Keeping a house clean and orderly is no easy task; and I am not even talking
about immaculately spic and span here. Just no shoes that I trip over, building
blocks or toy soldiers that I step on, or books under the bed. I believe that every
family member – yes, even very young children – should contribute towards having a neat abode.
I started my children young: as soon as they can sit up and play, I taught
them how to pack away their toys, with me providing greater assistance when they were younger. I would either hand them the basket into which they put their rattle and similar toys; after reading a book to them, I let them put the book on the bedside table (re-reading the same book for several nights in a row is typical with infants or very young children); or as soon as they can crawl, cruise, or walk, I let them to do so to get the toy or book and return the same to the shelf when they were done playing or reading.
Their closets were labeled and as soon as they can recognize or sight-read the words, it meant that they could dress up on their own. As each child grows older, I would increase the task to include putting their clean laundry in their own closets. When our eldest turned 12, we gave him his own closet – an antique piece from my mother-in-law. He took charge of organizing it, and has done so ever since.
Once they learned that everything has a proper place, we were able tominimize those “Mama, where is my….?” moments. They either know where to find things immediately, or if they can’t find what they need, they will have to find a substitute, or simply learn to have to proceed without that item that they could not find.
By the time my children turn 3 years old, I teach them how to pack their own
bags for going out: extra clothing, wipes, face towel, toothbrush and toothpaste.
Initially, I would freak out whenever they forgot to bring their bags; but we all
learned to “just live with the consequences” – which, for them, meant no playing
because they had no change of clothes. They have become more diligent about this matter, even improving on the initial mental checklist that I provided; like taking along a book or two to keep them preoccupied just in case Papa and Mama decide to do some errands or inject a brief work meeting.
We have three boys (now aged 14, 12, and 7) and a 5-year old girl, and
getting everyone to do their share of housework can be quite a challenge. An even bigger challenge for me is to resist the urge to just do the tidying up myself to that I can have it done and over with more quickly, or to re-do what they did whenever it doesn’t turn out as I wanted it to. So, the challenge was both on my children’s part and mine.
After all these years of getting them to share in the housework, our house is far from being picture-perfect. We do manage to achieve having a photographable room every so often, and the children really appreciate the results of our collaborative efforts. More than having a neat and orderly house, however, I realized that the LEARNING is the more important fruit of the entire exercise. As I was trying to teach my children to help around the house, I was also learning something: that more than just accomplishing the chores and having a clean house, I was teaching them that they have to be responsible for themselves and their things, and that
failing to do so can have unpleasant or undesirable consequences. They also learn to understand that they are a part of a family, of a household, and therefore, they play a vital role in maintaining and running the household. I try to make sure that I let them know that their efforts and contributions are very much appreciated, especially that they do their share even when they are faced with schoolwork.
The learning is both ways: as I help my children learn about responsibility,
they help me learn about patience and appreciation.