Getting your kids to help clean up their own messes isn’t always easy, let alone getting them to help with general housework and cleaning. The whining, begging, complaining..and the kids start in too. (Tell me my kids aren’t the only ones who kids whine?!!) But, seriously it is so frustrating when you feel like you are the only one pitching in and there must be something we can do about it right? I finally found that the nagging and yelling were not the most effective way to get the kids to do what I wanted, I started looking for ways to get them WANTING to help with the chores and came up with these 12 things that consistently kept them interested.
12 Ways to Get Your Kids to Help Clean
Have Reasonable Expectations– A four-year-old is not likely to be able to hand a vacuum properly. But they can gather dirty clothes, empty small bathroom wastebaskets, and put toys away. The thing about what chores each child is capable of completing well- so they can take pride in a job well done and assign it to that child. As they grow and learn they will be able to accomplish more difficult tasks and it can be changed accordingly.
Make it a Family Affair– Sit down and talk to them about being part of a family, and what makes a family run smoothly is that everyone helps and encourages in all areas. This makes it seem less like a punishment and more like the part of life that it is. Also, don’t sit down and eat bonbons while making them clean up (I tried that, it caused a stir and its just not cool)
Be Consistent- When they have responsibilities every day and they know what is expected of them they are more likely to do it without complaint. Oftentimes I find if I am lazy about being consistent-ie… I just do all the cleaning myself for a month or so until I am burned out from picking up the same pile of Lego’s for the 10,000 time and start yelling- that it doesn’t change a thing. Randomly throwing out chores sets us both up for a fight- that’s not to say you can’t ask your child to pick up their books off the floor, or to help with preparing dinner. The other bonus of consistency is that the mess doesn’t get a chance to get out of hand. Cleaning up 15 minutes in the bedroom each day is a much easier task until letting them wait until you can no longer see the floor- that is just overwhelming.
Play Music- Even a grumpy 8 year old can’t resist a cleaning dance party. Crank up some fun tunes that make you wanna move. Even if they balk at first, the are likely to give into the music and fun. Mary Poppins had the right idea with “Whistle while you work” but I like to kick it up a notch further. Make a mix tape of everyone’s favorite songs, pop it in, and set goals like- “Let’s shake it cleaning like mad for 3 songs and then we will stop for a snack break”
Kid Sized Cleaning Supplies- What little kids don’t like to pretend to be like mom and dad? Playing house, pretending to grocery shop, etc.. A small basket or tote with a small feather duster, chore list, a grocery bag for picking up trash, a sock to slip over the hand for dusting, and maybe a small spray bottle of water with a few drops of essential oil in it for s“cleaner”. Make them feel like a big person and makes it a fun task.
Checklist- I don’t know about you but I love lists, and even more I LOVE the feeling you get when crossing something off that list. That sense of accomplishment feels so good. Guess what? Kids love it too, and seeing the pile of tasks that is before them grow smaller and smaller helps them focus on finishing. For little ones, you can print out pictures of various tasks and have them move them from the To do pile to the Done pile.
Rewards- Snacks when done, money, family movie night, etc. Use whatever motivates them to work without complaining. While my children do have a basic set of chores they are to do every day just because they are part of our family, I offer up extra chores that can be completed for certain amounts of money. Sometimes they change daily or weekly depending on what needs to be done. They love this because they get control over what they do, and end up with some pocket money at the end of a well-done job.
Break it Down into Smaller Tasks- A really big mess makes us all feel overwhelmed, and you don’t even know where to start. Instead of just saying “Go clean your room!” give them smaller jobs to complete- Pick up all your dirty clothes and put them in the laundry basket, now pick up all your Lego’s, then put away stuffed animals, make your bed. Eventually, they won’t need the constant direction, don’t forget the value of the checklist I mentioned above.
Rotate the less fun chores- No one likes getting the dirty jobs of scrubbing the toilet, doing dishes, or cleaning out the kitty litter every time. It seems much more doable if you only have do it every other week instead of every single week. However, if you have someone who enjoys mopping while no one else does, take that into consideration as well and perhaps make that their regular chore.
Create a Place for Everything- Make sure they have laundry baskets in their room, hooks in the bathroom for towels to dry on, bookshelves for books and puzzles, and baskets in the living room for random toys. A clear and definite spot for items makes the clean up more manageable and less chaotic.
Show Appreciation- Whether you go off to a 9-5 or you are a stay at home mom you like to hear- “Thank You”, and “ You did a great job!” Right? A Hug, compliment, or thank you go a long way in making them feel good, and it will carry over into the next task. Making them want to please you and earn praise.
Use Consequences- If all other efforts fail, I use this as a last resort. Start taking away TV, iPods, even extracurricular sports if necessary. While you may feel like a heel you are really doing them a favor. In the adult world if you do a poor job, or don’t show up at all you lose your job, house,etc. This is a gentler way of teaching them that actions, or lack thereof, have consequences.