A very recent study was brought to my attention that deals with teenagers, cleaning, and attitudes towards cleaning of the mothers who raised them. It might come as a complete and total accidentally-drop-your-diet-coke-and-almost-say-a-bad-word shock that this study shows teenagers… are lazy… and they don’t like to clean… and they don’t clean very well. Now before you start googling how you too can get paid to produce such history altering results, here’s where it gets interesting. 97% mothers polled said it’s important for them that their teenagers develop good household cleaning skills, but of those 70% said they just find it easier to clean themselves since their teenagers’ efforts are sub par, and 37% even said their teenagers do such a bad job they just prefer to go it alone. Of the mothers polled 28% even went so far as to say that people not cleaning up after themselves is the quality they dislike most both socially and professionally. So basically, cleaning is important.
Training our children to clean is important for many reasons. (A) it’s gross to live in a gross house and children are the ones who make most of the mess, (2) if we don’t teach them they’ll never learn, (D) a little responsibility goes a long way. My daughter is turning two next week and I already let her “help” me sweep, wipe the table, and pick up her toys. I hope that by next year she’ll be cleaning the car. Or at least the tires.
A good way to go about thinking about it.
(1) Start them young while they still want to copy your every move.
Emma, a teenager expert, says the best way to have your teenagers cleaning efficiently is to start them when they are young, 2 or 3 even, because at this age they love being near you doing what you’re doing. After independent play time I always model, and later get their help, putting back the toys. Yesterday I was so pleased when my 2-year-old saw her little 10 month old brother crawling away from a big Tupperware explosion on the kitchen floor. She exclaimed “Oh no, put it back!” and ran in to the kitchen and put it all away.
My heart exploded with maternal pride. Start ’em young simply means including them when you’re doing the cleaning. Some things you won’t do with young ones near – mopping, perhaps or cleaning the shower – but they can help you wipe things, sweep, dust and even use the dust buster. In an effort to help lessen my anxiety we recently hired cleaners to come every two weeks. I prefer things very tidy and clean and struggle when there is little time to do it (life of a pregnant mother with 2 under 2 and a bun in the oven while working from home during their nap times). But, though we have cleaners, we still clean and tidy very daily. Particularly the day before the cleaners come.
(2) Give them some choice in the matter and don’t be a perfectionist.
If you are going to do a few tasks, then you can give them a choice as to which they’d prefer to do. Create an atmosphere and have a little fun because building a positive association with cleaning will help you in the long run. Put on some music, dress up, be willing to splash a little and go slow. Consider it a big of togetherness instead of a big thing to be crossed off and it’ll put less pressure and bring less dread into the youngsters hearts. My boss has something she tells very detail-oriented people who tend towards perfectionism. “80% is almost always good enough.” If we shot for 100% in every single thing we’d never get our clothes on for finding a new wrinkle.
If your children put effort in and it will suffice, then let it be. Children do want to do things well and they will try hard to please you, so if their heart attitude has been one of effort then let their effort stand and don’t feel the need to go behind them and redo it. If you do they will notice and eventually wonder what is the point in helping at all. If their result is poor because of a bad attitude, that is a different thing that you can use some discipline to work through.
(3) Work out a schedule complete with consequences and rewards.
Once your children are school age and can read and understand the concepts of charts, a good way to get the cleaning on a schedule that you may not have to directly supervise is to work up a cleaning rotation. Here’s a cool interactive cleaning schedule. I think it’s very important to also have clear consequences and clear rewards attached to this responsibility. If, for one month, your daughter is in charge of sweeping the kitchen after dinner, there needs to be a direct consequence if she does not carry it out. If circumstances mean she is too busy or unable to, she must come and speak with you before the deadline so you can make arrangements.
Not because you’ll lose your house to the bank if the kitchen floor has crumbs on it, but because kids need to get in the habit of working out their responsibilities. If you know in advance you aren’t going to be at work for a big meeting you don’t generally miss it and then tell your boss why the next day. No, you ask permission in advance and explain your predicament. It shows respect and that you take your responsibility seriously. Also, rewards are great here. Perhaps the reward itself is an allowance and the consequence is no allowance. Whatever it is you choose, be sure your children are fully aware and do understand what is expected of them.
(4) Explain the importance of sharing responsibility.
At the end of the day it may be easier to clean ourselves and let them figure it out when they’re on their own, but the point of parenting is to prepare our children to succeed in the future that God has for them. Because everyone benefits from a clean house, everyone should take part in the maintenance thereof. Cleaning is a great way to train responsibility and hygiene, and also to help instil into your children the idea that the world doesn’t revolve around them. There will be plenty of ways to spoil your children with love and attention, but spoiling them by not requiring anything of them will not have a positive effect.
So, even if you have someone who comes and helps with the deep cleaning, there is always tidying, sorting, organizing, and the basic everyday maintenance like dishes, taking out the trash, clearing the table, and sweeping. If you start ’em while they’re young then – even if they are not overly thrilled with cleaning as teenagers – it will be so ingrained in them that it will just be something they take for granted as a responsibility. And let’s face it, we don’t always love our responsibilities, but whether or not we enjoy them doesn’t determine whether or not they need to be done.
PS – I was in no way perked for the links provided, I just thought they were interesting.
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