Inside: It’s not easy to teach our little toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary kids to clean up… here are 4 common reasons we moms raise slobs even though we don’t want to. Post contains affiliate links.
I walked into our laundry room and stopped short at the avalanche of clean clothes piled up on the floor.
A lesser woman might have cried.
“No,” I thought, “I will not let the state of this room make me lose my mind. I will just have the kids help me.”
It went downhill from there.
I took the Mt. Everest size mound of towels, wash cloths, dish towels, and underwear and sort of tossed them on the living room floor. I gathered the kids to myself like a good mama hen does and said, “Alright, kids, it’s time to fold these towels.”
There was flailing, there was whining, there were some comments about how having to do all that work isn’t fair. So I wisened up and separated the huge pile into smaller manageable piles. This helped them get in the game.
I went about my business folding some other items in the laundry room while I left the boys to fold. They already know how to do the job well so I didn’t see the need to hover. Plus, one cannot effectively hover over 5 children so it’s a defeating practice.
I come back in the room a few minutes later to a very proud of himself 4 year old smiling at me like he’d just won the sack race.
“Mom,” he said, “Look!” as he pointed to his pile of folded towels.
Except that they were not folded. They were all very strategically curled into something resembling jelly rolls. About 14 of them.
I was at a crossroads.
I could have him redo them all into squares so that he’d understand how towels are really supposed to be folded. Or I could just put them away as is.
Let’s just say the linen closet looked interesting for a bit.
4 Reasons We Don’t Teach Our Kids To Clean
As mothers, we all have the best intentions when it comes to teaching our children to clean, but here are the big obstacles that stop us.
We Make It Hard Logistically
If we only clean with bleach and don’t have any child friendly cleaning supplies, it’s no wonder they can’t help. When our goal is to help involve children in the cleaning we also to make it accessible for them.
That means using child friendly cleaning supplies and tools. It means we find ways that they are able to help and we aren’t paranoid. Get a cleaning caddy just for your kids and fill it with safe things they know how to use. This will help create an association with chore time as well.
We Are Perfectionists
Let’s admit it. Some of us don’t want our kids to clean because they don’t do it Just Right and that annoys us. Mama, I’m here to tell you what is even more annoying… doing it all on your own. Children aren’t born knowing how to clean.
They have to be taught what to do and learn the household standards. If your standards are lower, this will be easier. :)
The trick is to adjust your expectations. With toddlers and preschoolers we can expect contribution, but this will be a learning phase. There will be multiple occasions where you are still teaching your child the skills needed to do the job. This is okay. This is what creates children who are confident to do the job you’ve given them.
Realize that expecting perfection creates disappointment and despondency in your children because they know their work isn’t “good enough.”
Printable cards with over 100+ chores.
Practice makes progress.
We Clean While They’re Gone or Sleeping
One of the biggest reasons children don’t learn to clean is they never actually see cleaning happen. If we save all our chores for nap times, after bed, or while kids are in school they miss out on both observation and practice. While it is more labor intensive, save some chores for them.
This is a big challenge for me personally. Chore time can easily turn into a madhouse if I’m having all my older kids doing their chores independently and in different rooms.
Here’s how I combat this. I will either take one child at a time to complete a group of tasks, or we’ll all work on one room at a time so everyone stays together. This allows me to help, observe, and oversee all that’s happening.
The other week I took my 3 year old to the bathroom for some chores. Since I encourage outside play, my bathtub is full of dirt every night. I’m talking the bottom looks like we made mud pies. So my son got in the tub to clean the dirt out. He worked hard for a few minutes and it was done.
Side note, it’s also a good opportunity for individual time if you do chores with one child at a time while the other children are occupied.
Scrub Daddy child friendly sponge.
We Lose Sight Of The End Goal
As parents we are often found choosing between something good, better, or best.
The trouble with this, of course, is that we are not quite sure which is which. We want our children to learn to clean, but we want peace and quiet. We want our home to be tidy, but we want our kids to actually live well in our homes. We want to take the time to teach our children well, but we also don’t want to spend all day teaching tasks that only take us a few minutes.
When we find ourselves floundering in this area – or any area of parenting really – the key is to think of our end goal. Our end goal is to raise children who can carry responsibilities and take care of themselves. In the beginning this will mean we put in a lot of effort. But, as times goes by, that effort will pay off with children who contribute willingly to the running of the household.
The other evening I was feeling spent.
Over the monotonous repetition of housework.
On a lark, I asked my 6 and 5 year-olds to load the dishwasher for me so I could give the little boys a bath. They heartily agreed and set to work as I went on bath duty. Periodically, I check in to see their progress. They were laughing, singing, and – Behold A Miracle – loading the dishwasher.
Not only did they have a good time… they actually did the work.
And they did it well.
I haven’t worked my way out of a job yet, but I’m getting there.
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