Get kids to help clean your house with these tips…plus, research says kids’ chores do more than just tidy the house.
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What does getting kids to help clean your house and increasing their odds for future success have to do with each other?
More than you might think.
According to a seventy-five year Harvard grant study, “professional success in life… comes from having done chores as a kid,” says Julie Lythcott-Haims, the author of How to Raise an Adult, quoting the study in a TED talk. (see the full TED talk here)
That’s because the study found that work ethic is one of the greatest predictors of success in adults. And doing chores as a kid was a key characteristic shared among the 724 high-achieving adults researchers studied.
Daily chores are a good place for parents to start building a good work ethic in kids – having kids make their bed, sweep the floor, and feed the dog every day.
But according to Lythcott-Haims, it’s a “[A] roll-up-your-sleeves- and-pitch-in mindset, a mindset that says, there’s some unpleasant work, someone’s got to do it, it might as well be me … that’s what gets you ahead in the workplace.”
And helping to clean the family home can often be just that – dirty work that contributes to the family’s well-being, not just your child’s.
Of course, there’s also the most obvious benefit to getting kids involved in cleaning the family home – having more hands to do the work means less work for parents.
How to Get Kids to Help With Cleaning Your Home
A couple of years ago, when my husband began working from home, we decided our family was at a stage where we could begin cleaning our house together.
At ages 8 and 10, our girls were perfectly capable of dusting, vacuuming and mopping floors, among other tasks needed to keep our home clean.
The effort to clean our home as a family – on a Saturday morning once a month – was a win all around: our home would be clean, we’d save money by not having to hire a cleaning service, and our girls would learn lessons in contributing to a greater good.
On our Cleaning Saturday, as we refer to our cleaning day, everyone in the family cleans certain rooms in the house. My husband cleans the upstairs bathrooms and our bedroom, I clean the kitchen and downstairs bathroom, and the girls are responsible for the mudroom, dining room, playroom, living room, and their bedrooms.
Before we began these Cleaning Saturdays, the big question my husband and I wondered was how to get our girls on board with the plan and keep them motivated.
Here’s what we did:
Set expectations early
I try to make a point of warning our girls that we have a Cleaning Saturday coming up well in advance. Talking about our Cleaning Saturday a few days before it actually happens guarantees that everyone is prepared when the day arrives and no one can claim ignorance on the morning of.
Work together as a family
My husband and I have learned over the years that kids are much more willing to take on big cleaning tasks if everyone is doing them together. Kids seem to have a super-charged radar for fairness and while it’s inevitable arguments about fairness arise during our Cleaning Saturdays, these disputes can often be resolved fairly quickly when everyone is cleaning together. Getting the job done as a team has the added benefit of making kids feel they’re an integral part of the family.
Get kids involved in planning
Before we set off to clean the house, our family talks about which rooms each girl will clean and when (since they have four rooms in our house to divide between them). It can be helpful to write down who agreed to do what so there are no misunderstandings later in the day. On some mornings, activities can get in the way of cleaning so it’s important for everyone to be clear on when exactly cleaning will take place. Kids feel more ownership over their tasks when they’re given a say in the planning process. No one – not even kids – likes to be told what to do.
Teach but don’t preach
When we first began our Cleaning Saturdays, the girls need guidance on how to carry out certain tasks. A few instructions were needed on the best way to scrub the mudroom floor or which tools work best for dusting. After showing my girls what needed to be done, I tried my best to back off. I know too well from experience that micro-managing my kids’ work only leads to frustration, de-motivation, and a sense of not living up to expectations.
Praise first, correct second
Everyone wants to hear they’ve completed a task well and my girls are no different. When my kids have finished cleaning a room I first tell them what they’ve done well. I try to save any feedback on what could have been done better as a secondary comment and make it sound more like a tip to learn from than a critique.
Make it fun
Cleaning a house can literally be a chore – but there’s no reason why a little fun can’t be added to the work. Cleaning up is so much easier in our house when the girls are able to listen to music in the background. Other ideas for lightening the workload include playing games such as “I Spy” or creating a story with each person taking turns contributing to the next word.
Most adults don’t like to clean and neither do kids
There have been a number of Cleaning Saturdays when we’ve discovered one of our girls in their room because they believe they’re done for the day. But upon inspection, their work isn’t finished. There are times when I’d like nothing more than to flop on my bed and pretend that my work is done, so I get it. Instead of completely shirking their responsibilities we tell our kids that they can take a ten-minute break mid-way thorough cleaning (and we take one ourselves if needed). This keeps everyone fueled and ready to finish their work without getting too cranky.
Last but not least, celebrate!
Cleaning our house takes a lot of time and effort so often at the end of the day we try to do something special to celebrate. Ideas for a celebration can include a family movie or game night, going out for ice cream, or whatever else would be a fun reward for kids. Having a celebration to look forward to can also motivate kids to pick up the pace and complete tasks.
Shhhh….I think my kids might actually like cleaning
Sure there’s almost always a sibling argument or two on Cleaning Saturday about who is doing the most work and who agreed to clean which room.
But every now and then I’ll see an expression of pride as my kids successfully scrub dirt off the mudroom floors or vacuum the living room carpet.
Kids will rarely admit to having found enjoyment from hard work. But that doesn’t mean they don’t feel it.
And besides, when my girls are adults and receive their first promotion or successfully launch a business – they can thank us for having them take part in our Cleaning Saturdays. ?