Monday, November 2, 2015

Teaching Kids to Clean [Part Two: Actual Tips]

Part one, posted last week, is all about changing YOUR mindset to one that expects a helpful child and accepts your child's imperfect ability to clean things. (You can read that HERE)

Ready for Part Two?

Six tips for turning your child into a tiny servant:
(Many of these tips were taken from the book House of Order, which I didn't actually find useful except this section.)

1. For every year of their age, your child should have one daily job. A two-year old should have two jobs, a five year old should have five jobs, etc.
These jobs don't have to be something big, not even something that you think of as "a job" -- just something they're in charge of doing themselves to help them be capable and independent.
For example, my four year olds four jobs are these:
1. Get dressed.
2. Make your bed.
3. Brush your teeth.
4. Comb your hair.
(As evidenced by their crazy hair, they don't always remember every job. It is helpful to post a picture-chart with their daily jobs somewhere they'll see often, like on their bedroom door.)

2. Assign additional household jobs and explain that they are "kid jobs" that Moms aren't even supposed to do! Grey and Micah have a handful of "household jobs" that they participate in as needed. (Starting the laundry, loading/unloading the dishwasher, mopping the kitchen floor, folding towels/washcloths, and cleaning the bathroom.) They also have to clean up after themselves by wiping up spills, putting away shoes, cleaning up toys, etc. August is 18 months and even he puts his shoes away and wipes up his own spills. Your three year old can definitely do it and your ten year old is super capable.
Sometimes (often) this is a fight, but I try to give them the "Everyone in this family works together" talk, and the "Your dad goes to work and that's HIS job, but MY job is to teach you how to take care of yourself and YOUR job is to help our family and take care of your mom" speech.
Both of those speeches are semi-effective.

3. Train your child. I read once that you should show a young child how to do something five times- narrating what you're doing and why every time you teach them. Then you should help your child do something five times (continue with the narrating), until you feel satisfied that they can do it themselves. Then you supervise them doing it five times. So you basically have to do something fifteen times with your kids before they'll be able to do it themselves.
So, with the bathroom cleaning example- I have to clean the bathroom with my kids thirty times before I'm done with bathrooms forever. It is a huge pain to do this, and is literally A YEAR of bathroom training. But then, in one year when I don't have to clean my bathroom ever again, it's worth it. Right?

4. Narrate everything. This goes along with the above, but I constantly explain everything I'm doing.
"When I make a sandwich, I use two pieces of bread that are next to each other in the bag, because then they're the same size. I do the peanut butter first on this piece. Want to help me spread the peanut butter all the way to the edges? Good job, but keep your knife flatter. Yes, just like that!"
And you guys. I do it always. It's second nature to me because I love talking so much. But my kids learn the right way to do things and WHY it's right.

5. Make them charts with stickers. Kids LOVE stickers! (or whatever kind of chart. But charts are good.)
We have had lots of different charts. The most effective ones for the boys are charts where they earn a certain number of stickers or checks and then get a prize, like picking out our family movie or getting a snow cone or a date with dad. Sometimes I say, "Wow! You only have three more jobs left until you get a prize! Let's think of two jobs you could do right now while you're waiting for lunch to be done!" and my kids are like "YES! I WILL WASH THE DISHES AND MOP THE FLOOR."
And I am like, "Perfect, when you mop you can use all the water that you dumped on to the floor accidentally during dishes."

6.  Praise them like bananas. 
And not just, "Wow! You're doing a great job wiping that mirror!" (lie)
But lay it on SUPER thick, "I'm so grateful that you are so helpful to me, it makes me so happy to have a clean home and you're giving that to me."
"Its so wonderful that you can help me so much now that you're bigger, it's hard to clean the house alone, but now we are a team!"
My kids EAT THAT UP. They love knowing that I need them. They aren't just cleaning up because I'm mean and forcing them to clean, they are cleaning up because they are helpful and important members of the family.
Oh, and every time that you correct, throw in a compliment. "Good job wiping the sink, I see you're wiping up ALL the bubbles, but make sure you remember to actually wipe up the hair and toothpaste too! Just like that! Perfect! You're SO GREAT at cleaning sinks!"
Overkill? Yes. But when they say, "I'll clean the bathroom, Mom. I'm the best at it," you will realize that I am a genius and you're welcome.

So, my house IS messy, but I'm training up my kids, and that's a messy business.

And here is a conversation from last week:

Grey: Mom, do you like cleaning up and working?
Me: I don't. But I like having a clean house, that's why it's so nice that you guys are getting bigger and can help me more.
Micah: But someday, we will move out. Then we will have our own house.
Me: And your house will be so clean!
Micah: Probably not, because we will have our own kids too, and kids are messy!

Yes. Yes they are.

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