I am in a season where God has blessed me as to be a stay at home homemaker, raising twin four year old’s alongside my husband. Since we are home for large parts of our days, we have our double portion of blessed messes and marvelous mayhem. In trying to make certain our home feels more like a haven than a hostel, we have developed some cleaning rhythms and routines that work well for our family. Helping our children learn to clean in the home we all share is the ultimate team-building activity, and here are five tips I’ve learned for encouraging good cleaning habits so far.
One truth I’ve learned is that if I want my children to adopt any of our behaviors, including
cleaning, I need to make sure that I am modeling it for them. Making the bed, putting the cup in the dishwasher right away, cleaning up the kitchen before heading to watch Netflix – whatever small habits you put in place, your biggest fans are sure to copy! If you need some motivation yourself, watch this inspirational commencement speech by Admiral McRaven. My husband shared this with me years ago, and I listen to it from time to time to get encouragement in my own habits and routines!
Since my kiddos are still fairly young, I try to make certain we have set realistic expectations for them. Everyone can do something, even if it means carrying your cup to the counter. Don’t let yourself get discouraged if you are chatting with a friend that has kiddos doing more or more complicated chores than yours does. Assess where your children are and what changes you would like to see. Then, teach the task. And show it again. Until it becomes a habit. As hard as it is for us parents to develop those good habits, (you are drinking that sixth glass of water while reading this, right? :), think about someone just learning. Keep reminding yourself that each time you teach, they are learning and one day, you will walk into the chore being completed without you. And then text your friend chat that your babies don’t need you anymore.
Many mamas know about the infamous “witching hour.” The WH refers to that very special time of day when everyone is on the cusp of crying or arguing, the house feels like a small dust bowl blew through, and oh yes, someone (you) must figure out and cook a meal for all of these hungry people! I have heard others call call this time of day, the “blessing hour”. That really resonated with me. I wanted that time of day to feel and look differently. I wanted a peaceful and joy filled time and I wanted my husband to walk into peace, not chaos. I announce to my kids it is “Blessing Hour!” and they know it is tidy up time. I
try to be very specific as we go along, ok someone will pick up this puzzle, someone has to stack those books here. We talk about one task at a time so that they don’t forget or feel overwhelmed. We go through the main living areas and pick up toys, wipe down tables, fold the blankets, light a candle, and welcome Daddy with a (mostly) picked up home. Hearts and spirits are lifted by the tidy space, and Mom and Dad get to sit down after bedtime in a space that is clean and welcoming. Sure, this may not work for everyone’s schedules or routines, and there are definitely days this moment doesn’t happen for us, but if there is a time of day that you feel frustrated or want a room or space to feel differently in your home, see if there is a way that you can make it better with a “Blessing” five minutes, 15 minutes, or whatever time you have!
One fun habit our family enjoys that has made cleaning routine but fun, was to incorporate a fun song to race too as we clean! Our family races to Eye of the Tiger and right now, we play it a few times in a row, but we tend to always beat the song at some point, and their pride and happiness is priceless! We give high fives and tell each other that so and so did a great job with xyz, or we let the song play again and have a family dance party!
Lastly, one way we try to lay that foundation of helpfulness, is by putting things within their reach and so within their capabilities. We have the kid dishes and cups in drawers that they can reach without a grown ups help. That way, they can independently help set the table or empty those unbreakable kid dishes from the dishwasher. We have most all of the toy bins and containers at their level as well, so they can easily pull out and pick up toys.
We will continue to try new things, let go of things that aren’t working for our family or home, and add responsibilities as they grow. It’s always a blessing to hear what works for other families. What routines or good cleaning habits work for your family?