Participatory Economics is defined as:
Participatory economics, often abbreviated parecon, is an economic system based on participatory decision making as the primary economic mechanism for the allocation of the factors of production and guidance of production in a given society. Participatory decision-making involves the participation of all persons in decision-making on issues in proportion to the impact such decisions have on their lives. Participatory economics is a form of decentralized economic planning and socialism involving the common ownership of the means of production…
The underlying values that parecon seeks to implement are equity, solidarity, diversity, workers’ self-management and efficiency (defined as accomplishing goals without wasting valued assets). The institutions of parecon include workers’ and consumers’ councils utilizing self-managerial methods for making decisions, balanced job complexes, remuneration based on individual effort, and participatory planning.
So how can this be applied to children? Well, let me tell you about our family’s newest experiment!
Last night, we made some homemade pizzas. (I might just write another blog with the recipe!) I made the dough and shredded the cheese, my husband made the sauce and cooked the sausage, our older two girls helped cut vegetables and assemble the pizzas; it was a great joint effort! When one of the girls voiced their dislike of a job I had assigned, I was quick to switch tasks around in order to keep everyone happily involved. It ended up being a lot of fun, and led to a great discussion. The discussion began when Meghan, our 9 year old, said that she really enjoyed using the new rake that my husband had bought earlier in the day. We expressed to her how wonderful that was, and that she was certainly allowed to use the rake anytime she wanted. This opened the door to both her and Lizzy, our 11 year old, sharing which chores they liked to do and which ones they hated. Some of their admissions were surprising! For instance, Lizzy told us that washing dishes was as bad to her as scooping out the litter box or cleaning up dog poop! As we talked, my husband interjected and said, “Participatory Economics!” And yes, I admit, he has suggested this before. At any rate, I decided to give it a go.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote about my new plan for housework in my article Housework: The bane of my existence. Basically, I assigned a different area of the house to each day of the week (except for Sunday). Since this method has been working fairly well, I decided to simply expound upon it. This morning, I wrote a list of all the tasks I hoped to accomplish in today’s area of the house (the living room and hallway). I then had Meghan choose one task that she would like to do. Lizzy went next, then me. I had them each take one more turn, then I chose two tasks. The last on the list was “fold and put away laundry”. I don’t mind folding, but hate the putting away part, and both girls are the opposite! So we decided to work together on that task, each doing the parts we wanted.
In addition to the once a week tasks, we agreed there were a few things in the kitchen that (obviously) need to be completed daily. Since both girls expressed their extreme distaste for washing dishes, I volunteered for that. Meghan wanted to clean the table, and Lizzy willingly volunteered for sweeping the floor. I explained that there would be no more taking turns, which eliminates quarreling over who did it last. Also, I expressed that I would prefer not having to tell anyone to do their task; the goal being that each of us notice when our task needs to be done and simply getting it done with no complaint or procrastination.
The million-dollar question is: does it work? I realize that it’s only been half a day, but I have to say, it works better than anything else we’ve tried thus far! By noon, all but two of the tasks had been completed, including the daily kitchen tasks. There was ample time to play outside, drink coffee, check Facebook, walk to the market, take the dogs out, play with the little ones, eat breakfast, etc. We in no way have felt rushed, I haven’t spent any time cajoling or yelling, there has been no argument or whining. I did have to point out some spots missed during vacuuming/sweeping, but the correction wasn’t met with hostility or tears. I’m very pleased overall, especially with the very relaxed atmosphere and happy children!