Teaching Moment: Getting The Kids To Help Clean

retrochick.JPGIvy says:

One of the most frequent questions I get is “How do you get your kids to help clean?” Short on the heels of that question is “How do you get kids to do a good job when cleaning?” Now, my kids aren’t the best cleaning helpers EVER, but they do help and they normally do a pretty good job. I’ve employed some strategies my mother used with us, and I’ve also picked up some strategies over the years. Today, darling Home Eccers, I share them with you.

Start young. The younger kids are, the more they will want to help. If you wait til your kids are fairly old before you try to get them to help clean, they won’t be as interested. The hard part of having very young kids help is that their skills aren’t always up to par, so you have to be exceedingly patient. Keep in mind the skill sets of your kid’s age group and things will be easier.

Make it fun. You can often turn cleaning into a game. “How many toys can you pick up before the clock dings?” Etc, etc.

Give step by step, clear instructions. Especially when they’re young, sending a kid into a room and telling them to clean it is overwhelming. Try “Pick up all the laundry. Good, now pick up all the trash.” Etc, etc.

Not helping is not an option. Once kids have passed a certain age, they tend to get a bit lazy and don’t want to help. They’ll try every argument in the book to try to get you to acquiesce and let them not clean, but be clear with them. In a family, we help. Everyone does their part.

Don’t get frustrated with the crappy job they do and do it yourself. My brother is 30 years old and still lives with my parents. Yet, my practically elderly father (he’s going to kill me when he reads this, haha) is the one that still mows the lawn. Why would the old man have to mow when the young man is there? Because my brother’s figured out how to get my dad so frustrated he just does the job himself. My brother is kind of an extreme example, but just keep that in mind. Do you want to still be mowing your lawn when you’re an old man/lady because you never forced your kid to mow the lawn the right way?

Speaking of that, check the job they did and then retrain them as necessary. If your kid did a bad job on something they were supposed to do, try to figure out if they did a bad job because they didn’t know any better, or because they’re slacking. If they didn’t know any better, show them again what to do, and show them how they can improve. If they’re just slacking, raise heck.

I know you want to be a nice mom, but raise heck when necessary. A boot in the butt is sometimes something you have to do.

Be a good example yourself (and make sure your spouse is being a good example, too.) If you are lazy about putting your clothes in the hamper, how can you expect your children to do the right thing? Talk to your spouse if they’re lazy about cleaning up after themselves. Impress upon them that you’re trying to raise productive citizens here, and you need them to do their part.

Train your kids on all aspects of keeping a home. Especially things that you might not think of, like budgeting and grocery shopping. My dad’s an accountant, so one would think I had been trained in how to do a budget. One would be wrong. (My dad is REALLY going to kill me now. Sorry, dad. I still love you!) Dad’s financial advice when I left the nest was basically “Don’t bounce checks. Good luck, kid.” Not helpful, Dad.

OK, Home Eccers, it’s your turn. What are your strategies on getting the kids to help clean and do a good job?


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  2. Carol on June 20, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Thanks for the great suggestions! Some we do in the family, and some I need to try. Now can we get a list on how to get the hubby to clean???

  3. Stuff on Saturday | Home Ec 101 on June 20, 2009 at 7:26 am

    […] did you see Ivy’s post on getting kids to clean? No? You missed out. Fix […]

  4. Stacy on June 19, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Well, my son’s not even two yet, but he has “jobs” already, and as far as he’s concerned, it’s fun. He has 2 jobs so far: 1. Go pick up the dog bowls from the porch and bring them to Daddy to fill up and feed the dogs, 2. Go get your towel so you can take a bath. He is very happy to do both. Obviously these don’t save me a lot of time, but I really believe in getting him started early with the idea that everyone helps and that he will have family work to do, period. However, when I told my students (high school freshmen) that he has “chores” a few of them were shocked, as if I was putting him to forced labor or abusing him. I guess their parents didn’t/don’t make them do much to help!

    • Stacy on June 19, 2009 at 10:15 pm

      I forgot to add that he has also started “helping” with other chores. For example, he sits on the counter and helps me make dinner–putting the cut up ingredients in the bowl and such. He thinks this is really fun, and I think it keeps him occupied with something more productive than whining and pulling on my leg! I have to keep reminding him to sit down, don’t get into the cupboard, etc. with the “threat” that he’ll have to get down and not help, and that pretty much stops any misbehaving.

  5. Heather on June 19, 2009 at 8:04 am

    You aren’t kidding about the patience. I’m kind of a control freak, so it takes every ounce of self-control I have to not chase people away so I can do things “right.”

  6. gracie on June 18, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    children do what you inspect not what you expect…….. and that said i got a lot of great advice from the book ‘managers of their chores’ by the maxwell’s

    i also don’t give out privileges till chores are done. (emphasis on the period)
    — no you can’t go out and play ______ isn’t done,
    — you want computer time…….are your chores done?,
    — tv? chores done?
    — dessert? chores done? oh and done correctly?
    — get back over here this isn’t done, you lied, finish the chore, 5 min in the corner for lying then you can go back and play

    i sound like a broken record (showing my age there), but i know one day it will pay off when they are adults – lol

    starting children early, making it a game, teaching them that it’s part of helping family and being nice to everyone……. that’s the hard part

    being consistent as a parent helps too, i’m not expecting perfection here, but sloppy doesn’t count either, and it’s the same chores every day, every week…….so there is no arguing over who’s turn it is to walk the dog, do puppy bomb patrol, pick up the outdoor toys in the evening……… and so on

    i keep a list pinned up where the children can see it and a separate one in my home management binder — the one that is pinned up disappears for some reason every once in a while – 🙂

    but i really need to work on the daily tiding chores we all should be doing…………

  7. Becca on June 18, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    I try to set an example by cleaning up after myself as I go along through my day. I insist that the house be picked up BEFORE bedtime. I prefer for rooms to be neat before TV time.

    With five kids….no ONE thing works. The 3 year old and he 13 year old are actually the best cleaners (oldest and youngest, go figure) but I can get the other three to pitch in with the right verbage.

    The big sayings around our house are: “We don’t have a maid….I am NOT the maid”. I am also fond of “clean up as you go along and the mess will never take too long to pick up”.

    Perhaps I shall embroider those on a pillow?

  8. Heidi @ CarolinaDreamz on June 18, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Great post!

    We had a “gobbler box.” We would call a 10 minute group clean up and anything left out, got gobbled.. even shoes and socks. (I’d randomly call it 3-4 times a day, depending on if I had clients/customers/visitors coming over..)

    We had a ticket system for good deeds, chores, being helpful.. and you could redeem tickets for prizes or money, as they got older.. but not until you bought back your things, even the trash, that was yours, in the gobbler box.

    It worked like a charm when they were little. Now teenagers.. I know mine know HOW to do it.. but the incentives and bribes are much bigger. 😛

    Now I give them allowance, on Mondays, in advance, and just tell them “you owe me,” and that works 1/2 the time. (I do, repeatedly, talk about “your part as a member of this family,” too.)

    ~Heidi @ WithaZ.net

    • Small Means on June 22, 2009 at 10:19 pm

      I LOVE the Gobbler Box idea! Super fantastico! That one’s getting put into place at our house, pronto!

  9. Karen on June 18, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    I think that what I’m missing is the discipline to make it a ROUTINE. We are supposed to put all the toys away together before bath but some days bedtime can not come too soon. Then, I skip it because it’s going to take too long and I know I can do it in a tiny fraction of the time “we” will.

  10. Angela on June 18, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    My kids like to clean with me. We work on the same room together, it gets done fast and they are less likely to get side tracked.

    My husband is not one for doing things around the house and the kids notice and complain that Dad does not have to do this stuff. I can not make my husband do things, not worth the fight, so to that I have started saying… You want to learn this stuff so you will not have to rely on another person to do it.

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