Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Teaching Kids to Clean [Part One: Changing Your Mindset]

Holy Moly! I wrote this post and it was so long. Travis was reading over my shoulder and said, "What is that giant monster novel you're writing?"
So I turned this into a two-part post. First part, change your mindset. Second part, get your kid working.

Now, this seems like a silly post for me to be writing because
1. My house is always quite messy.
2. My kids are often whiney and useless.
3. My kids are also still little, so I don't know how this method of mine will work when they are older.

BUT, a few different people on Instagram have asked me about making my kids into tiny slaves and I wanted to share what I've gone through to make them such.

So, here are some tips for YOU, anal mom. (Is that an offensive thing to call someone?)

- Stop assuming your kids can't do things. Remember when farmers had a dozen kids to help around the farm? If kids couldn't help until they were 17, that would be a terrible investment. Your kids are capable. Kids all over the entire world do awesome stuff (like babysit and stoke fires and wield knives) at four years old. If you aren't quite ready for that, start slightly smaller.

- Stop being particular about cleanliness. Yup. That's real. If your kids help you clean the bathroom, it won't be as sparkling as it would be if just YOU cleaned it. And it will take twice as long and be more work for you. But it's probably worth it.
Because I have a goal to never do dishes again or clean my bathroom after I turn thirty. And that goal is surprisingly close to fruition, because my four year olds already do those things most of the time. By the time they're 8, they will always do it.

- Start making your child wait for things. One of my favorite ways to teach a child to help is by making them wait. They say, "I want a sandwich." You say: "I can get you a sandwich in five minutes. If you can't wait that long, you'll need to make it yourself."
(They almost always make it themselves.)
If your child says, "I want to go to the park," YOU say, "I need to finish three jobs, sweeping the kitchen, unloading the dishwasher, and wiping off the counters. Which job would you like to do? That can help us get going faster."
(They will almost always choose a job to do.)

- Stop entertaining your child. This is a bizarre parenting phenomenon that I have never understood. And luckily, I have twins, so I never had to understand it. They play together. But I do not play with my kids.
Okay, sometimes I play with them. But that's rare. I don't dress up. I don't play with action figures. I don't teach them to build with Legos. When we are home I give them toys or I send them outside and then Mama has crap to do, thanksverymuch. Sometimes I'm reading, sometimes I'm sewing, sometimes I'm baking a cake or cleaning my toilet.
And when my child wanders into the room, feeling bored or wondering what I'm doing- I don't stop what I'm doing. I just start teaching. I read out loud, I hand them a measuring cup, toilet brush, or a pair of scissors. If they want to be entertained or play with me, they do what I do. Not the other way around.

- Never say no to a child that wants to help. Never ever. Ever. Ever. 
If your two year old wants to put the soap in the washing machine, and twist the dial and push the button- you let them. Because when they are three, they will strip off their own sheets and put them into the washing machine and correctly start it. And you will do a joyful jig. (The first time Grey did this, I might have cried.) If your three year old wants to help chop veggies, you stand behind them and help them wield a knife. If your four year old wants to clean the toilet, you hand them a toilet brush and a bottle of non-toxic cleaner.

This is surprisingly hard, because your imagination can do a lot of crazy things and your brain reminds you that if YOU clean the bathroom, there will not be toilet water accidentally flung against the walls. If you chop the vegetables- no fingers will end up in your dinner. And if you start the laundry, it will take half the time.
So here is my mantra, "What's the worst that can happen? What's the best that can happen? and how likely is each?"

If your son wants to clean the bathroom, the worst that can happen is that he gets poop on his hands and sticks it in his mouth, right? The best that can happen is: YOU DON'T HAVE TO CLEAN YOUR BATHROOM. AND HE LOVES IT. AND HE WANTS TO DO IT EVERYDAY.
It's more likely that something in the middle happens. And if you WATCH him, he probably won't stick his hand in his mouth with poop on it.
I'm not suggesting that you hand him his toilet brush and then leave the bathroom. We can all agree, that isn't gonna work.
So your worst case scenario isn't even real, but the best case scenario could still happen.
Worth it. 

- Lastly, clean it again when they leave. If you can't handle the fact that your "clean" dishes still have food on them- praise and thank your kids, and then wait until they're out of sight- and rewash them. Don't let your child see you. Just do it secretly. (Note: DON'T do this if they are older kids. Make them do it properly. Younger kids shouldn't be harassed to perform perfectly however, they just need to be encouraged to continue helping.)

That's it, Moms. Change your mindset to one that expects your kids to clean. And they probably might.

(I'm obviously not willing to make you any guarantees.)


-Danica- said...

I dedicated this summer to teaching my kids how to work and to clean. It's a work in progress, but its one I am so passionate about. Im excited to hear more of your techniques! I love the idea of never doing dishes again....

Unknown said...

Can I tell you how thankful I am for this. The whole not entertaining them thing, I need a kick in the pants about that. We used to be so good now my three year old is all "if mommy isnt watching I cant play" its killing me. Also I needed this push to get him to do more. I am proud he gets dressed and goes to the potty by himself but man he is capable of so much more than that. Thank you! love this post, keep it coming !!

-Danica- said...

Also one more comment, what sort of cleaner do you use for the toilet? I've heard that toilet cleaners are like one of the most toxic things in your house so I've been hesitant to let my 5 year old clean the inside (she cleans the outside). But I guess if I'm in there wth her then maybe it's okay?

mrembo said...

This was refreshing to read. I grew up helping around the house and was never entertained when bored. It never even occurred to my parents but i somehow have become part of this new generation parenting where we are "over parenting and entertaining" our kids then turn around and wonder why they are so dependent on us!

Elizabeth said...

On entertaining kids--I do agree that some parents over do this and their kids cannot play by themselves. However, having a kid be all alone for 4 years is a bit different than having twins. I try to take time out of each day (we do school, chores, making cookies etc--those don't count) to do one fun thing that Elanor would like to do. It can be a walk, reading books, playing a game, doing puzzles, playing with dolls etc. It is nice to have that one on one time to just play and be. It does not even have to be for a long amount of time. But yes, I do agree with everything on here--get your kids working! 😀

Elizabeth said...

Also, I never had a dishwasher growing up (my parents still don't) and people would often comment on how that would be hard to not have a dish washer. My dad would always say, "I have four." Meaning, us kids, which always made me feel like a slave. Hahaha!