When I come across something that works, I of course like to share it with you. I have to be honest and admit that I came across this one completely by accident! My plan was to write all of the jobs that needed to get done in this year’s Spring cleaning on index cards and explain to the kids that if they fought during our homeschool time, I would hand them a card and that would become their consequence.
It didn’t play out that way at all! When we first sat down in the homeschool room, I picked up the first index card and started to read the job which was to empty out the entire corner cupboard, wipe down the shelves, organize everything, and put it all back but in some kind of order. Right then, the kids started jumping up, putting hands in the air, shouting, “I want that one!” They didn’t realize that I had intended the jobs as consequences and was only trying to explain the system and give them a warning!!!
As moms, we need to be able to improvise, so I quickly realized the potential benefits at my fingertips and went from there!
Here are some tips as to how to get your kids excited about Spring cleaning:
1. It’s all in the delivery! Choose your words carefully. Replacing the phrase “have to” with the phrase “get to” works wonders! As a matter of fact, it worked so well for me that the next morning, the kids woke up and asked me, “Mom, do we ‘get’ to do Spring cleaning again today?”!
2. Drum up some excitement. Talk about Spring cleaning as if it is a rare treat instead of a dreaded once a year chore.
3. Offer choices. Since I already had the tasks written out on index cards, I decided to kind of auction them off once I saw that the kids could actually be willing participants in this endeavour. I read off each task and they would tell me which ones they wanted to do. They had to do some trading and negotiating which I coached here and there, but they did well.
(there were a few tears shed at one point along with the words, “I wanted to do that one!”…you can imagine that inside I was laughing at how this thing was intended to be a deterrent for misbehaviour and instead they were volunteering and crying over not getting to “have” the one they wanted!)
4. Check your own attitude. Your countenance and attitude are the most important. If this cleaning is something that you are dreading and you make that obvious to your kids, there is no chance that they will want to participate. Check your own heart and attitude about it before you start.
I was actually looking forward to it as it was the first sunny day we’ve had in a long while and I had a burst of energy that morning and was looking forward to the results. I know that my kids picked up on that.
5. Keep the mood light. Open the windows. Put some music on. Make it fun!
6. Do not expect perfection. This is one that I struggle with. I mean, I really struggle with this. I had such a hard time just letting go and letting their best be good enough.
Most of the time, it would be done better and faster if I just did it myself. There are two problems with that kind of thinking. The first is that it’s short-sighted. In a few years and with the right kind of teaching, my kids will be older and more experienced (if I give them opportunities now to learn and practise) and I will be saving time and energy then.
The second problem with that line of thinking is that my job is not to have spotless cupboards. My job is to raise human beings. I would be doing them a great disservice if they someday moved out of my house without knowing how to properly clean and organize a house. I am in no way saying that even I know how to properly clean and organize a house but maybe we can learn alongside each other!
7. Encourage, encourage, encourage. This cleaning time is such a wonderful opportunity to be able to praise your children in a genuine way. If you are stuck for what to say, here are a few phrases you may find helpful:
“I appreciate your initiative.”
“I love to see you doing your best. Thank you for that!”
“What you are doing is going to bless our family.”
“I like spending time with you.”
“I know that you can solve this problem. I believe in you.”
Try to stay away from the standard “good job”.
8. Work alongside them. Not only will working with them give you the chance to teach them how to do the job properly, it will allow you to turn this chore time into quality time.
9. Admire the finished product. Ooh and aaah over the end results even if they aren’t perfect. Brag about how hard your kids worked to others. Show the results off to your husband when he gets home or to anyone who stops over. Let them know you’re proud of their efforts.
10. Celebrate. If you want to offer an incentive for finishing, you can. I decided not to offer any reward (other than the satisfaction of a job well done!) but we did celebrate when we finished by having a nice dinner and admiring our awesomeness!