How to Get Kids to Clean the House

I teach my kids to clean the house so they learn to contribute, and to help them get along with others in future. Once I had an interstate gig and stayed at a mate’s bach pad. It was weird waking up in the living room with these young dudes I had never met before eating breakfast! One of the dudes NEVER cleaned anything and expected everyone else to do everything. This created tension and made this guy hard to live with. All I know is he’s not living there anymore! Imagine if all parents taught their kids how to clean up after themselves. It would make life a lot easier for everyone!

I’ve told the above story to my kids. I let them know that it is for their own good that they learn how to clean so they get along with others who they have to share a living space with. Also I let them know that we need to clean so we don’t attract mice and ants in to the house. We have a septic tank and shouldn’t even pour vinegar down the sink let alone anything like bleach. I’ve taught my kids to clean using Enjo Microfibers instead. My clever friend makes us a natural homemade washing powder, and the other day we ran out of dishwashing liquid so I quickly made a substitute by blitzing up a bar of soap, bicarb soda and salt! I’ve taught my kids that we don’t use harsh chemicals because they’re not good for our bodies, our soil or our waterways. They get it. They do put bicarb soda in the toilet bowl to clean it, and wipe the toilet down with eucalyptus oil to keep it smelling fresh, but apart from that we only use water and microfibers. My kids are rarely sick so we must be doing something right!

Every Saturday morning we divide the jobs in to three. Elijah (3) ‘helps’ but is a bit young to be included in the list. The jobs are:

Bathroom: shower, toilet, basin/mirror

Vacuum/mop: bedrooms, living area, kitchen

Other: recycling, rubbish, wiping the bench, hand watering plants, feeding worms, giving dog water

Jewel (5) loves to write up a list of the jobs and they allocate the jobs amongst themselves. When there is a disagreement as to who should do what, names are pulled out of a hat. The kids used to get paid $5 each for doing their jobs, but I noticed that everyone HATED cleaning the shower and there were meltdowns over it. It involved cleaning the grout with a toothbrush and a bicarb soda/water paste. So now they take it in turns to clean the shower, and whoever cleans the shower gets $6, and the other two kids get $4.50. Now everyone is excited to clean the shower!  If someone has a meltdown and doesn’t want to do their jobs, I calmly say that is fine and offer the jobs and their money to someone else who wants to do it. So today, one of the kids had a meltdown and didn’t want to do it. So the other two kids got an extra $3 each. After all, this is how the real world works. Better to find out when you’re a kid, than when you’re an adult and lose a job over it (like I did when I was 18 after yelling at a certain boss!).

With younger kids, I don’t expect it to be anywhere near perfect. As long as they’re trying their best that’s all that matters. Remember, the point isn’t to have a perfect house, it’s to teach important life skills. So it’s unhelpful to criticise their effort. Instead I encourage and praise their effort. As they get older, they will get much better at it. Ash (10) can pretty much clean as well as an adult, but it wasn’t always that way. Each child is also responsible for packing their own clothes away. If they don’t want to pack them away, it means they have too many to look after and some need to be given away.

Yes it would be 1000 times easier and quicker if I did it all myself, but that is teaching my kids that someone else will always clean up after them. That’s not how the real world works so it’s best to prepare them for it now! Kids are messy but they are only kids for a short time. One day they will grow up, they might even move country and I might only see them every couple of years! Then my house will be spotless. And I'll miss my kids terribly! So, best to enjoy the present, mess and all, because it's only temporary, and one day I'll look back and miss this time so much.