I’m sure there will be someone out there gasping that anyone could describe their child using negative words like ‘lazy’ and ‘slob’. Many more of us however, are desperately searching Google for an answer that has plagued parents for generations. How do you prevent your children from leaving a trail of debris behind them where ever they go?
By now you probably already know that helicoptering over them and screaming only works when you are there to enforce it. The infamous, “Trashbag Clean” will certainly be memorable for your child, but it isn’t going to stop them from going right back to laziness as soon as you’re not standing over them with a whip in your hand.
As anyone who has read this blog know, I too am a lazy little slob. Yet my son can clean his room up completely and properly when asked, and is glad to do chores. We’re talking following me around incessantly and whining that he needs one to do kind of glad. When he grows up and moves out, he will at least know how to find food and that if he wants underwear without skid marks in them, he will have to put them in the washing machine with soap and press the on button.
Even though it took me years to clean up my own act, my son learned how to be neat pretty quickly. His room is clean, organized, and pretty much looks like something out of a designer catalog before bed each night. Getting him this way did not happen through yelling at him, robbing him of his toys, or cleaning the mess up for him.
Parents. You want to know how to teach your kids to be clean? Be there for them.
Starting when my son was little, when he showed an interest in a household chores, he got to do it. That means at three years old he was pushing a vacuum around, while I kept his toes/dogs/the cord out of his path. Wants to do the dishes? We got a basin of water and splashed some cups or wooden spoons in soap.
To a toddler, cleaning the house is an adventure and a delight. It’s only after they’ve grown up and we’ve put negative connotations on it that it becomes less fun. We tend to turn chores into a punishment, and also to not let kids try chores.
Yes, it will take you 45 minutes to get the dishes done with your toddlers “help” and approximately 2 if you do it yourself. It will pay you back in dividends later if you take those 45 minutes (at least sometimes) and let them help. (Realistically sometimes you don’t have time to let your kids help, but make the time when ever you can. It’s worth it.)
Kids are already somewhat older and hate chores? It’s still fixable.
When it is time to clean their room, don’t just tell them to go do it and check-in every 15 minutes to yell when they forget and start playing instead. Come in and help. If they stand around uselessly and watch you do it, remind them through a positive comment. “Can you get the laundry and put it in the basket while I make your bed?”
This helps your child figure out what to do, and helps make progress on the room. If they still refuse, you can help encourage them with a reward chart. (My son never needed this, but if your child is used to resisting, this might be just the trick to motivate them to work with you.)
You can also tie chores into the fun things they love to do. Does your teen want to go to the movies with her friends? If they don’t have a job, they can do chores to make the money for it. Does he want a new video game? He can pay for it in chores. If all the extras are paid for through housework (stuff you were going to give them anyway) it will not only help you, but help them feel validated.
Remember, when you ask your kids to do nothing, nothing is exactly what you will get. Take the time to show your kids how to do chores, and make it a pleasant experience. Truthfully that is all you need to do to get clean and organized children.