As a mom, I’m sure you’ve learned by now how challenging it can be to keep your house clean. Between laundry, toys, cooking and eating multiple times each day, and belongings being carted to and from your car, there’s a lot to manage. The only way to keep your sanity as you deal with the clutter and dirt is to have help from your family.
Assuming your partner is already lending a hand, the next most obvious place to turn is to your kids. They live there, they make messes, and it’s fair to expect them to help.
I have two daughters, ages six and four, and they have become incredible helpers. Like all kids, they make messes like it’s their J-O-B! But, I’ve been mindful about incorporating a handful of strategies and practices over the years so that they know how to contribute to keeping our home orderly.
Teaching kids to be willing helpers can be a time-consuming, sometimes frustrating process, but it is definitely possible. Keep these ideas in mind as you raise little helpers in your home!
Establish a Household Culture
Before you can expect your children to help, you need a clear idea of the type of household you want to run. Is it supposed to always be neat and tidy? Do you just clean up during the weekends? Should children only help with their personal belongings? What types of things will you ask your children to help you with?
Set clear, realistic expectations for every person in your family and adjust them as your kids get older or circumstances change.
You also need to be mindful about your demeanor toward maintaining your home. Your children learn from your example so try to keep a positive attitude if that’s what you expect from them.
It is never too soon to encourage your little ones to help around your home! Babies and toddlers mimic the behavior they observe from you. Make sure your little one sees you putting their toys and books away every day and invite them to help you as soon as they’re able. As they learn and grow, you can give them more and more tasks to help with.
Repetition is one of the most important factors when teaching kids new skills and habits. They have to practice a behavior over and over again before they completely master it. Having consistent routines and procedures will make it easier for them to be effective helpers.
Along those same lines, make sure that everything in your home has a designated spot. I like to say “a place for everything and everything in its place.” If it’s obvious where something goes, it’s easier for them to return it to that place.
Keep it Fun
Mary Poppins says that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” and I couldn’t agree more. You don’t want children to associate household tasks with negativity, so make it fun! Figure out what types of things interest your kids and incorporate that into your tidying. Sing a clean-up song, race to see how fast they can finish a chore, or tap into their imagination. Kids respond to fun and teaching them to help doesn’t have to be firm and serious.
The fun rule also applies to you! You’re going to have moments when you’re feeling tired or impatient and finding ways to laugh with your kids will help you be a happier mom.
Thank Your Kids
Show your children when you’re grateful for their cooperation. This might come in the form of a high five, hug, small reward, allowance, or a simple thank you. Always let them know how much you appreciate them helping to keep your home neat and tidy. This positive reinforcement will promote more helpful behavior in the future.