If there’s one thing kids are great at, it’s making messes. Since they tend to bounce around from one activity to the next, it’s easy for them to leave some chaos behind. It’s great that kids are spontaneous – free play is an integral part of being a child – but what can get frustrating for parents is that they often don’t clean up after themselves.
Teaching your kids how to clean is about more than just keeping the house tidy; it’s also a necessary part of their development. Don’t forget that these kids will be adults someday who will need to develop a sense of responsibility for themselves and their messes. If you start building their confidence in cleaning early, not only will they help you out around the house – your kids’ future roommates and partners will thank you, too. Here are some tips on teaching your children to keep things spick and span.
Set Firm Rules, but Be Understanding
Your kids won’t have a reason to clean up if they have no incentive to do so, which is why it’s imperative that you set firm ground rules about keeping things neat – and follow through on consequences if your kids don’t follow them. In fact, kids with authoritative parents – parents who set fair rules and consequences – are more likely to exhibit positive, rule-following behavior than ones with very permissive parents.
When establishing your rules, remember that it’s for your kids’ own good. We know that practically no one loves to clean, so it’s easy to try to take that load off of your children. However, if you cave in and clean up for them, all they’ll learn is that if they complain or procrastinate, they don’t need to take responsibility. This is why supporting them through their frustration about cleaning but sticking to your guns is so important.
Make sure you keep your expectations realistic; a preschooler might not be able to wash dishes or do laundry, while older kids might have other responsibilities like homework to take care of before they can clean their rooms. Consider giving younger kids simple responsibilities, and older ones time frames for getting their chores done.
You’ll also need to figure out how strict you want to be. If your kids forget to put their toys away, will you give them a warning? If you give them a warning and they forget, will you give their toys away or simply confiscate them for a while? Decide what level of strictness is best for your family, and make sure to follow through if they break the rules.
Make it Fun
Keeping up kids’ motivation can be tough –40% of high school kids are considered “chronically unmotivated.” But a great way to keep kids motivated to clean is by making it a fun activity. This goes past the usual chore charts; these are useful, but keeping chores entertaining and enjoyable will go even further to encouraging your kids’ cleanliness.
Making cleaning fun starts with you. You’ll need to keep a cheerful attitude when tackling dishes or laundry in order to model positive thinking towards cleaning for your children. If they hear you constantly grumbling about sweeping up or wiping down the bathroom, they’ll think of cleaning as something to be avoided.
Once you set yourself up as a good role model, you can turn chores into games to keep your kids engaged. Play music they like and dance as you vacuum, turn cleaning into a make-believe game in which they dress up as a professional cleaner and you act as a happy customer, or make cleaning a contest between siblings to see who can finish tidying up their room faster. If you keep fun in mind, your kids are more likely to be open to helping you clean up.
Show Them How
A lot of parents express frustration about the fact that their kids don’t clean up after themselves, but don’t put the time into really showing them how to do it. This contributes to the fact that while mothers spend an average of 18 hours per week doing housework, kids only spend 3. By being patient and specific about what you expect regarding their cleanliness, you will set your children up for success.
When explaining how to do certain chores, it’s important to keep the age of your kids in mind. Younger kids will need a lot of specific, step-by-step instructions in order to fully understand what you want – so instead of saying “Sally, could you go clean your room?” to a five-year-old, you’ll want to say “Sally, could you pick up your Hotwheels and put them in the box?” Once she’s finished that, you can say, “Great! Now, please pick up your dirty laundry from the floor and put it in the hamper.”
You’ll need to be specific with your instructions even with your older kids. Consider writing their daily chores on a whiteboard so that they don’t forget what they need to do.
By setting up good cleaning habits with your kids now, you’ll help them well into adulthood. What tips and tricks do you use to get your kids to clean up around the house?