Having children is a joy and a trial at times. Cleaning up after them is nearly impossible to do alone. As a mother of six kids, I have tried many methods of trying to get kids to help out around the house - charts, stickers, treats, groundings, chore cards, and even threats.
It's been exhausting and frustrating to say the least.
Recently, I read a book called "The Time-Starved Family" by DeAnne Flynn, a mother of seven children herself. Though the book is specifically geared toward over-scheduled families, I found Flynn's insights on keeping up with messes really useful. Not only will you achieve a cleaner home, but also your children will learn responsibility.
A truth Flynn shares is that "it's unwise to do for your children what they can do for themselves." I think there is a bit of an epidemic where children (and some young adults) have no idea how to do simple tasks without help. I once watched a reality show where the main person had moved into her own place and had no idea how to sweep!
Suggestions she offers are:
Take the time to teach your child how to do the job.
Be positive: praise rather than criticize and focus on the natural consequences of not doing what is expected.
Be clear about what you expect your child to do.
Give your children reasons as to why they would actually want to help. Find an incentive (something they can earn) and point out how it would benefit them to do the job.
Don't give too many jobs. This can cause your child to feel confused and overwhelmed.
Maximize motivation. Use "if" statements such as "if you take care of your laundry, then you may play with your friend."
Be consistent. If you give a task to be completed, you must follow through and make sure it is done and have appropriate consequences where needed.
In addition, Flynn explains how to put this to work in your family in an interview illustrating these tips. I found many of these ideas very helpful and decided to put them into play in my family.
My four older children are currently responsible to keep their own bedroom clean and clean a portion of their bathroom - the first child done with their room gets to choose which part of the bathroom they would rather clean. Additionally, they need to have their homework done. When these are finished, they come to me and I assign them a "mom chore" which is usually something like straightening up a room, or playing with their baby sister or wiping down the table. And (get this) my kids even ask what their "mom chore" is so they can get it done! This is a daily routine.
After they have done all that is required, they are free to go play, have some computer time or watch some television. Conversely, if they do not complete their required jobs, there is a consequence, like no television or friends. I am amazed at how successful and easy this has been to implement into our family. There is far less nagging and a lot more willingness. There is less for me to keep track of and more responsibility placed on the shoulders of my children. I plan to add to this as time goes on and get a different child helping in the kitchen each week and perhaps have Saturday "chore cards" with bigger jobs.
Some of my children are also driven to earn money. Rather than giving out an allowance for doing chores they need to be doing as a part of our family, we will offer a "paid" job. Instead of paying someone else to do yard work, for instance, hire your children.Tasks like mowing the lawn, shoveling snow or other jobs that are more difficult or above-and-beyond are available for monetary compensation. This also teaches them the value of hard work and money and how to save and manage finances. They are more likely to be responsible with their money if they have earned it rather than just being handed cash.
Find what works for your family. For us, the charts or other similar things were too much to manage. It became a job of its own. Flynn's methods seem to be much more doable for our family. Even small children can (and do) get involved with helping. Your family will be happier as you find what works and remove all of the stress and nagging and yelling from your home. Work together - moms and dads are not the maid.