How I Teach My Boys to Clean

I’ve been a stay at home mom for 6 years.  I currently have 4 little boys ages 7, 5, 3, and 1.  Life is busy.  The house is messy.  We’re home all day and no one is anywhere near adulthood.  Up until a year ago I was a screaming mama who constantly nagged and whined about the mess.  I’d either stay up until midnight a few nights a week to clean in order to clear a path where we could walk, or we would just endure the mess, push aside the breakfast dishes, and keep cooking.  After several years and lots of light bulb moments, this is how I teach my boys to clean.

Training Boys to Clean

I constantly felt discouraged.  I was in a bad mood and I didn’t seem to be enjoying home-educating my children because the MESS was driving. me. INSANE.  Seriously.

“Clean this mess up!”

“You’d better not drag that out unless you’re going to pick it up!”

“No, you can’t play outside; look at this mess!”

Sound familiar?

Yep.  I can’t say I’m perfect now.  Not anywhere close.  However, I have learned a few things that work well for my family and myself.  I’ve come up with ways to teach, model, and encourage neat and tidy behaviors so that nothing gets out of control too quickly.

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1.  Teach them HOW to do it.

We would never put a book in front of a child who has never learned a letter sound and expect him to read it.  You must teach cleaning to your children.  We cannot assume they see us doing it for them and learn that way.  Nope.  Won’t work.  I take my boys one by one and SHOW them how I want it done.  It’s important to do this when you’re not upset about the mess.  Yelling  and being mean, grouchy, and irritated while teaching isn’t going to give your children good attitudes about cleaning.  Show them how to get toothpaste out of the sink.  Teach them where and how the Legos go.  Line up the shoes.  Separate laundry, etc.

I stay by their sides for at least 3-5 days before I let them do their chores on their own.  Then, I monitor closely.  It may sound time-consuming, but teaching them slowly and thoroughly will make a huge difference.  You’ll realize that, in just a few weeks, they are very self sufficient.

2.  De clutter.

I noticed my kids couldn’t seem to ever clean up everything.  They’d get 10 minutes into it, and they would start whining.

“I need help!”  “This will take me HOURS!”

This is your cue that you have too many toys.  Have a garage sale, put toys in storage, give things away.  If the mess cannot be cleaned up in 10-15 minutes, you have too many things.  This one step has saved my kids so much frustration.

3.  Be an awesome model.

If you’re glued to your phone on Facebook or texting and bossing them to clean, your kids will eventually see that you don’t practice what you preach.  Once I kicked myself in the butt and dumped my laziness, my children followed suit.  I empty the dishwasher while they eat breakfast.  I also call things I do during the day ‘chores’ to them.

“I need to do my chores. Can you boys do your copywork while I fold this laundry?”

You’d be surprised how that can instill hard work in your children.  If you’re overwhelmed with mess, refer to step 2 and get rid of things in your own closet, living areas, and garage.  You’ll feel so much better, I promise!

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4.  Don’t expect too much.

Remember in step 1 how I said you’d never give a book to a child who hadn’t learned his letter sounds yet?  Likewise, you wouldn’t give a child a 5th grade level book when he just learned to sound out c-a-t.  That just wouldn’t be appropriate.  Think about this when assigning chores to your little ones.  I do not expect my boys to clean for more than 15 minutes at a time.  I know as they get older they’ll be able to handle more.  Also, I don’t expect perfection.  I can sure tell when they slacked and didn’t do their BEST job, and then I correct them.  However, thinking that your 4-year-old can get all the pee off the toilet seat isn’t realistic.

You’re still mom, and mom still rules in this department until they are older. (Or maybe forever…)

I pray these tips will help you to train your kids to clean and instill good habits.  In turn, I pray it makes your home school a happier, more tidy and patient place.

This is how I teach my boys to clean.  What methods do you use to train your children to help around the house?  We’d love to have you leave a comment below with your ideas!

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  1. I love this! I need to institute more chores for them and remember not to be grumpy about it. It takes all of us to “run” a household, not just one or two!

  2. This is brilliant. I have something to add for children with learning disabilities or anytime a job seems too hard to remember. Make a list or diagram detailing exactly (in excruciating detail) how a job is done so you say it the same way every time. That was how we finally taught my son to clean up spills. Because my son responds well to lists, we had him involved in the list-writing, which put him on the same page as me in terms of vocabulary and helped him remember, too. That might not be right for every kid. But for some kids, being able to repeat yourself with key words (it’s a “spot” not a “speck” or vice versa) and phrases helps a lot. For some, I’d even make it a picture list or diagram so they can read it.

    1. Hey there! My boys ( and now little girl) are 8, 6, 4, 2, and 9 months. Everyone from 2 and up helps ‘pickup’ laundry, toys, legos and I have very distinct baskets for these things. The 2 and 4 year old love to ‘suck up’ stuff with the vacuum so they do that task. By 6 they can spray and wipe things down without wasting cleaner or drenching stuff. My 8 year old and 6 year old are trained to empty the dishwasher and steam mop floors. I do bathrooms, because they think it’s gross 😉 Hope that helps!

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