by Jamie Bonnema
The sun is shining. The weather is warm. The disappearing snow confirms the season that is upon us. It is spring cleaning time, and we are ready to accomplish more. That feeling soon turns into some kind of strange super-hero strength, and we intend to face our mental list as soon as possible, everything at once, and we will slow down for no one!
But, a word of caution: Going about this list alone, without our kids involved, may be a big mistake. I know, it’s easier to do it ourselves to make sure it’s done right. It’s easier to not hear the complaining or feel like we are constantly delegating. Yes, it’s easier in the moment. Do we not think this way? But in the long-run, these thoughts may foster a mind-set, especially when
the teenage years hit, that “it’s not my job” or that it’s “mom’s job” or “dad’s job.” This may be never stated, but it happens by default.
Instead, by including our kids, we are helping them know that they have an important role in the family. By demonstrating how to take care of the home they live in, we’ve just “put money in the bank”, for years to come, regarding the character that we are helping them to develop. So, let’s not leave them out of our spring cleaning (or other daily tasks) and make a family run at it instead!
Here are some things to consider when involving your kids in spring cleaning:
- First, start by making a list of the spring cleaning tasks. Decide what tasks the kids can help with and what tasks they shouldn’t. It’s not necessary to overwhelm our children by showing them the whole plan—it’s just better to let them see one chunk at a time.
- When starting tasks, be clear and realistic in your expectations. Frustration can kick in early if we assume our kids know what we want done or we’ve set the quality bar too high. Keeping these two things at an appropriate level will help everyone chill-out.
- Sort through clothing, with your child, to categorize what fits and what doesn’t, what gets used and what is neglected. It’s amazing how much a reduced wardrobe can clean up a room! Some people prefer not to do this with their child because it may be more time consuming, or their child doesn’t want to part with anything. But, with the big picture in mind, this helps kids get used to, and get good at, the process of getting rid of things they no longer need instead of depending solely on parents to do it the rest of their childhood, which leads into adult bad habits.
- Go through each room in the house. Find items you don’t need, want, or have too many of. Add them to your garage sale stash or donate these items. Get the kids’ input on these things. They may even help you to see the items that you need to part with! As a do-it-yourself person, this is really hard for me, as I see use in EVERYTHING. But, a little outside perspective can go a long way.
- Make cleaning positive and fun! Add a team challenge to the task, like finishing in a certain amount of time. Play their favorite music. Regularly compliment and encourage. Let them feel proud of the work they did by pointing it out later to others. The environment and positive relationship you are developing is going to have more of a positive impact, on how they view stewardship and work ethic, than any participation badge or bribe can.
- Include some rewards to your schedule when everyone does their part. This can be going to the park, going out for ice cream, or a picnic lunch. It helps kids learn how to balance work and play; to take care of responsibilities, and that work in itself is good and can be satisfying. Offering these rewards after the work is done will keep you out of the pitfall of bribery, so you are not reinforcing the wrong thing.
I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that spring cleaning, just like any other activity, is a chance to connect and teach. Let’s teach our children about work ethic and that anything worth doing is worth doing well. Let’s remind them that doing a good job the first time is faster than having to re-do the job:) Let’s convey the message that everything we have is a blessing from God, and one way to show gratitude is by being good stewards of what we have. And, let’s teach that we are actually doing the work for God, not to just to earn mom’s or dad’s favor.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” –Colossians 3:23
Jamie Bonnema is a former youth treatment counselor for residential care, education, and wilderness programs. She is a married mother of four children, works from home with a biotech company, and loves spending time outdoors.