Getting kids to clean is as important for them as it is for you.
If you constantly pick up after your children, they won't learn the basic cleaning skills they'll need as adults.
While the time you spend initially in cajoling extra helpers and showing them the ropes may seem like more trouble than it's worth, you'll soon find that delegating has its benefits.
Your children will benefit by learning responsibility - which will make them good little guests who are sure to be invited back to friends' homes.
With kids, you'll need to set a couple of ground rules:
One, no fun stuff until all of their chores are done; and two, any chores that come up at the last minute must be completed upon request.
This is one rule you may need to invoke when friends from around the corner call to say that they'll be dropping by and you need the house primed - fast.
If weekends around your house are when the troops gather, that's the perfect time to rally them. Give each person a list of chores and allow an hour for everyone to complete the tasks.
If, however, weekends are on-the-go times for the family, post a chart on the refrigerator that lists each person's chores for the morning, after school, and evening.
Granted, getting kids to clean isn't easy. Besides, how much help can you realistically expect from a child? The answer depends on your child's age:
Adding responsibilities to your child's daily routine lightens the workload for everyone and gives you all more time to spend together. Best of all, it instills a stronger sense of your family as a team.
If helping out is a new concept in your home, getting kids to clean requires the gradual approach with your school-age kids. Like grownups, they can get set in their ways.
But you're in luck, even if chores have been few and far between up until now, because as long as they're still at home, you're the boss.
Keep in mind that it takes 21 days for a habit to form. So starting slow is essential for getting kids to clean without too much whining. Begin by creating a chore list with just one or two chores for each school-age kid.
Initially give them responsibility for their own things - school papers, packing tomorrow's lunch, permission slips, making beds daily - and then graduate them to responsibilities for cleaning house.
A few weeks later, add a family Saturday clean-a-thon. By year's end, your eldest will be cleaning the bathroom, your youngest will be delighted to help sort laundry, and your new program of cleaning house will be routine.
Give older kids some input in your new system. They're part of the overload-on-chores problem, right? So make them part of the solution.
For example, when you introduce the chore list or chore chart, talk with them about the best ways to set it up. Let them decide when they will do their chores. (Within reason, that is!)