions to hiccups in the team structure and chore system,” says Atsmon. “For example if someone falls ill, or coming back from holidays with an extra domestic workload.”

Atsmon believes that timing is crucial when it comes to getting your kids involved. “When you start with something you have high motivation, then it drops naturally. Habits don’t draw on motivation or drive. It’s about muscle memory. It’s the ‘when’ and ‘where’ to establish these habits rather than ‘how’ that’s really important. Cultivate a feeling of success by setting easy targets.”

So how does she do it? In her workshops Atsmon teaches that tasks need to practice the desired behaviour (let’s say clearing the dishes) together with the behaviours that precede it.

“If your child is already upstairs and you call them back to clear the table, they only practice clearing,” says Atsmon. “Here we want them to practice the clearing straight after the eating so that it becomes a habit.”

Sivan Bachrach has attended two workshops. “Shiri explained why learning to do chores is beneficial for me and my kids, now and in the future.

“She inspired me to persevere. We had a family meeting and I encouraged my kids to get involved. We created a schedule together. I understood the importance of automated actions like placing your bag in the right place. My goal for my son was for him to make his own packed lunch. And now he does it and I can drink my coffee hot in the morning. He has discovered an independence.”

And what about those tricky teens? “Relationship comes above everything else,” Atsmon says emphatically. “It’s not about making them do work, it’s about preparing them for life. Give them life hacks. Ask them how many life hacks a day they are ready to take on. Ask them what will work for them? Is it two mins a day? And don’t ask them to do ANYTHING in the morning!”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive