Spring cleaning is not in my vocabulary

by Whitney Moss on March 23, 2012

in Big Kid,Momoirs of a Rookie Mom

When I am the queen of the world, there will be a robot that carries me to my bed and cleans my face and teeth with a magic wand.

Oh, how I envy my husband’s habit of hanging his clothes up at the end of the day. He tells me that his habits come from being lazy. He doesn’t want to have to clean up later, so he cleans up NOW. Please, god, let my children absorb this way of thinking rather than my inclination to chuck my jeans on the closet floor. I keep my life together pretty well, but it does not come naturally. If there were no consequences, I’d fall asleep on the couch every night.

If we can agree that we are all on the path to kicking our beloved children out of the house, then I think we also want to arm them all with the know-how to manage their own lives, from preparing meals to doing laundry to managing money and not losing their keys. I find most of these tasks challenging myself, so I have tons of empathy for my kids’ current position, which is to allow others to do all those things for them. But that can’t last forever.

While I am not raising my kids with the tradition of “spring cleaning” (that would just be overly ambitious and setting myself up for failure), I do want to avoid raising slobs.

So how do we get our babies from helplessness to taking over the chores? Do I tell them, “I can’t play with you right now because I have to clean up the dishes,” so they understand that is an everyday task? And at what point do I say, “No one can play until dinner is cleaned up so come join me and we can get it done faster?”

As part of many lists Heather and I drafted in the course of writing our book Stuff Every Mom Should Know (WHICH COMES OUT ON TUESDAY!) , we created this list of chores young children can do. I believe the key to success in this arena is to make them so habitual, they don’t require much thought. My kids have already got making beds under their belts as we worked it into their “morning jobs,” also known as DRESSEDTEETHBEDSHOES! Getting ready for school equals get dressed, brush teeth, make bed, get shoes on. Yes, we have to spend the whole morning calling out what step of the process they should be in, “TEETH!” but on days that they’re motivated, they do the whole thing themselves. Here is the full menu of my goals for them by the end of high school:

Toddler
  • Wiping up a spill
  • Putting clothes in hamper
  • Putting toys back on shelves or containers
  • Throwing trash in garbage can or recycling bin
Preschooler
  • Clearing plate to kitchen counter
  • Sorting clean silverware into drawers
  • Using a sponge to wipe table
  • Sweeping with a child-sized broom or dry cloth mop
Big Kid
  • Emptying trash from rooms to outdoor garbage
  • Making bed
  • Vacuuming carpet
  • Setting the table
  • Sorting clean socks
  • Planning meals with help
Teen
  • Folding laundry for family
  • Loading and emptying dishwasher
  • Washing car
  • Pouring and serving drinks at meals
  • Cooking part of the meal

When it comes to cleaning up, I want to prepare my children with the the skills they need and give them the MOTIVATION. Like, hey, if you put things away, you can find them later. Genius!

I try to point out how good it feels to help out the family, even though I know that wiping up a spill, for example, feels like nothing special. But that’s life, right?

What tasks are you grooming your children to take over? Do you have a list for them?

This post is part of a sponsored series in Hallmark’s Life is a Special Occasion campaign.

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RookieMoms.com co-founder Whitney lives with her husband, son, and daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area where she writes about parenting, crafts, and activities that moms can do with babies in tow. She and Heather also publish 510Families.com, a site for East Bay parents and are the authors of The Rookie Mom's Handbook and Stuff Every Mom Should Know.

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