Things can get hectic as a single parent, we know all too well. Laundry can pile up, dishes pile up, and the ‘dust bunnies’ in the corner of the room pile up. Unless you are the few with a maid service you may find yourself in one of a few scenarios; following your kids around finger drawn nagging them to Kingdom Come -or- pleading with them to do this and that with the promise of treats -or- simply doing it yourself, cleaning up around your kids because you feel it’s easiest that way. And if you decide to give the kids chores, are they consistent at your co-parent’s house or will you have to deal with the “dad/mom don’t make me do this at their house”.
Let’s take a moment to discuss chores. There are valuable life lessons for children to learn from keeping a clean home. Have you ever had a child ask, “Why do we have to clean the house, Mom/Dad?!” Perhaps the answer is a sassy, ‘because I said so!’ while handing them a basket of clean clothes to fold. The real answer may be a bit surprising;
- A tidy house is the best way to keep track of where things are
- A clutter-free home reduces stress, it doesn’t take Marie Kundo to help you realize clutter is a downer
- A clean house is a health(ier) house, reducing germs, bacteria and allergens
- A clean house inside and out greatly reduces pests including insects, spider, mice (etc.), taking aways food and nesting options.
Establishing that keeping a clean and tidy house is good for your body and your stress levels, how can we manage to set these habits in stone for your kids? We understand co-parents may have different standards, this is not unusual. Keep in mind, in a few short years (*ten years can go by pretty quick for a parent) they’ll be on their own and hopefully you’ve taught them healthy habits for their mind, body and house.
Co-parenting collaboration challenges aside, here are a few tactics for getting kids on-board and hopefully reducing friction:
The Young Ones (under 8 yrs.)
- Pick up Song. Our family knows this song all too well. Five and under kids will add a dance to go with it. Help them find their groove while they tidy up their room.
- Gamify it. Who can match the socks the fastest? How many leaves can you scoop up?
- Teamwork gets the job done. Work together with them on a task, provide guidance to make sure they get the job done right and move on.
The Kid Crew (9-12 yrs.)
- Schedule it. Call it out on the family schedule so there is no surprise. They will know Saturday morning is family clean-up time. The whole family comes together to get it done, no one misses out on this, ‘don’t pass GO & do not collect $200’ (Monopoly reference) until it is done.
- Round Robin. We generally take turns cleaning different parts of the house, that way no one gets stuck with the bathroom. Parents need to be active during this time, be more coach than drill sargent and find the ‘good’ in what they’re doing.
The Teens (13 yrs and older)
- Empower them. Understanding families are different and kids are different. If blocking it on the family calendar falls short, give them a deadline. They will be left to find time to get alloted chores done at their pace.
- Make it invisible. My personal favorite, even for the kid crew. While watching TV/media or studying for an exam I will quietly place a basket of clean clothes fresh out of the dryer and start folding it with them. It goes by quick, they’re focused on something else ~it’s invisible.
Regardless of what works for you and your family, there are clear benefits to keeping things clean. The most important thing to remind yourself (especially when they’re in their teenage years) is making sure they know how to do chores, right down to the importance of making their bed in the morning.
If they need a reminder, have them watch Admiral William H. McRaven (University of Texas at Austin, 2014 Commencement Address) give his commencement speech on it. It’s a good one.