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Getting the kids to help out with the cleaning

My mother is a clean-a-holic, which is different than a neat freak.  She is not so concerned with having every newspaper neatly folded, but you could practically eat off her floors.  She took such pride in our clean house when I was growing up that she would never dream of having anyone help her.  She was a working mom and I used to wonder why she never had someone come help, but that would have been totally against her principles, even if she could afford it.  I actually still remember once when my mom was sick, she had a young lady come to help her dust.  I vividly recall my mother standing by and watching this girl closely as she dusted in and around the houseplants.  When she was done, my mother politely showed her the door, thanked her, and redusted the whole room.

While I am proud of my mother for her cleaning skills and the responsibility she took to keep a nice home, there is one thing about my childhood I would change.  Obviously now that I am an adult and have my own home and children (and this blog), I take cleaning very seriously.  However, when I was growing up, my mom really didn’t ask me to help her enough.  It wasn’t ingrained in my mind that cleaning the house I lived in was my responsibility too.  So when I was asked to help dry dishes, for example, I would do it begrudgingly!  This was a mistake on my mom’s part because she shouldn’t have had to shoulder the entire burden of cleaning the house alone.

Here are my pointers to getting kids involved, even at an early age, in cleaning the house.  Not only does it teach them respect for the home and their belongings, but it teaches responsibility.  You can even make it part of their chores for the week and give them an allowance if they remember to do everything, or you can tell them this is just part of being a family member.

If you have a child under 10:

  • You don’t have to get the kids involved in heavy cleaning if you are worried about them handling toxic products or lifting anything too heavy or unsafe for small hands.  Start with chores that they can actually manage successfully and that are age appropriate.
  • Let them start with their bedrooms, which is the space that contains all of their belongings so they should be the ones to care for them.  First thing in the morning, have them make their beds, then once a week, have them change the sheets or help you do it.  Before bed every night, make sure they straighten up their rooms by putting away any toys and games and straightening up the book shelves.
  • Next off, look to their playroom, if you have one.  Again, this is their space so they should clean it up when they are done playing there.  If the kids are young, have them help you put toys away at the end of the day, and if they are a bit older, they could vacuum or sweep the room every few days and straighten up. Their lives will be much easier if you buy and label storage bins for these kinds of rooms so they can easily know where to store everything.
  • If the child is a bit older, let them help you in the kitchen, since you probably spend a good deal of time in there.  They can start by clearing and even doing the dinner dishes after everyone is done.  If you have more than one child, they could take turns by each picking a night or alternating nights.  If the child is too young to do dishes, they can still help clear and wipe the table.

If you have a teenager:

  • let them take the garbage out at night and be responsible for that “area” of the home, including the recycling.
  • teach them how to mow the lawn and do some raking, weeding or trimming of hedges.
  • kids can either do their own laundry, or if you mix everyone’s laundry together, they can help do the family laundry by sorting, washing and drying and folding.  Even little kids can help with the folding.
  • If you have a pet, there are many responsibilities involving cleaning and the pet.  Litter boxes must be cleaned every so often and the area around it should also be clean.  Dogs need walking and brushing and occasional bathing.

Those are just some ideas to get your child starting in helping with the chores.  For one, it helps you so you can spend more time with them doing fun things, but it will also give them a sense of pride if they master a task that has visible results.  Even if you have then do something really minor, it’s the thought that counts!

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