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Friday, August 16, 2013

Seven Methods to Get Kids to Clean

My house has been clean for five days straight. Not a big deal to many people, I'm sure, but HUGE to me. Maybe we're hitting that stage. Maybe that's what comes after diapers are diminished because the last child is potty trained. Wow! I wasn't expecting that, and I can only hope that that's the case. Five days....Let me say that differently...FIVE DAYS gives me hope.

Here's the new challenge....It used to be that "cleaning the house" on a day-to-day basis meant tidying the house. We'd do the heavier cleaning, scouring, etc. on Saturday mornings. Well, the house is tidy. Lovely! Tidy. I'll take it, but I still want my kids to learn to work and contribute to the household daily, so it seems that the kids' daily jobs (I refuse to use the word "chores") will take a turn. Instead of "straighten the front room," it will have to become something like, "dust the front room" or something. I don't even know. I'm really going to have to look at this from a different angle. Of course, there will always be dishes and counters to wipe and things to sweep on a daily basis; it's just that that "straightening" aspect has somehow disappeared.

The other day, I had the joy of driving with my wonderful sister-in-law opposite me in the car. She rode "shotgun." I LOVE talking to her. She is mother to eight. My other siblings have two and three children, and I love them all dearly, but I relate with this sister-in-law very well. We see life very similarly.

As we drove we shared notes on how we clean house. It was so fun to hear how we had done similar things without ever consulting each other on the topic before.

Here are some ways we get our children to work:


  • Magic Scrap: This is a game my husband actually played with his students when he was a teacher, and I've heard my kids talk about playing it in their classrooms. Here is the premise. I will sometimes play this around the entire house and will go from room to room trying to find something that's out of place or a single job that needs to be done. I will write it down. Sometimes I'll even choose three or four things and write them all down. I invite the kids in and have them clean. The whole purpose is to find and put away (or do the job) that is written on the paper. If they do it successfully, the game ends for that room, and we move onto the next room. When all the magic scraps are found or the jobs are done, the people who found the magic scraps get a prize for each scrap they found.
    image: photo-dictionary.com
  • Timer: My sister-in-law will take her kids to a room and ask them how long they think it would take to make the room look perfect. The kids choose a time, and she sets a timer. She will then dole out the jobs ("You've got floor boards. You've got garbages...."). If they get it all done before the timer goes off, they reward themselves.
  • Top to bottom: This one is my favorite. I meet my kids at the farthest point in our house. I start delegating jobs to them as we proceed through the house. For example, we start in our upstairs hallway. I start out by asking one child to straighten the bookshelves. The next child is to pick up any scraps of paper or whatever off the floor. Another child is to go get the vacuum. We continue in this way as we work our way through the entire house. When a child successfully accomplishes one task, they are given another in another area. The child who is cleaning up items from the floor may next be assigned the scouring of the toilet in the upstairs bathroom. It goes on. As we finish one area, that is declared and we move to the next. I'm not sure why I love this way so much, but I think it must be because we're all working together for a common cause and no one is above another. I have found this one works best if I'm giving myself jobs too.
    image: creativeclings.com
  • Job chart: This is my least favorite. We had a job chart for a few years and rotated jobs weekly. Everyone had an area of the house to clean as well as a job for before dinner and one for after. The kids did a really good job on these and everything got done unless someone was out of the house. The only problem I had with this system was the "But it's not my job" problem we ran into more frequently than we enjoyed. Actually, we never enjoyed it, so if it EVER happened, it made me crazy.
  • On the fly: This is how I started teaching my kids to do housework. I wanted them to be the kind who, when asked, would jump up and do. I don't know if we ever perfected this idea, but remembering how this was made us abolish our job chart. From a very young age, I started teaching my kids how to do various tasks around the house--emptying the silverware from the dishwasher, rinsing dishes, folding towels, making beds, etc. As they grew, their abilities grew. I knew that if they knew how to do something it wouldn't be as overwhelming, so I taught them little by little until they knew how to do everything I did. My one rule in this method was that I was NEVER to ask my kids to do something I wouldn't do myself. Along with this, my kids were taught that using the word "no" toward their parents was as bad as a swear word. If they use it, they get an additional job. Too many jobs and logical consequences become a bit more serious. I try to keep track mentally of who has been asked to do things most recently, so I don't end up calling on the same kid or kids over and over again.
    image: dobsonfloors.com
  • Pick and choose - This is the method we used to get the house clean this most recent time. I will go through the house and create a list of the jobs that must be done. I count them up and divide by the number of workers. Each worker must then choose that number of jobs. This time it was six for each person. They go through the list and we go around the circle over and over again until the jobs are all claimed. They then get to work on the jobs that they've chosen. I will list each family member and just what jobs they chose and keep that master list. I then make a list for each individual and hand it to him/her.
  • The next step - We are implementing a whole new system here now, but so far, I don't like it at
    all. It exposes too much of human nature for me to be comfortable with it. I believe in rising above human nature and hope that my children will soon be up for the challenge. This requires them to serve with a generous heart. They must go around the house and find the area that needs the most attention and then do it. Unfortunately, as I've thrown this at my kids, they have gone for the area that can be done quickest and with the least amount of effort. Thus, human nature. Wouldn't you agree? I mean, if we can be lazy, we will, right?

I'm sure there are a million and a half ways to get kids to work. These are a few of the more successful ways we've tried around this Madhouse. We've also had lists and page protectors and dry erase markers and notebooks, but I'd love to hear of more ways. It seems that with nearly every way we've tried, a time limit, some type of accountability, and a reward goes a long way; although, I try not to do that every time. Sometimes, I think kids need to work just for the sake of work and with a feeling of pride in their abilities and in their surroundings.

I have also adopted the perspective that some effort is better than no effort at all. Take what you can get, and be happy with it. If you're not happy with it. Teach them how to do it in a better way. A good old positive pep talk goes a long way as well.

I must admit that sometimes I'm really up on getting my kids to help around the house, and sometimes I'm a HUGE slacker. Things seem to ebb and flow around here in nearly every way possible. Housework is no exception.

I'm sure we're not done exploring new ways of cleaning a house. Especially now that our situation has changed. I honestly feel like I'm in a foreign place. There are no dishes in my sink. There are no toys on my family room floor. SO strange!

And now that I've written this, you know I've just jinxed myself....

...A little game of Magic Scrap, anyone?

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