If your kids are like mine, they tend to be a bit messy and prefer to do most anything other than put their shoes away or clean their room. With four children, our house can go from perfectly clean to looking as if it was ransacked by thieves within five minutes. It's incredible. Please tell me you can relate so I feel better.
Teaching kids to clean doesn't have to be like banging your head on a wall over, and over, and over again. Though it will be if you let it. But anyone can teach their children to take responsibility and clean without resorting to nagging or whining (them or you).
1. Give them short tasks
If you tell a younger child o go clean his or her room it might not get done how you would like. Be specific. Say, "It's time to clean your room. First, go pull everything out from under your bed." Then once they've accomplished that they can move onto the next step in the chore. Tell me your kids stuff things under their beds as well.
Break down the tasks. Some children have a more difficult time with this than others. Here's a great example:
What you say: Go put your clothes away.
What you should say: Go put your clothes away. First, pick them up off the floor. Then put the dirty ones in the laundry basket. If it is clean, get out a hanger and carefully put it on the hanger.
As they get older they no longer need tasks broken down into steps for them and will learn to do it on their own but younger children don't often think in terms of a 4 step process when you say something simple like "Go put your clothes away."
2. Teach them HOW to do each task
If they're younger, you must show them how to do each step. We sometimes forget that kids don't have the same knowledge base that we do. Get down there and show them how it's done the first few time until they understand.
I asked my daughter to sweep up a mess she made the other day and then got upset watching her swirl it around with a broom. OH! We haven't taught her yet! Difficult tasks (like learning to sweep properly) will take some practice and guidance. Be patient and don't expect a perfect job the first time. On the other hand, children are capable of giving a great effort so don't let them skate by without learning how to do things well.
3. Teach them to be self motivated
We came up with a pretty amazing solution last year. Kids LOVE incentives. So we created a chore chart. There is nothing unique or special about a chore chart.
These are basic things that we found ourselves repeating to them over and over. But once we instituted the chore chart we didn't have to remind them anymore.
We made the rule that they were responsible. No reminders. Then we would check off the things that they did do. No negotiations are involved. If it isn't done in a reasonable amount of time (we don't beg them or get on their case) we just don't give them a check in that chore box.
Then we total up the points. And these points are like gold here. Gold, I tell you. Missing a point is seriously upsetting, sometimes it's the end of the world. But everyone bounces back for another day, remarkably.
You can print your own chore charts if this is something that sounds good for your family. Making your own is super easy but if you want to shave a half hour off your prep time you can use my chart.
We have a goal for the week for how many points to make (or miss, which is easier for younger kids to count). We try to keep it under 11 misses. That means everyone can have one lousy day where they don't get things done and still make their goal.
It's up to you if you want to reward a point goal achieved or keep the points as reward enough. You might be interested in printing some of our Screen Time Tickets.
With this system kids will be responsible for themselves and the daily little tasks they need to do to be a part of a smooth running family. No reminding or nagging involved.
When we use these chore charts the house is in less chaos and everyone takes responsibility for themselves with a parent having to remind them. When we stop using them for a while things start to backslide and we start having to remind them again. And that's because we get lazy (or too busy) as parents and don't set expectations. So why haven't we been using these lately??? What is wrong with me? They're coming back today! We need a little refresher course on self motivation!
And, because I love you all and want you to have a little sanity as well, go ahead and Download the Blank Chore Chart.
So tell me, what works for you? How have you taught your children to be responsible for themselves and the home without nagging or reminding them constantly?