Dear Home-Ec 101,
My kids whine incessantly when I ask them to help clean, and they do a halfhearted job when they finally clean. How do I get them to help out?
Ripping my hair out in Riverdale
I know what that’s like. My kids still put up a fuss about cleaning, even though they are fairly well “trained”. Fortunately, I have hit on some methods to help you tame the kid-cleaning beast!
1. Start young. As soon as they’re old enough to walk and understand a one-step direction, I get them helping out. You can direct even the tiniest kids to clean up their toys. You’re going to have to help out at first, but it gets easier. I also have them do a lot of fetch-and-tote things, like, “Throw this in the trash can” and “Find your shoes”.
2. Hold a family meeting. Write down all the chores there are to do in the house and ask for volunteers. You will be surprised at what chores your kids might like to do. A favorite for the six year old set, I have found, is loading and unloading the dishwasher. Surprisingly, they can do a really good job at it, too, although you will still have to check the dishwasher to make sure it is loaded properly before it’s run.
3. Go on cleaning rampages. When I was a kid, my mom would get in a bad mood and tear through the house, cleaning furiously. My brother and I called them cleaning rampages, as in, “Mom’s on a cleaning rampage, better make sure your room is not too dirty or she’ll come clean your place next.” Now that I’m an adult, I find the term “cleaning rampage” endearing and I tell the kids we’re about to go on a cleaning rampage. I set the timer and we clean like tornadoes for a certain period of time. Much better than Mom’s style of cleaning rampage.
4. Take them to a really, really nasty house. I learned this quite by accident today. I was helping someone who has one of the nastiest houses I have ever seen move today, and had to bring the kids with me. Once we left, the kids took deep breaths of fresh clean air and instantly wanted to go home and scrub our house. “Mama, it smelled SO BAD in there! Mama, they have so much JUNK! We need to de-clutter so we don’t end up like that!”
5. Have cleaning contests. I hesitate to include this because it simply causes too much drama in my own house- with a 13, 6, and 3 year old, their ability levels are so different, that they all try to keep up with each other and end up in a tremendous fight. However, with kids that are closer in age, I’ve seen this work. The kid who has their room clean first, wins. The kid that picks up the most toys, wins. Etc. Your kids don’t know how to clean their own room? Try this primer I wrote on teaching your kids to clean their own room at Curbly.
With these tips, you should be able to get your kids cleaning like pros in no time!
Send your domestic questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.