"Why is it always a struggle to get my kids to clean?" If you're like most parents in this crazy realm we call Western Civilization, you've probably asked yourself that very question. More than once.
I remember reading the Little House on the Prairie books to my daughter and thinking to myself, Wow. These kids were up at dawn to milk the cow, help with breakfast and clean up afterwards at the age of five, and they never grumbled or complained about it. How did Ma do it?
Well, for a large part, it comes down to this: it was a different world. Ma's house was tiny. Their belongings were few. They didn't get new stuff every week, just a few necessities once a year. The Ingalls kids only had about two or three toys each. If they got bored with those, they had to use their imaginations to come up with something to entertain themselves. And most importantly, housework was not seen as an annoyance to put up with or something that could be gotten to later. It was a matter of survival in the primitive fronteir life. No refrigeration. No trash pick up. No electric lights. You had to do what needed to be done, and you had to do it while the sun was shining. Your family's health and well being depended upon it.
Contrast that with the pampered lives we live today. If I don't want to wash dishes after breakfast, it's no big deal. I can run hot water out of my faucet any time of day and use my scrubby sponge and liquid dish detergent to effectively get the grease or cooked on food off of pots and pans. Ma Ingalls had no such luxury. Don't feel like doing laundry today? It'll keep. Your washer and dryer will still be there tomorrow.
So the main reason why it's so hard to get kids to help these days is probably that housework is not viewed as essential. The amazing benefits of modern convenience come at a price. Is the price worth it? I think so. The luxury of modern technology doesn't only breed laziness. It also allows us to do more fulfilling work, to follow our inspiration, to live longer and healthier lives, and to have wonderful experiences that the Ingalls would never have dreamed of.
But although housework might not be as important or all consuming as it was in the pioneer days, it is still important for our children to develop a strong work ethic, and for us as parents to not feel like we are carrying all of the day to day responsibilities. So we need to improvise.
Here are three tips for getting your kids to help around the house:
1. Start young.
Small children love to help with cleaning, sorting and food preparation. When my daughter was little, I too often responded to her eagerness to help with "I don't need any help." In my busy, somewhat stressful life, it just seemed easier to do everything myself than to teach her how to do a task and deal with the cleaning up that would certainly result. Believe me, I paid the price later on!
KIds as young as two can help with wiping down surfaces and sorting socks. Give your toddler a child sized broom and dust pan of his own, so he can "play" at cleaning while you actually clean. This instills a habit in him that cleaning is a pleasant activity. To help you in your quest for age-appropriate chores for children, here is a neat little infographic.
2. Instill a sense of ownership.
If your child shows a special interest in gardening, let her take care of the lawn and landscaping. If he loves to tinker with things, let him be the handyman of the family and fix broken appliances. Whatever your child is most interested in, find a way to make his household responsibility relevant to that. Ask him for ideas on how to make things run more smoothly and efficiently. It will take a little coaching and priming at first, but if you allow him ownership of that responsibility, he will become capable and confident with it in time.
"Oh, I wish there wasn't so much laundry!"
"I just cleaned this yesterday, and now look at it!"
"I just spent three hours cleaning this house!"
This kind of statement conveys a negative view of housework, and your kids DO pick up on it. Try to keep a smile on your face when you wash dishes, vacuum or scrub. Listen to music while you are cleaning. Say things like, "Wow, the sink looks so nice!" or "It sure feels good for the whole family to have clean clothes to wear." After awhile, your kids will start to display the same positive attitude about chores.
I hope you found these tips helpful and encouraging. Try putting them to use to get your kids to take more responsibility around the house. And if you live in the Asheville, NC area and your household cleaning needs require a more professional approach, please give us a call!