Raise your hand if you’ve ever given up on getting your kid to help around the house and just cleaned it all yourself. I know I have. It’s quicker, it stops an argument, and the house just gets clean. However, we all know getting our kids to help clean up around the house is an important tool to teach them for their future.
Like a lot of moms, I’m a firm believer that everyone in the house contributes to the mess of the house, so everyone needs to help clean it up.
My son is 6 which means he’s not really great about listening to me tell him to clean up, and this is not a battle I want to have. A perfectly clean house is not a hill I’m willing to die on so that means we take things a bit easier in the house.
However, teaching my son this life skill is important to me so I’ve tried a lot of different ways to get him to help out around the house. I’m sharing the ones that worked for us.
Kids are not a monolith though and this is not something that will work with all kids. This is just my experience with my one child. It might help you come up with solutions that will work for your family though.
Let Him Pick His Chores
That’s right, I let him decide what chores he wants to help with. Keep in mind, he HELPS, not does it on his own.
So if he wants to help unload the dishwasher I take all the sharp objects out of the silverware tray and hand the rest to him to put away while I unload the rest of the dishwasher.
He will grab an extra rag and help wipe dust off the furniture he can reach. He will sit with me and help me fold laundry while also putting away his own laundry.
This gives him a bit of control in what he’s doing, additionally, if he wants to do certain things this allows him to work with his own motivations. It’s never a fight because he wants to do these things anyways.
There is only one chore that he didn’t pick and that’s cleaning his own room. This is where I teach him that he needs to clean up his own messes. Mommy and Daddy didn’t make that mess, we didn’t contribute to it, so it’s completely on him to clean it.
Keep Fabric Baskets In The Living Room
I keep little fabric totes in a bookshelf in our living room. Whenever I want the living room cleaned he can grab one of these baskets, fill it with the toys he has out in the living room, empty it in his room, and bring the basket back to me.
This prevents the 30 trips back and forth from the living room to his bedroom. It also prevents the possibility of him getting distracted by something else leaving me waiting to finally clean the living room the way I want.
Sometimes the fabric baskets are used to clean up toys quickly but they don’t end up in his room. It’s just a temporary holder so he can pull out his toys again later in the day to play with them. We are a bit flexible with these baskets and when they get emptied in his room.
These Lego Storage Solutions helped a lot in getting my child to clean up his Lego’s daily.
Introduce New Cleaning Tasks Regularly
Obviously, this is based on age. I’m not going to have my 6 year old clean the bathroom with harsh cleaners. However, teaching him how to dust, clean fingerprints off a window, or emptying a dishwasher with help are all great tasks to introduce.
Introducing new cleaning tasks can help your child to choose and take on new tasks as they are capable of doing so. This year for instance my son has taken on the feeding of the cat. He actually gets upset if someone else feeds the cat.
I’ve seen a video of a father who’s kids, about 6 and 4, really love to help with washing the laundry. He carries the clothes to the laundry room and they put the clothes in, measure the soap, and start the washer or dryer.
Introducing new cleaning tasks and then allowing them to do the tasks they enjoy is a great way to get them into the habit of keeping a clean house early so it just sticks with them into adulthood.
For a list of age appropriate chores check out this link.
Dealing With Defiance
Kids will often try to push boundaries and see if they can get away with certain things. Sometimes they will downright refuse to do what you ask. There are a few things I suggest asking when this happens.
Is your kid busy with something else, and you are being rude and interrupting?
Is your kid tired or hungry and would likely agree after a nap or getting something to eat?
Does this absolutely need to be done right this moment?
How would you handle someone interrupting you while you are in the middle of a project to tell you to put something away? You’d probably be a bit peeved and depending on who’s asking you might even take an attitude with them.
If you are tired or hungry and someone is just pushing you to avoid sleeping or eating to finish a task of their demanding? How would you feel?
Finally, if the task doesn’t need to be done right this second it is ok to work on their timeline. You are not raising little servants to bend to your will, you are raising a human and helping them to understand how to manage their time. It’s ok for them to finish what they are doing and then complete the task before moving on to something else they want to do.
Depending on your answers you can decide the next course of action. If your child is not busy, tired, or hungry, you can proceed with the next steps.
Say, “I know you don’t like doing this, but to prevent toys from being broken because they aren’t where they belong it’s best for you to clean them up now.”
Validating their feelings while explaining an important benefit of cleaning up is a great way to convince a kid to clean up their toys.
I once explained to my kid that he needed to clean up his mess before I vacuum or something he likes might be vacuumed up. He did not clean up his mess so I started vacuuming the sofas.
To my son’s horror there was a lego head in the canister and he was positive it was lost forever. I explained that this is why my son needed to clean up his mess regularly or things might be lost.
I then proceeded to remove the lego head from the canister and since then he has been really good about cleaning up his toys before I vacuum.
Make Cleaning A Regular Event
Nightly clean up time works best for us. While I’m doing dishes at night and loading the dishwasher, he’s cleaning up his toys, craft supplies, and papers. This nightly routine and the fact that we are both cleaning helps him to feel like he’s not alone in the chores.
Having a set time when we clean, setting a reminder to ring when it’s time to do it, and doing it every single day builds a habit. It’s also taught my son to clean up his mess as he goes in order to make cleaning at the end of the day easier.
Then after we clean we do something fun like eat dessert or have reading time. Something he enjoys and knows we can’t do until our chores are done.
Getting Kids To Help Around The House
While I have, in the past, promoted bribery to get kids to clean or do tasks they need to do, bribery should always be a last ditch effort and only used in cases of emergency. Bribery is not something that is realistic in the adult world, so why teach our kids and train them to give in to bribery at all times?
Additionally, unless it absolutely needs to be done, sometimes it’s just easier to say ok, we will skip it tonight but tomorrow we will be doing this. Sometimes it’s just not worth the fight that will happen if your kid is already overwhelmed from the day. Plus, it’s ok for you and for your kid to take a break from certain responsibilities. One of them being cleaning.
How do you get your kid to help around the house? Let me know in the comments below. Follow us on Pinterest for more like this and pin this to your favorite parenting and cleaning boards.