When my first child was just 3 years old, I began having her help me empty the dishwasher. All of the plastic plates and cups were in a low cupboard where she could reach them and easily put items away. She emptied the dishwasher like this until she was old enough to reach the upper cupboards and handle glass carefully. At that point, she was also able to load the dishwasher. She was probably about 8 years old at that time.
Now she is 14-years old and has two sisters to help in the dish rotation. Each night, they rotate on who loads, handwashes, and dries/puts away the dishes after each meal.
In addition, I continue to train my younger children in different chores around the home. These are important habits to know and there are a few things we’ve learned along the way.
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Here are two important ingredients when training your children to help around the home:
There’s a difference between working side by side and working together.
Teaching our children to work as a team when it comes to keeping house is a great way to teach problem- solving skills, help them learn to appreciate each other, and build their relationships.
In the book Cleaning House, the author, Kay, talks specifically about working together on projects outside the normal housekeeping duties.
I have seen my children rise to the occasion of working together toward a common goal before, so I definitely know they are capable. Gabriella, my 14-year old, is a leader at heart and can naturally delegate and direct her siblings to specific jobs to help the completion of a project.
But, how can we keep our children motivated? Threatening doesn’t work (trust me). Neither does yelling. One thing I have noticed in the past is the satisfaction of having a clean room is a great motivator.
Children actually delight in a clean room and are more apt to play and spend time in it. A project that benefits them offers motivation.
Another thing is reminding them as a family, we are a team. We work together to make our house a home. Everyone has a vital part to fulfill.
If my kids don’t work happily (and often they don’t), I have no one to blame but myself for that. I have grumbled a lot about how I “just cleaned that up” or “I can’t keep up” or “can’t you clean up after yourself?” Children pick up on this attitude. The cleaning cycle never ends and we can choose to grumble or work with a good attitude.
Cleaning house happily means it begins with me.
My eldest daughter is a reflection of me. When I see some of her reactions or facial expressions, it’s like looking into a mirror of the past. When I recognize it, I really try to lighten the mood, and she does the exact thing I used to do; try to hide the fact that she’s trying not to smile or laugh, even though she wants to.
I used to love cooking. My first born loved everything I put in front of her. Mostly still does. At age 3 she was a salad eater. Nearly unheard of at that age!
But as my family has grown over the years, so has the pickiness and grumbles. I no longer enjoy making meals because at least one person complains they don’t like what I’ve made. I’m totally being raw here and am not saying my reaction to this behavior is good or right.
The truth is, complaining pierces my heart, and it makes me not want to cook. Hearing that day after day, meal after meal, it just sucks out any desire.
Consider how our children must feel when we complain constantly about the mess? As moms, we need to remember our children are still in training. Patience with them is a must.
Real Life is Work
This process isn’t just about cleaning. It’s about teaching our children that life involves work. That’s just the way it is. They cannot grow up to believe that everything will be handed to them, done for them, or work in their favor 100% of the time. This type of thinking could really blind them to reality.
It’s also important to point out how crucial it is to make sure we are affirming our children when they do a job well done. This empowers them to keep pushing on, and even take the initiative to go above and beyond their expected duties.
Do you struggle with having a bad attitude about cleaning house?
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