3 Reasons My Kids Love to Do Chores Without Me Even Asking

Family Matters on 11.08.11
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I love a clean house, but I really, really hate to clean. However, somehow my children are getting me to hop on the cleaning bandwagon on a daily basis. I don't have a cleaning lady (although I do dream of one) so the fact is that I have to at least do the bare minimum to keep the house in order. But lately my five-year-old has been the one who can't stop cleaning. From telling me I'm putting the dishes in the dishwasher wrong-forks should all go in one basket and knives in another so it's easier to unload-to asking if he can wipe down the counters and wash the windows to asking me to pull out the vacuum for him, it's a daily event. Yesterday on his way out to the bus stop, he grabbed a bag of garbage from the mud room and took it out to the trash can without even being asked. And his two-year-old sister is hopping right on the cleaning bandwagon with him. As they happily go on their merry way cleaning, I'm dragging behind thinking, "Do we have to?"

My children are good kids, but they aren't any better behaved than a lot of other kids. When I've tried to wrap my brain around why they are so eager to clean, I've determined that it's because of their age, and by making it a part of their routine this young, I think I've got a better shot of having fewer fights down the road. At least I hope that's the case. Introducing house work at a young age is so much easier than waiting until the kids are older for several reasons.

1. They want to be like mommy and daddy. The fact is that most kids want to be just like their mother or father. That's why there are toy lawnmowers and ironing boards on the market that sell like crazy. Sure, they can't do those exact things, but there are still a lot of things that they can do. Customize their jobs to suit their age. My son works the big vacuum while my daughter uses a small handheld one. The invention of cleaning wipes means they can easily wipe down counters and windows without me worrying that they are going to empty an entire spray bottle in one spot. And bringing the recycling out to the proper bin is about as simple as it gets. They are getting to do things that they've seen my husband and I do, and are proud that they can now do them too.

2. Positive reinforcement goes a long way with little kids. When kids are young they are happy to be praised with a hug and a sticker. They don't ask for it before they do something, but when they get it afterwards they want to do whatever it was that they got the reward for again. I don't have to negotiate what their allowance will be if they do their chores or whether or not they'll be able to go to the movies with their friends. By making this a part of our daily routine now, we are creating habits that they are more likely to maintain as they get older and won't require added prodding.

3. Kids love feeling that they have value and can create happiness. My son beams when he is cleaning because he knows it makes us happy that he is being helpful. Last night he said, "Daddy will be so happy if the house is clean when he gets home." And he immediately started picking up the living room. He can't wait to show me when he's made his bed or re-organized his book shelf, and it truly does make me happy. Even when we are working on bigger jobs that the kids can't do that much of, we give them smaller jobs like opening doors so that we can carry the heavy piece of furniture through or carrying a single item out of the grocery bag into the house when the entire bag is too heavy. They are thrilled that they were helpful and it makes them want to help again.

I often think that we don't want to burden our children with another thing to have to take care of considering so many of them are already so over-scheduled. But these are valuable things they need to learn how to do; perhaps even more valuable than those piano lessons that are going to get dropped a few years down the line. Take it from someone who has seen a college kid put dish soap into my dishwasher instead of proper dishwasher soap because she'd never run a dishwasher before. The next time you need the start button pushed on the washer or dryer or need the plants watered, consider having your little one do it. No job is too small and the positive reinforcement they receive might just be enough to start a trend. Before you know it they might be dragging you off the couch to help them clean the house instead of vice versa.

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