After a week of being cooped up and sick, our house looks like it has been ransacked. There are piles of clean laundry that need folding and dishes scattered across the kitchen counters. The mail is stacked on the desk waiting to be dealt with and Matchbox cars litter the living room floor.
But Spring is just around the corner. I can feel it in the air. I am ready to throw open the windows and reclaim this house, but frankly, all this stuff is not my mess. I didn’t eat three Go-Gurts yesterday and leave their plastic wrappers on the table. So, I am enlisting my three roommates to join the spring-cleaning party. Can you hear the weeping and whining from your house? I am beginning to believe that my kids have an allergy to cleaning. I’m certain they inherited it from me. So how do I get them (and me) motivated? Here are my family’s top three tricks to help the kids join the family team this spring.
- Work with your child. Constant nagging, frustrated yelling, and the giving of punishments for not picking up the Lego’s or Lalaloopsie's has proven quite ineffective in our house. One thing that does work is working together. When we take twenty minutes to stop what we are doing and help our children finish their chores, things go more smoothly. When your children are small, the job can look overwhelming. You might know the same feeling when you catch a glimpse of your to-do list. Working together builds a sense of unity within the family. It communicates: we love you, we are on the same team, this household works together.
The flip side to that same coin is to involve your children in the “grown-up” chores of the household. We heat our home with a wood-burning stove. Every spring and fall we must cut firewood. Our kids come with us. Sure there is plenty of downtime where sticks become swords and rocks become mountains to climb, but there is also work. Cleaning up the bark, loading and unloading the split wood, sweeping out the bed of the truck. We cannot expect our children to learn to work hard if we never involve them in the work. It will take more effort and time and the end result may not be as perfect as if you had done it yourself, but perfection is not always the goal. Any time spent with your child, even work, can be a meaningful time investing in your relationship, if you approach it with the mindset that the person is more important than the task.
Reward your child for a job well done. We have used every reward in the book: sticker charts, fruit snacks, treasure box prizes, screen time and real life money. Our children should do some things because they are a part of the family, but because hard work, organization, and tidiness are learned disciplines, rewards are important. Rewards reinforce the value of their work.. Whatever method you choose make sure they know you appreciate their hard work (even if there was much grumbling involved) and that their labor reaps reward. I know I work more efficiently, more focused, and more diligently when I get paid to do it.
Sometimes, abandon the chores. We have to let go of the desire for a Pinterest- quality playroom and actually play with our kids. Glennon Doyle Melton has said, “Don’t let yourself become so concerned with raising a good kid that you forget you have already have one.” Take time to remember, regardless of how many super-heroes are scattered across the floor or how many crayons are poured out on the dinner table, that your child is fantastic. Relish in the mess, occasionally. Let them be crazy, wild, wonderfully messy kids. There is always time to clean, but they might not always want to mix Play-Doh colors with you.
As you spring forward, how will you create quality time with your child, instead of focusing so much on the tasks at hand? How can you involve your child in the work of spring -cleaning, without a battle?
By Jesica Swanson, Kudoso Kontributor