Clean House – Children’s Edition

Posted on May 10, 2012. Filed under: Cleaning, Family, Life, Parenting | Tags: , , , , , |

Don Aslett is a renowned motivational speaker and cleaning expert who has written several humorous books on the topic of cleaning and organizing the home. Reading his book Help! around the house : a mother’s guide to getting the family to pitch in and clean up was my first swift kick in the you-know-what that I needed to make a major change. If I was to ever have any hope of having a life outside of constant work, I needed to get the kids more involved in the daily housework.  I, by nature, am not a neat freak. I do, however, admit to having my way of doing certain things that tends to accomplish the task and keep the chaos to a minimum. Seemingly every time I asked someone to take over one of these tasks, they could never complete it the way I could which either left me having to redo it over or thoroughly upset every time I caught of glimpse of my solid structure slowly crumbling.

 Now you might think that I am a clear case of Mommy Dearest, but I promise you I am not and if you continue to read on I will eventually humanize myself! In his book, Don points out that not only are children capable of doing very intricate tasks around the home but they may actually be better at doing it than we are. After all, they are smaller and can get into nooks and crannies almost effortlessly. Gotta love his logic! But in hindsight, I did discover that each of my children had certain strengths right out the bat while others had to be nurtured (which forced me to conjure up all the patience I could possibly muster). But even in the case of the latter, they were still capable and eventually developed the ability to complete the task.

 The first task we had to perfect was washing dishes. My preteen daughters would simply toss dirty dishes into the dishwater every which way and at the end of the wash, dishes were still dirty…But now we had a bigger problem! Food was hardened to the dish at the point adult intervention was not only desirable but necessary. If intervention did not happen the dishes were either left in the dishwasher awaiting the next load or were packed away to be addressed when someone went to use it later on. The chaos continued when putting the dishes away. Went dishes were stacked on top of each other and there was no rhyme or reason in where they were put – any open space would do! Needless to say when the time came to actually use these dishes, I spent (or should I say wasted) so much time trying to find them.

 Now does this mean my daughters’ were hopeless, of course not! But like many things in life, you have to be properly taught. Don’t assume that everyone has an innate ability to do every task. So similar to how the Fortune 500 companies handle new hires, my daughters underwent a rigorous training process. From shadowing a seasoned employee (watch me work!) to shared responsible (teamwork!) to on your own with a post-quality review. Now they do the task with no supervision. I remember when I opened their first successfully loaded dishwasher – talk about a proud Mama! And when our dishwasher was on the fritz and we had to resort to hand washing, they didn’t miss a beat as they had already been trained on pre-rinsing the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Same concept, just add soapy warm water. A great example of while it can be efficient to take advantage of available technology, technology should never be fully relied on and you should always know how to manually complete a task. During this whole process I discovered that my then observant 6-year daughter had the art of dishwashing mastered – no training necessarily! While the boys took a little longer to catch on (and a lot more hand-holding!), they too can complete the task with spotless dishes.

 While it may be more work to train your kids on the proper way of performing housework, the benefits are extraordinary. Not only do you avoid spending all your free-time working around the house but you teach your kids responsibility and prepare them for adulthood. I subscribe to the Daily Hope e-mail newsletter by Pastor Rick Warren – author of New York Times seller, The Purpose Driven Life. I recently read “Trust Your Kids with Responsibility,” where he notes that “we all need places where we are trusted, where we can grow, develop, and prove ourselves.” While housework seems rather mundane when considering all of life’s lessons to be had, being neat and organized paves the way to enjoy life and gives you more time to take advantage of what life has to offer. And as an adult who values that, giving your children the responsibility of helping you in such a profound way let’s them know that you trust and believe in their ability to be an asset to your life.

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2 Responses to “Clean House – Children’s Edition”

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My kids are young enough to want to help, but too young to be of actual help. I’m thinking that it’s time to just suck it up and let them help while the desire is there. I agree that the potential benefits are huge, not just the short term help around the house, but the long term training of young adults to see themselves as contributors rather than receivers.

Yes I agree. This is definitely the time even if you start little like wiping down the counters, holding the dust pan while you sweep, drying the dishes or even simple pick-up tasks that will help keep their rooms tidy. Instill in them now that maintaining the home is everyone’s job – not just Mommy’s. Once they have mastered a task, allow them to have more responsibility. Natural cleaners will be your friend through this learning period so that you don’t have to be concerned with toxins. They will be great helpers before you know it.

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