I see many posts on the internet that revolve around chores, usually questions or advice about how to get kids to do chores. This is not one of those posts. I don’t have a magic solution that will get kids to want to help clean the house. I wanted to share how things work in out house right now. Keep in mind that my kids are still very young at 5, 3, and 3 months old at the time of this writing. My assumption is that things will change as they grow and life changes.
I am one of those people that really hates things being messy. I feel chaotic when my house feels chaotic. I don’t need everything to be spotless or completely organized, but I feel more at peace when my kitchen is not filled with dishes, my trash is not overflowing, and the floors are not obviously in need of a thorough sweeping. Those are my basics, yours might be different. I have learned to let go many of the countless other chores that could be done to make my house look like it could be on the cover of a magazine. If I didn’t let go of the dusting, and cleaning of the windows and mirrors (this gets done very rarely), and the nooks and cranny’s, my life would feel a lot less peaceful. My fridge does not get cleaned often enough, my closets really need organized, I close my eyes half the time in the basement, and I have about given up on mopping my kitchen due to the inevitable spill that immediately happens afterward. If that sounds gross, sorry not sorry. I have better things to do than spend the majority of my day cleaning. Those things get done, just not often, and usually with help from my husband.
So now that you understand a bit more about me, I should say that I do not make my kids clean. They do not have assigned chores. Does this mean that they never clean or pick up after themselves? Not at all. My oldest is very good at throwing away trash after she is done, enjoys helping me put away dishes, or picking up the toys. My 3 year old helps me clean dishes everyday. Does he get them clean? No, but they have a positive association in his mind. He also loves to help me sweep the floors, change the laundry and put it away, and take out the trash.
Right now, when they chose to help clean it is kind of fun for them. I have always tried to make cleaning up a game, or we sing, or put on music. My 5 year old now makes it a game on her own. She created a Pokémon clean up game in which she pretends to be a Pokémon to help clean. Some Pokémon are fast cleaners, and others are very slow. Some can only do a few things before they need to be called back. She goes through stages that she wants to play this game daily. Another game she created is one she calls “ninja tasks”. She is a ninja and asks for tasks to complete. Some of these are clean up tasks, others are little challenges or obstacles.
I have walked into the bathroom to find her wiping things down. I have gotten up from laying the baby down for a nap to find the living room looking more tidy. She tells me she does those things because she loves me and wanted to help. This doesn’t happen often, but is always a nice surprise.
My only tactic for cleaning and chores is modeling. I try to model cleaning happily. I do that by not pressuring myself to do to much. I try not to talk about how much I hate doing laundry or mopping. I try not to get frustrated when an accidental mess is made, or a project is messy. And I am honest when I need to get something cleaned up before I can do the next thing. That is the way we do it, and it works for us.