I’ve been sick. And when I am sick, the house runs at bare minimum. My husband tries to work while keeping the kids from harming themselves or each other, so if at the end of the day everyone has eaten and is alive, we’re good.
Today I could stand and keep food down, which is good because now my husband is sick. So the kids and I set about picking up the pieces that used to be the house. It wasn’t too long ago that I did all the cleaning myself. After all I am home, I have the most time, and I have a thing about clutter.
But as the kids got older, I realized what a disservice it was to them to not have them take care of the house around them. After all, at school they are responsible for the classroom environment. They help with dishes, dusting, etc. Its about time I stepped it up at home.
Trying to get a head start on cleaning.
But cleaning can be overwhelming to kids. To tell you the truth, its overwhelming to me. Having piles of toys overflowing on the floor, baskets of laundry to fold, and a bathroom that grows a science experiment can make someone run and hide. Or in this case 3 someones run and hide.
Then like a headslap from the grave, I see this post from Maria Montessori. And it reminded me why its important to have kids do challenging things. I gave the kids a toilet brush and some 409 and they scrubbed the bathroom. If they got stuck, I gave them direction. They even worked out some jobs I hadn’t thought of like cleaning the rugs. Then they tackled the family room. Which is a room that looks like someone threw up childhood. Toys, goldfish crackers, mud, paper, and books strewn all over the place.
I shuddered when I looked at that room.
But they worked together. Even Margo pitched in, when she wasn’t climbing on the table. And they did it without a lot of prompting (which is more than I can say for the front yard after they played outside)
Kids want to do hard things. When we swoop in and do it for them, they don’t have a chance to learn and grow. It’s great to give them helpful hints, but give them a chance to see success on their own. Give them a chance to do the hard things now, because it will make their lives that much easier when they’re older.
Too often I see parents stepping in when the kids should be at the helm. Packing lunches, doing laundry, and cleaning up after the kids is nice. But it’s harmful. It takes away a sense of purpose and responsibility in the household. Which is damaging not only now, but in the future.
Do something even nicer for your kids, and take a step back and let them grow. Their future teachers, bosses, and spouses will thank you for it.
My advice to having kids help out around the house?
1. Always have them pick up their own toys.
2. When you are first starting out, start with small spaces. And no room is off limits. Bathrooms are a great place to start because of the size. Find some cleansers you are comfortable with and let them get to work.
3. In bedrooms give them clear tasks. I write down what needs done for the older kids, and for Margo, I sit with her and tell her what to do next. If I shut the door and say clean, I will either get crying kids or a room that looks the same when I open the door.
4. Ask them what they want to do. If I have 3 jobs that need done, I let them pick what they want to do first.
5. The hardest one for me to learn is to not expect perfection. A 9, 5, and 3 year old don’t see mess the same way I do. A job well done doesn’t mean spotless, and that’s a hard lesson for me to learn.
6. Remember kids want to help at all ages. Even when they are small let them work around the house. We tend to not let kids help and then are surprised when they refuse to help when they are older. Get them in the habit now, otherwise its an uphill battle.
7. Don’t give them too much to do. Especially on a school day. After school the kids need time to unravel from the day, and if I have a list of things to do there is mutiny. Dishes are always on the agenda, but otherwise we work on 1 room each afternoon.
8. Rewarding them for a job is harmful as well. Tell them you can see they worked hard. Thank them for doing the work. But if you reward them for doing the job, they become monkeys who will only work for a payout.
Trust me on this one. I’ve made that mistake. Throw out the sticker charts and the reward systems. That plan will backfire.
What would you add to this list?