As our sea shipment arrived in our new home as we recently relocated, our days were just around unpacking the 150 boxes of long-time treasures, the biggest of which were Minh’s toys and books that had been hoarded over years. In an attempt to make him more responsible and independent by participating in housework, I asked Minh to clean up his own room full of unloaded sea of stuff. When we lived in Singapore, we used to have an in-house helper who took care of cleaning and cooking so somehow, Minh was “spoiled”. Our maid unfortunately was too good that despite our telling her to let our son do things by himself, she was still around or after tidying up all kinds of mess. On top of that, who says doing chores is more fun than playing Plants vs. Zombies on Ipad or creating a superman from Lego? To be fair, who says cleaning up 50 boxes of toys and books in chaos and full of dust is cool, especially for a 7-year-old buddy? Well, after about more than half a day, things had finally been in their places and the room looked brighter than ever with neat labelled compartments that are home for 100 and over kinds of toys. The best part was when the room owner said “I feel happy!”. Here are the process I went through, applying coaching principles.

Before the actual process kicked in, I was modelling by organising the kitchen and the living room, doing all the dusting and arranging so they look really satisfying at least to my eyes.

1. Paint a vision and a goal: “Once you have your room up, tidy, and beautiful, you can invite Ivita and Prajin over for a play date!”

In a normal situation, I would ask Minh to define his own goal and help him to shine it so it sounds really inspiring. This time, I had to confess that I could not wait to see the house in order as soon as possible so made one for Minh. However, that goal somehow still created some motivation in him. Well, still, I will ask my client the next time!

2. Give Minh autonomy & Support him throughout the journey: “You are the boss, and I am your assistant. So you plan and tell me where I can help, OK?”

We decided to deal with the toys first and the books would be for the next day. After finishing half of the mountain, we rested over lunch and spoke about the progress. Minh asked, “Mum, what does a boss do?”. I replied, “What does a worker for LEGO do?”. “Makes the LEGO bricks.”, answered Minh, and I continued, “So a boss does a bigger job than that. He takes care of the workers, the customers, the investors, the environment, etc. For example, if you, as a customer, complain about some errors in the LEGO bricks or you have a great idea to make the product better to share, he will make sure to get them fixed and consider your ideas. He also needs to create strategy and plan. For example, he needs to project how many LEGO bricks the customers may want and build a plan around that.” Minh winked his eyes, “Just like in winter, people need more socks right mum?”. “Something like that.”, I said in response, and kept going, “So you are the boss of your room and as your assistant, you would plan and I would do whatever you tell me to do alright?” Minh showed a really big smile, from his mouth and also from his eyes. (Minh actually also asked, “So who takes care of the boss?”, and I said, “His wife.”).

There we went. Minh got all the freedom to choose the boxes, classify the toys accordingly, and put them in the places on the shelves and the cabinet he thought make sense. And he loved it as it was quite LEGOish For me, I helped him with dusting and labelling.

3. Celebrate milestones achieved: I cooked a really nice lunch with food that Minh loves (he indeed had a 2nd helping)! Somewhere in the middle of the spring cleaning project, Minh said he was hungry. So we all had a big bowl of potato soup as a small reward to settle our stomachs and boost our energy before the actual meal time.

4. Review the progress: When it looked like it was 95% done, Minh said, “Mum, we are done.” So I challenged him, “Do you really think so?”. “Well, not really.”, answered Minh. “Where do you think we need to finish off so we reach 100%?”, said I, and Minh showed a few items scattered around the room.

5. Check in feelings & Look at the lessons learnt: At the end when we were 100% mission accomplished, the half of the room with toys looked super tidy and breathable, I asked Minh, “Wow, look at your room, Minh. I like it. How about you?” Minh then did not wait for a second, “Me, too!”. “And how do you feel about it?”, I asked again. “Comfortable and happy.”, answered Minh with a proud smile, and I continued, “So what makes you finish the work well?”. “Sort things out.”, Minh said. “What else?”, another question came from me. “And focus on one thing at a time.”, said my happy boy.

I should actually have asked also “How do you think you could apply these lessons to anything else?” (If I did, Minh may have said “To the cleaning up of my books” or who knows?!)

6. Celebrate! Let’s see how we will do this tomorrow once we are done with the whole room. It would be an experience, instead of toys or anything of material values for now. I will update in the comment section below.

For me, it was a feeling of relief and more love for our new home, and moreover, it was a feeling of being a good mother (for that moment ). In my own review, I wanted to be more patient the next time I apply coaching to partnering with my little buddies. I would not rush Minh by keeping asking him where to put this or that item when he was arranging all of the parts of his Hot Wheel into a cabinet compartment to the point where he said “Mum, I cannot focus on many things at a time!”

That night when I went to sleep, I could not help smiling to myself thinking of what Minh exclaimed at the end of the journey, putting a little soft koala bear into a box, “I will create something out of “Others”!” (As we classified the toys, there are a few small items that should not claim the ownership of a whole box, we put them all into a box of miscellaneous things called “Others”.)