Friday, May 14, 2010

Teaching Kids Practical Skills-- Cleaning

Otherwise known as "Getting Your Promotion"!

Please NOTE: I'm sorry I've gotten behind this week. So I'm combining today's planned post on homemaking with yesterday's planned (though not executed) post about teaching kids how to work.

First of all, I think my lovely readers should know my personal philosophy about teaching kids to work. You can find the article that inspired-- and continues to inspire me-- at the link here:

"Housewife to Home Manager- Making the Promotion Real" by Cheri Logan

I heard Cheri speak about these principles at a homeschool convention, and read the article above, long before I was finally able to put these principles into practice in my own home, but hopefully, of the course a few weeks, I can help you save some time in your own "teaching-kids-to-work" efforts.

So have you read Cheri's article yet? Go ahead. I'll wait.

Are you done now? Okay.

So here's the first thing that I had to do that changed my brain so that I could allow my promotion to become closer to reality:

1) I had to lower my cleaning standards.

I know you don't want to hear this. I know that you shudder to think what your children's toilet will look like after a week or two of letting them clean it. But trust me-- in order to allow your children to succeed, you first must allow them to FAIL. They will never know what a job entails until they try doing it on their own. But they also cannot truly succeed until another thing happens, and that is...

2) I teach them HOW to do every job at my side.

Motherhood is about nurturing first, and teaching second. We're not talking about academics, here. We're talking about things every adult person needs to know someday, like:
  • What cleaner are we supposed to use where?
  • What does a clean toilet look/smell like?
  • How does one properly use a broom or a mop?
  • Are there chemicals that should never be used at the same time?
  • What does a cleaned and wiped down counter top look like?
  • ETC., ETC.
I think you can see how many things that we, as moms, know that our kids just don't yet have the life experience to know yet. But we CAN teach these things to them-- ALL of these things! Yes, it will take lots of time, and lots of patience, but they CANNOT learn how to clean by osmosis, or even by your example. So we must teach them.

WARNING: Please recognize that it takes MUCH more time to teach them than it takes for you to do it perfectly yourself! Don't give in to the temptation of throwing your hands up in frustration. YOU know how much time you and each individual child can take on these lessons. Follow your instincts and don't push them too hard beyond their frustration levels. (Or your own!) Remember that the nurturing-- the relationship-- needs to come first in all things!

Especially if your kids are older, you may have to occasionally have a group lesson or two on things like : "How to correctly load the dishwasher." (These lectures still happen periodically in my own kitchen to this very day. They are most enlightening, let me tell ya!)

3. Look honestly at all the work that needs to be done in your home.

Here's the part that takes some mental effort.

First of all, I sit down with a notebook and a pen or pencil, and think through every room in my house. And then I write down EVERY job that needs to be done in that room-- regardless of level of difficulty-- in order for me (the "Home Manager") to proclaim the room "CLEAN."

Before I move on to thinking about the next room, I make a note of how often each job needs to be done. This is a very individual preference-- no right or wrong answers! There are some homemakers who feel very strongly that their windows need to be washed every day, or every week. (I admit, I'm more of an "every month" kind of girl...) YOU are the expert on your home-- YOU are the management! (Doesn't that feel great?!) So it will be up to you to manage your little workers and guide them in the work to be done.

4. Classify all the jobs.

Look at your long list of all the work that needs to be done, and think through what jobs each of your children can handle. Now remember, the little ones will still need your teaching and help! (Three-year-olds cannot scrub a toilet sufficiently on their own, know what I mean?) But they CAN do things like set the table, put away silverware, dust some surfaces, and make their beds.

YOU know your kids, and what they can and can't do. It's not just about age, either. Sometimes a wunderkind-type cleaner is born into a family, and bless their little hearts, they're raring to go on laundry at age four. (Out of my TEN, I have ONE of these! And yes, I kiss this child's feet on a regular basis...)

Break down your daily list of jobs into categories of jobs that are easy, moderate, and difficult. Then assign kids jobs from this list, depending on their ages. *It's a good idea to start simply on ONE room, so that neither you or your kids get overwhelmed and frustrated right out of the gates.*

5. Try a job chart system.

Almost ANY will do! You can't know what will or won't work for you and your kids until you try it. I know this sounds frustrating, and it can be-- if you let it. But just remember that this is a trial and error process.

Guess what? THERE IS NOT ONE "TRUE" CHORE SYSTEM IN THE UNIVERSE! I hate to break it to you, but this is an area where seasons for chore systems come and go. What worked last year or what worked for your neighbor may not work right now.

Don't get discouraged! Just try the next thing with a smile and give it enough time to know if it honestly will or won't work for you. Assigning the kids jobs in just ONE room is a good way to ease into using kid-powered help. PLEASE DON'T GET CAUGHT UP IN PERFECTIONISM! Remember step number one-- be willing to lower your standards so that your kids can LEARN.

Some tips on how to choose a system that fits your personality: I found that *I* HATE keeping track of points or rewards. My inner-self rebels, and so I don't enforce the chores, and my kids don't want to do them in the first place, because they never get the rewards they're promised, and... ARG! Complicated reward systems no work-ie for us! (Extra work, clerical or physical, never works for me!)

The first chore system to REALLY work well for us was a simple job wheel. I could look up at the wheel that was held up by magnets on my fridge, see who was on what job, and put the troops to work. And then, when a child wanted to do something like watch a movie, play outside, go to the park, or have a friend over, I just looked at the wheel, asked them if they'd done their jobs, and if they had, they could have the privilege they were looking for. If not, they were told that they could as soon as their chores were DONE.

A chore wheel especially works well for younger children, if you include pictures of each job. (Actually, it helps everyone, because all can see what the job is without needing to be close enough to read the words.)

Alright! I have more to say on this topic that is near and dear to my heart, but I think I've given y'all enough to get started on.

Motherhood is about nurturing first, and teaching second. Teach and train with all the love and patience you can muster. I know these are not easy skills to teach, (especially when these are not the kinds of skills kids are looking forward to learning!) but if you put forth the effort now, the "harvest" down the road will be GREAT! :-)

See you next time,


  1. Oooh, I love these tips! Lily's just big enough to help me throw away things (like her diapers or paper she finds on the floor) and she loves to wipe the table. I hope I can be patient as she does things "the wrong way" (ie "not my way" LOL).

  2. Found your blog thru Mega Family Blogs and would really like to add it to my Yahoo homepage. Would you consider adding a Subscribe To feature on your sidebar?
    I'm a recovering perfectionist ;) and this post was really helpful! Good confirmation of what the Lord has been teaching me.

  3. Where were you when my kids were little? LOL! I bow down to your mastery in this area because I have seen it first hand. What a fabulous post!

    I love how much you stress letting the standards lower a little with younger children. When my kids were little I went behind my oldest daughter, who was 5 at the time, and absentmindedly straightened the quilt on her bed after she made it. She burst into tears and said, "Why should I do it if you are just going to do it again?!" Poor sweet girl had worked for 15 minutes to get her bed made and in 10 seconds I had unknowingly made her feel inferior. After that day I would exclaim how wonderful things looked IF I knew they had done their best.

    Fast forward 13 years and I KNOW they can do a perfectly clean bathroom so I would never let a sloppy job go. But when they are small, the relationship does come first.

  4. Thanks for your great comments, ladies! I wish us all the best in our efforts to teach our kiddos. :-)

    Ginger, I think I can add that feature. I'm glad to have you here! :)

  5. This is just what I need right now. On Friday Lydia vacuumed the whole front room by herself and was so proud! I had no idea she could do it, but was distracted long enough for her to take over. Wow! I think I'm entering a whole new chapter in our family and am not sure how to proceed. Good timing, Rache! Love you!

  6. Mandy: That's great! It does take a lot of work and patience, but we can do it. (And so can our kiddos-- way to go, Miss Lydia!!!) I love you, too. :-) Kiss those adorable girls for me...

  7. We had a Stake President tell us once at a Married Couples Seminar that "A lazy mother picks up after her children." It changed my life. I don't make ALL of the mess, WHY should I clean it ALL up??
    Great tips :) Thanks.

  8. I love Cheri Logan's site. I came across it years ago. This article and the one about the doll named Baby Jesus are my favorite.

  9. Oh, I love that, Jeannetta! I'm filing that one away for future use! ;-)

    Brandy: I know-- isn't she great? I also like her take on why "My Little Ponies" are the perfect toys. LOL! And on a more serious note, her personal family stories really inspired me to look at my family with a more eternal perspective. Good stuff!


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