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Getting your kids to help clean

Updated: Oct 1, 2010 04:54 PM EDT
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By Julie Smart

You probably remember visiting the apartments of college friends who never had to clean up after themselves as a kid (and maybe you were that college kid!). But skipping the housework when you're young can lead to one icky apartment when you're grown up.

So besides saving you, Mom, time and energy -- which we all know are rare commodities -- having your kids help clean now teaches them valuable survival skills they'll one day need when they're living on their own.

But let's face it: Getting kids to help clean can be hard. So sometimes you've just got to get creative.

Play Categories

Our family starts off our chores by playing a "categories" game, where we make a list of tasks that need to be done per room. Each of us, including my husband and me, then chooses the chores we'd prefer to do.

Most of the time, if our kids get to choose something they like (or at least don't mind), they're fairly happy to do it. If it comes down to a few chores no one wants to do, sometimes you just have to play parent and allocate -- then stick to your guns.

Set a Timer (and Reward!)

Once the jobs are assigned, I set a timer and offer a small reward for the first one finished -- as long as they've done a good job. I'm a firm believer in rewards. As adults, we work much harder when we get paid or rewarded in some way, and so do our children. Sometimes I don't offer money at all; I might give my kids a special privilege instead, like staying up later, going to a friend's house, etc.

One good thing about a timer: If your children are small, you can set it for a short time and give them very small chores. Once they see how easy it is to complete a task, they'll be more willing to help in the future.

If All Else Fails: Allowance Rules

If the categories game doesn't work at your house, you can also allocate a weekly set of chores for each child and offer them a set amount of money for completing their cleaning. Think of it as an allowance; if it's work well done, it's money well deserved.

Julie Smart is the mother of five and a blogger at CouponSavingFamily.com. 

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