You’re in the trenches and I’m in there too! Who else can spend the entire day walking from room to room picking up your family’s “stuff” and relocating it to the right place? I’m not talking actually cleaning the house… just moving the STUFF! You know, blankets, coats, cups, pencils, backpacks, shoes, toys, books, “projects”, and ohhhhh the dirty socks that are randomly shed in the most ridiculous places. I know there is a mom here and there that will claim “I would never let my children do that!”. But for the FAR MAJORITY we live this same story daily. It’s not that we “let” them do it either. It just happens. It’s a unity we have in motherhood, am I right?
There may have been a few times (or more!) when my husband asked me how my day went and I told him, “I chased my tail all day and got nothing done!” The truth is, I got a lot done. But not the things that I wanted to! There are times when as a mom, the things I want to get done do need to take a back burner. Then there are times when the things I want to get done are being displaced by picking up the things that others set down. When this is the case, it’s up to me as a parent whose goal is to raise future adults to motivate my children to be part of the solution.
How do you motivate tots, teens and everyone in between? When I was feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work generated by the children I love so much, I walked the aisles of Walmart trying to come up with a plan. I bought a brand new 32 gallon garbage can with wheels and drew a big smiley face on it. I named my new friend “Chomper”. The following day, I called everyone in to meet our new family friend. I set the timer and gave the charge for everyone’s personal items to be removed from the “common areas” in the house. When the timer rang Chomper started going through the house “eating” all of the personal possessions that had not been put away. Each time Chomper came out, my kids knew that I meant business…. and they worked FAST. The closer Chomper got to something they had overlooked, the faster they leaped ahead of me to save their belongings from the bowels of Chomper. There were screams of laughter and cleaning the clutter turned into a time of fun!
- Rules for Chomper:
- No garbage, food, dirty dishes or dirty clothes go into the bin (no car keys either…. wonder why I mention that? Oops!)
- Mom puts the items in (because in addition to it being really easy to simply throw things in as a form of “cleaning”, a child may accidentally toss in their math book or something important and that is no bueno!)
- Children cannot remove things from Chomper
- Items stay there for MONTHS.
- When I finally clean out the contents… my children are either thrilled to find long lost items or realize that they didn’t want them anyway and we can unemotionally get rid of them.
Cleaning up the common areas was only a part of training my children to take care of our home. We also had an appointed time to work on individual chores which we called “Family Blessing Hour”. Some would wash dishes or vacuum while others would fold laundry, sweep or clean the bathrooms. I usually kept bedroom cleaning as something to be done on personal time and didn’t require them to be kept to the standard of the rest of the home.
Even with all of our training, I was concerned that my kids would live in total messes when they grew up. As teens, I was still constantly reminding them to pick up after themselves, come back and do the dishes the right way, or put the ingredients back into the cupboards when they were done cooking. I thought they would never “get it”.
My oldest daughter got married (at 18) and as soon as she got her OWN apartment, it was spotless at all times. She knew the buck stopped with her and no one would come and pick up behind her. She enjoyed decorating her house and took pride in keeping it up. The labor that she had trained in for so many years prepared her for “adulting”, a skill so many of her contemporaries seem to struggle with.
Even my son adapted to a bachelor sort of home making when he got his own house at the age of 20. He doesn’t do any decorating and his housework is often set aside for his days off work. He has his own timetable and method derived from what I taught him. When Saturday comes, he digs in to clean it all, from the kitchen to the bathroom and everything in between. He had a roommate for awhile that was a mess maker which made my son reflect on the way he was raised. He sent me a text one day and said “Thank you for making me learn how to clean. It’s annoying to live with someone who doesn’t clean up after himself. I’m sorry I was such a mess maker when I lived at home”. HE DID “GET IT!!!”
A student is not superior to his teacher; but everyone, after he has been completely trained, will be like his teacher. Luke 6:40 Amplified Bible
Don’t lose heart while you’re working with your children day after day! It may seem like they aren’t grasping the concepts but likely they are. For whatever reason, distraction, forgetfulness or laziness they may need to be called back to finish a job. You may feel like it’s not worth the effort but it is, it really is. You are not raising children to remain children, you are raising them to be adults. It may take years of your time to train them and you may not directly reap the benefits for long in your own home but preparing your children to launch is a gift they will forever take with them.