I own four indoor plants. Two are the ever hardy, never-say-die, heart-leaf philodendron plants. I grew up calling this a money plant. The other two are a plant my daughter brought home on a field trip and a tiny little thing my daughter’s teacher gave me for Christmas in 2010. The bad news is I’m a negligent parent when it comes to my green babies. The good news is, these babes are the ultimate low maintenance kids, and I strategically have three of them near my kitchen sink. When I wash dishes, if I see a frown on one of my green girls, I swoop a cup of sink rain over her drooping branches and pray for a miracle. That it wasn’t too late. And between the sunshine that beams through my kitchen window and the just in the nick of time thirst quenchers, my plants are still alive!
I know it might sound cliche, but it never ceases to amaze me what can spring up and grow from the humble beginnings of a teeny-tiny seed.
When my firstborn turned three, back when we owned a functioning dishwasher, she approached me as I unloaded and took a few spoons and said, “Here Mommy, I help you.”
I think I said, “Don’t worry baby. Mommy can finish this work. You can finish watching Veggie Tales.” Larry was desperately looking for his hairbrush in the living room.
But she came back again the next day, this time pulling a bowl from the clean rack. “Mommy, I can pass to you.”
And that was the day the Paulus Princesses began to lay aside their crowns and put on their cleaning gloves—for just a little bit—to help Mom and Dad clean the house. Not until last summer did hubby and I really establish a system that works. Here are my top five tips on how to get your kids involved in helping around the house.
1. Buy fun and easy to use cleaning supplies. Swiffer products are super easy operate, they smell delish, and even my eight year old can push a Swiffer broom around. I especially like the fact that once you use the duster, sweeper and wet-jet mop, the accumulated dirt goes out with the wiping sheets! Badda bing badda boom!
2. Play music. Nothing like rolling out laundry to Adele’s Rolling In The Deep. Bieber gives a bounce to our broom, and washing dishes almost seems fun to the rhythm of our boy Toby Mac. We play it loud enough to hear around the house, and make it mandatory to stop and have thirty second dance parties when a family favorite comes around on the shuffle.
3. Choose age appropriate tasks. See One, Do One, Teach One. If you expect them to help, and give each child jobs they are capable of learning, doing, and teaching someone. My four year old can replace the plastic liners in the smaller garbage pails. She can also put her clothes in her drawers, small piles at a time. Whereas my older three have learned how to sort laundry, run the washer and dryer and fold clothes. When you have six people contributing to the hampers, every pair of hands really helps. I’m convinced that when a family works together and plays together, day to day life tastes just a little sweeter. For once, I’m not referring to chocolate.
4. Accept less than perfect. I think this was the hardest one for me to agree to. They’re kids after all. The way I fold a t-shirt will naturally be crisper than my eight year old’s, when she was first learning. But my hubby is huge on this approach. He always tells me to expect it to take longer and not to sweat the imperfections. Teaching costs after all. I love when the girls help him build things, work on the cars, or help him cook. He’s a very patient teacher, and the smiles on the girls’ faces when they’ve accomplished the tasks are priceless.
5. Reward them. We actually pay our kids their allowance in conjunction with their chores. Dave Ramsey, the big finance guy, actually encourages “wages” for kids to be connected to jobs, because then children grow up associating money with hard work. Is it me, or do too many kids these days think the little plastic card is a magic wand that they should have access to anytime, anywhere…for anything. The reward doesn’t always have to be monetary. Sometimes it’s about planning something fun right after a completed project. This past Saturday, for their week of helping organizing the house, hubby took the girls to see Dr. Seus’s Lorax on Imax in 3D!
So what are you waiting for? Make a list of all the things your kids can help you with. Determine the rewards or compensation. Have a family meeting, and hop to it! No time like the present to start a new thing. Especially one that plants a seed of something more precious than any plant growing up by my kitchen sink. To see a child grow up with the values of family and hard work paints a canvas more colorful than any hue-bursting scene in the movie The Lorax.
Plant a seed today. As in the words of the song “Let it Grow” from The Lorax, “Just one way to know its worth.” You have to plant it!
**Anyone have any other tips to add to the list? Any creative rewards you want to throw into the mix?
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