I was at an event once that involved about 6 families. We all had our kids with us and it was really interesting to watch what happened when it came time to clean up. The parents asked the kids to help and get involved in the clean up. Both boys and girls were given task and they all went off to complete their assignment. But half the group of boys who were asked to clean–slacked off. They played around when they should’ve of been cleaning and then they pleaded, “helpless”.
Then I saw the girls (mom or sister) come in behind them and pick up the slack.
I thought, what the what! Whoa, what’s going on here?
No, no, no, no!
These boys were playing while the girls went to clean up their mess. Why does this happen? Sometimes it’s because as moms we love them and maybe we think by letting them play it would be better for all involved. It’s also easier for us to just do it ourselves. But in the long run we are not holding them accountable for their share of the responsibility. They played the “I’m a boy and I don’t know how.” card and we fell for it.
Our boys need to know that we consider them competent and capable of doing house chores.
This made me think about what I do or don’t do for my boys. I would challenge you to think through and ask yourself–Does your son just so happen to get out of house chores, over and over again?
I’ll be the first to confess; YES, it’s so much easier for me to do just do it. It’s easier to just come in and rescue, then to go through the hassle of teaching them to do the dishes, laundry, make their bed…”If you are guilty of doing the same, it’s important we put an end to it!
Ultimately, the message we are sending early on is, “Son, You’re NOT fully capable of house work.” Or another similar message like: “You can’t do it as well as we (girls) can, so let me just do it.” Or we let them get away with doing a half-hearted job and the message there is: “I’m glad you pitched in, but you don’t have to do finish it because you’re not fully capable of this.” or “Thanks for helping us do our job, you can rest now.
How many of our husbands have been fed this all their life and then they get married and expect the same? Let’s prepare them not just for marriage but for life.
Having them pitch-in is not a favor they are doing for us. On the contrary, we are doing them a favor by helping them see that house chores is part of being in our family. It’s about learning responsibility and team work–in a safe place.
How To Get Your Boys to Clean Up
I wish I can tell you that since I started using these tips my kids LOVE to clean and we merrily sing like the Von Trapp family as we get our chores done, but I can’t. What I can tell you is that these tips have helped make chore time run more smoothly and more often than not it is actually enjoyable.
Most importantly I’m sending this message to my boys:
Son, you’re fully capable of house work. Your competent and able!”
Here are some tips that work for our boys when cleaning:
- Break down the task at hand. If it’s a room full of Legos, cars and balls (which is usually the case in our home) all over the floor then you can say something like, “Start by picking up all the cars and when you’re done let me know and we’ll move to the next thing.” I definitely suggest you do this with your boys who are between the age of toddler and 11 years old. Maybe as they get older you won’t have to break it up as much but for now this works best.
Just the other day, we asked our 8 year old to fold the laundry as part of one of his chores. Each one of us had a house cleaning job and his was folding laundry. Well, 20 minutes later when I went to check up on him everything was still the same. He was overwhelmed and didn’t know where to begin. Once I broke down the task for him, he was on it. It took him an hour in total because he was paralyzed with the mound of clothes for the first 30 minutes. If I would’ve broken it down from the beginning there would’ve been less frustration for all of us.
- Tactile contact–If you’re giving them any kind of instruction while they are surrounded with a pile of toys that need to be cleaned up, or other distractions, you need to make tactile contact by either touching them on the shoulder and/or making eye contact with them.
- Pour on the praise. I really like how you’re working so diligently to get your chores done. You know I see some improvement from when you first started making your bed.
- Make your request short. Don’t say, “Remember last time I asked you to clean up and you got distracted and started playing with your Star Wars toys and I got really upset so you had those toys taken away. Well today I want you to focus on what you’re doing and not play but only clean up.” That was too much information, we need to stick to the main point. Say something like–It’s clean up time. Start with your cars and let me know when you’re done.”
- Make it into a competition. If you have more than one child and they are really competitive then have them race against the clock and not each other. Say something like, “You need to race the timer and be finished in 5 minutes. When the timer goes off I need to see all of the Legos off the floor.” I don’t give prizes, I have found that more often then not my boys don’t need a prize.
- Motivate them! Don’t say, “If you don’t clean up you won’t get a snack.” instead word it differently. Find ways to turn it into a motivating statement. For example, something I do is when I notice that the time is approaching for them to clean up I say, “It’s snack time!” Then I say, “But first I need you to go clean up the blocks, while I fix your snack.” Or if it’s screen time or going to the park time.. whatever it is use I use that already built in activity to motivate them. Do not bribe them. Otherwise, they’ll expect a bribe to get them to clean. Notice I don’t say, “If you don’t clean up you won’t get a snack.” If for some reason they decide to disobey I say, “The snack is waiting for you on the table and ready to be eaten when you’re done cleaning.”
- Team Analogy–My boys love the analogy of a team and how we each have a part to play to make this happen. So we call our Saturday cleaning time–Team Tuten. We start off our cleaning time with a talk about working hard, being responsible and good attitudes are what makes a good team. They eat it up and though sometimes their attitudes STILL get in the way–we have them do an attitude check and they bounce back to being helpful team members.
- Music Fun! We play fun music in the background when it’s Saturday family clean up. I also share here our fun 1 Song Clean Up Routine when I’m just trying to get them to pick up their toys or make their bed.
- Join them! If they are younger they will especially need you in the room accompanying them and keep their attention focused. But you may just find something else you need to do in the same room and use this as a time to connect and chat with them about life and their day. Remember boys, are more prone to open up to you while doing something, working on something, playing something than sitting down and having an official “chat” time.
- Cleaning can be fun! So change your attitude when you clean. You may need to have an attitude check yourself so that your kids aren’t picking up on the negative vibes you are sending when you are cleaning the house.
- Get your husband involved in the cleaning. Modeling it speaks louder than words. I am so thankful to have a husband who not only expect our boys to help clean and do chores but he is involved regularly.
I have to remind myself that though it’s tempting to just send them out to play while I clean up, this doesn’t teach them anything about responsibility, hard work and team work. Teaching them these basic life skills like doing their own laundry, cleaning up after themselves, cooking and… will make my boys more equipped when they go out into the real world. When we see first hand how hard the work is we become more appreciative of the people in our life that do these things. I want my boys to leave our home being feeling fully confident that they’ve got this house work down!