How To Get Your Kids To Clean Up
Parents today are in the habit of doing too much for their kids. Whether it’s cleaning up after them, taking over a school project, or just generally expecting too little from them, kids really are capable of more. One of the ways we see this over and over again, is in how much kids are expected to do around the house (a.k.a. chores). It only makes sense that if we contribute to the mess, we contribute to the tidying. Even the littlest ones can help by picking up toys and clothing from the floor. But if you’ve found yourself in the position of having done too much for your kids for too long, you may face some overwhelm at how to get started.
Keep in mind that kids need to feel needed, to believe that their role in the family is an important one. Don’t step in and be quick to take over if something isn’t going well or fast enough for you. Everyone wants to feel that they are capable; cleaning up after ourselves and having our own little tasks are some of the first ways we gain this feeling.
You’re going to need to take time for training. And you’re going to have to relax your standards. Just accept that it won’t be nearly as efficient as it might be if you do it alone, and you’ll be in the right frame of mind. Don’t give up in the face of some resistance; be consistent and send the message that not just do you mean what you say, but that you really do need his or her help. One of the pioneers in democratic parenting would tell his clients that they needed to behave as though their child’s job was of such importance, that the whole family would fall apart if they didn’t do it. That may seem like an intense position to take, but it definitely sends the message of “we need you!”
Include your kids in the decision-making about what chores and who is doing them. There’s no point fighting every single week about taking out the recycling, if that same kid would do the vacuuming without complaint. Gardening, dish washing and cooking can all be opportunities for you to work as a team. Sometimes, repetitive, mindless activities are the best one for opening the door to conversation.
I am still not a fan of tying chores to allowance. If someone is feeling lazy – or rich – the incentive to clean then disappears. And it doesn’t change the fact that this person is still reaping the benefits of being a part of the family. The value of pitching in shouldn’t be a financial one; it’s the feelings of capability and contribution that allow kids to feel like the important members of the family that they are.