Toddlers and preschoolers aren’t known for being tidy. It takes superpower skills to get them to do chores. When they want to help (i.e. cook) it’s usually inconvenient for us. Then when we want them to help (i.e. clean up their toys) it’s usually inconvenient for them. I still have a child that is the preschool category. I am living that reality and it feels like a constant battle.
So I am preaching to myself and all of you mamas of littles when I say that it will pay off in the long run. Train your kids to help around the house. Do whatever it takes to get them involved in housework! I know it feels like it’s more trouble than it’s worth, but that is false. Not only is it going to help your children as they grow into adulthood, but it will also help you when they start to become more efficient at these tasks.
I can’t speak to the teenage years, but I have three elementary-age kids and so far it has gotten easier as they have matured. My three older children, ages 7, 10, and 12, do chores every weekday. They actually HELP me, and it is incredible. Every day I wake up and the dishwasher is unloaded.
Every Tuesday the trash and recycling are brought to the curb and taken back in after school. Almost every day their beds are made (not perfect, but tidied up). I have laborers to bring baskets of laundry up and down the stairs for me. When I didn’t get to sweep during the day I realize I can just add it to one of the kid’s chore lists and I get a huge grin every time I have a burden lifted. I have to pinch myself that I am not doing all the housework all by myself anymore! The best part is that I don’t have to nag and gripe (as much as I used to). It really is a dream come true.
How did you do it Messy Mom? You may ask.
Step one, Just do something. I don’t care if you do Marie Kondo’s “Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” or sing Daniel Tiger’s “clean up pick up, put away clean up, every day”. It is not about the method. It’s about the growth that comes from the contribution.
I have tried sooo many different systems. We’ve done rewards, payments, chore charts, competitions and more. It’s kind of embarrassing because in the past I would try a new system and even blog about it. Then I would fall off the wagon and feel like a failure, but the truth is I haven’t failed. I am inconsistent and imperfect, but I am NOT apathetic. So don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you are getting nowhere. You are planting seeds whether you see any fruit yet or not.
Step two, have realistic expectations. You might be wondering why you should take advice about housekeeping from the MESSY mom. You shouldn’t. If you want to have an immaculate house, do not read this article. If you regularly scrub the crevices of your microwave and fold your sheets in a military fashion then I am probably not your gal. No shame to you neat freaks (quite frankly I am jealous). As the Messy Mom though, my house is never going to be showroom ready and our living room isn’t going to be getting hundreds of likes on Instagram. However, if you just want your kids to chip in some and have a good attitude about it, I can tell you what has worked out for us.
I’ll say it again though, it isn’t so much about the how as it is about the why. There are many paths that can lead to responsible kids that help around the house. Just pick a path and start walking. If I can do it, you can. Change paths if you want, but keep walking. Take it one step at a time.
Oh, and one last little disclaimer. My kids are not perfect. I might wake up tomorrow and find out they went on strike and never want to make their bed ever again. I am just taking it one day and one child at a time. Pride goes before the fall.
For now though, we’ve got a good rhythm. It’s lightened my load and made our home a lot more orderly. I’d call that a win. So for those who don’t have children at that age yet, just hang in there! If your kids are older, but you still feel lost check back tomorrow for some practical solutions and our personal routine/system.