11 Family Cleaning Rules

how to encourage kids to embrace housecleaning without grumbling (too much).

You want housecleaning chores to be shared by everyone in the family.

But are you sabotaging those beginner efforts instead of encouraging them?

These 11 housecleaning rules are designed to help you have a clean home each week with help from the rest of the family in a positive environment. 

1. Don't Have Too Many cleaning Rules.

If you have so many rules - about when chores get done, how well they are done, how much time must be spent to complete a chore - you'll do more to defeat a child's natural inclination to want to want to please her parent than encourage it.

If your standards are too high for a 6-year-old, she'll never feel the satisfaction of a job well-done (at least considering her age.)

And she's much more likely to be obstinate the next time chores are required of her.

2. Lead by Example.

As the time-honored saying goes, it isn't what you say, it's what you do that will stick with your kids.

If your papers, books and DVDs are neatly filed and stacked, your child just might think twice before he leaves his stuff on the floor.

So do the right thing, whether the kids are around or not. After all, you may as well lead the way.

3. Limit Chore Time.

Age appropriate chores for kids should take a child no more than 15 to 30 minutes a day, max.

4. Work Together.

Resist the temptation to assign too many chores that send your children off on their own. From a kid's point of view, tidying his bedroom after school each day is downright banishment.

Better still: Create a family cleanup time each day or once a week. Misery loves company, and the dirty jobs have to be done.

5. Don't Nitpick.

Don't be too picky about your child's results; he is, after all, a child. (Okay, you can press the perfection point a bit harder with your teens.)

And whatever you do, don't let your son or daughter see you redoing a job. When a child feels successful at something, she's more likely to continue doing it.

6. Focus on the Big Picture.

While one goal of housecleaning with kids is to help you take a load off, the more important goal is to teach your children the life skills they'll need to run an organized, efficient home someday on their own.

7. Ensure Success.

Take the time to show your child how to succeed at a given task.

For example, tell your teen about the wonders of bleach on white cotton polos and about its devastating effect on black Lycra running shorts before sending him off to the laundry room.

8. Break Down Big Tasks into Small ones.

Don't tell your preschooler to tidy up his room. That's too daunting. Say, `Let's put all the dinosaurs in the red tub."

Then, when that task is complete, continue with `Now let's put our crayons into the cup."

You might not even get the room totally buffed on the first attempt. Then again, the goal here is to make kids feel good about what they did. Make the job small enough to do well.

9. Make Helping Easy for kids.

Whenever possible, set up your housecleaning with kids in mind. Stash a stool in the laundry room so even your littlest family member can help load the washer.

Place breakfast dishes on a bottom shelf within reach of your 4-year-old so she can set the table herself.

10. Be Patient.

Make "good" good enough. Unless, of course, it's an older child trying to get away with sloppy work. 

In that case, you'll need to tell her the work just isn't up to par, and that she'll need to do it again, and again, if necessary, until she gets it (almost) perfect.

11. Praise Often.

Be effusive in your praise. Remember the last aced test proudly thrust in your hands after school? Our little ones clearly delight in our joy at the work of their hands.

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About the Author

Tara Aronson is a native Californian. Having grown up in San Diego, she studied journalism and Spanish to pursue a career in newspaper writing. Tara, whose three children - Chris, Lyndsay, and Payne - are the light of her life, now lives and writes in Los Angeles. She also regularly appears on television news programs throughout the U.S.