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Getting Your Family to Help Clean

Category Advice
A sink full of dirty dishes.
Getting the entire family to help with cleaning is often a frustrating experience. There are, however, some very good ideas you can try to make cleaning a family activity. This is a guide about getting your family to help clean.
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October 13, 2008

I am quite frustrated and becoming depressed about the messiness of my home. My husband helps out very little and actually makes more mess than he ever helps with. My son, age 7, just messes. I wanted him to clean his bedroom and was going to pay him $5 to clean it up, which he seemed excited about, but all he did was drag out puzzles and leave pieces all over instead of clean. I don't think my husband has ever cleaned a stove top off or much else for that matter. If I try to get him to clean, he says, why? Who is coming to visit?

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Sandy from Stoughton, WI

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October 13, 20080 found this helpful

Ok, I'm not going to be very popular but having reared 3 boys I do know a bit about it. I would work with him (since you've not indicated you've done it before) and help him clean it up so that he can see how you like it to look. NO MONEY!! Then I would have a set time for him to straighten his room EVERY DAY. I would tell him things left down now belong to Mother to do with as she wishes. You'll have to "take" a few things for awhile and can't let the screams get to you. However, you have to remember he's only 5 and not keep his stuff too long. I'd probably give them back the next day AFTER he's done his room right. I would also do this with toys in the rest of the house. "Ok, Billy, it's time to get ready for bed. You have XXX minutes to get your things put away then it's bath time. Anything left down belongs to me, remember!" Lots of praise and "big boy" comments help.

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As far as the husband goes...wow, who can do anything with THEM!! Do you work outside of the home? In my opinion, if you do he should help. When I didn't have an outside job (meaning money!) I did it all bacause that WAS my job. He had his away from home. Wasn't always fair since I had much longer hours but... Have you sat down with him and told him how unhappy you are with the situation? I remember several times when I've "had it" and finally talked to my husband he's been totally surprised because he's had no idea how I felt. Also, I discovered I was being so critical of how he did things that he didn't want to help because he couldn't do it right. If I wanted help I had to loosen up. You can always offer a little extra snuggle time if you have some help with the dishes. "I'd love to sit and make out on the couch and I could be there sooner if you'd help me in the kitchen." then make the snuggles worth it for him!! Ok, that's not playing fair but we're dealing with men here! Gotta use what motivates!! =^.^)=

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October 13, 20080 found this helpful

Just saw my mistake...he's 7, not 5. I'd hold the toys a bit longer and increase the time as you needed to in order to make a believer out of him. He's lived this way for 7 years. He's got habits that are going to have to be broken. BE CONSISTENT!!!

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October 13, 20080 found this helpful

As a person who has raised 4 boys I feel I have eons of experience. First, take a broom, dustpan and garbage can to the door of the kid's room. Tell him if he can get to it before you do he can keep it. Otherwise it goes in the trash. This works after a time ot two. Tell your husband that you refuse to pick up anything off the floor that you didn't put there yourself. When you are tidying up just kick his socks and undies under the bed where they don't destroy the look of the place. If they aren't in the hamper you won't have to wash and fold them. He will eventually run out of clean ones so he'll have to pick them up anyway. I can't give any advice on the kitchen since I really don't like anyone else thrashing around in "my domain".

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October 13, 20080 found this helpful

I would like to point out an observation. You indicate that your "husband helps out very little". In choosing those words, you take ownership of the house chores. Let me clarify what I mean. If I were to say, "My husband helps me with the dishes" I am indicating that the dishes are MY responsibility and that he does some of the work out of the goodness of his heart but not because he has any responsibility. A better choice would be for me to say, "My husband and I do the dishes together" or "My husband and I share the chore of doing the dishes."

Having said that, however, I do agree with another poster who makes the distinction of whether or not you are working outside the home. When I have worked outside the home, my husband and I share the chores (usually according to who likes or hates which chores and what time of day those chores needed to get don). However, I am not working outside the home right now, so I have taken on many chores that he was doing when I was working. Consequently, I might use language that indicates that most of the chores are my responsibiilty at this point and that he "helps out". :)

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So, not knowing if you are a stay-at-home mom or not makes it difficult to give you advice. For that reasaon my advice is that you be careful with your word choices because they do indicate responsibility/obligation versus optional behaviors.

As far as your son's not cleaning up after himself, explaining to your husband that his son is modeling his dad's behavior. Also, if kids haven't been taught how to clean, they don't know what it means when a parent says "go clean your room". We all take for granted what it means when someone says to go clean a room, but kids don't, unless a parent has done it alongside them. I suggest that you clean side-by-side with your son so that he is motivated, it gets done twice as fast, you and he get to know each other better, and he understands your expectations. When doing this, if he stops cleaning up, you must also stop cleaning up. Set realistic time limits on cleaning - maybe telling him that you and he will clean for ten minutes together and then go do something fun, but that if he stops short of ten minutes, that "something fun" won't happen. Let him know that if he cleans at that point, he gets your ten minutes of cleaning, so twice as much gets done. If he waits, he will need to do 20 minutes. I hope that helps.

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