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Monday September 17, 2007 4:47 pm

Meal Time: Clean Up

Posted by Jenni Burns Categories: Features, Trends, How To,

Burns kids washing dishes

I have four children, four and under. Yes I typed that right, and no, I’m not crazy. Okay, maybe a little - but not completely. The six of us live in a 750 square foot house, two bedrooms, one bathroom. You are probably wondering by now what all of that has to do with food. Actually, quite a bit!  With so many little mouths to feed, several times a day, together we create a lot of dishes. I think I ask my husband at least once a week, “Who made all this mess? And who’s going to clean it up?!?” Me. I am the human dish washer. Not that my husband doesn’t help, he does, but he can only do so much.

My kids are still very young, but they can do so much even at their age. I’m sure there are many moms even with one or two children who can relate with me. My four year old is a big help already and the next two are definitely getting there. I just thought I would share a few from our kitchen that my help some of you moms with little ones knock out a few of those dishes.

  • Routine - Routine is so important, especially to little kids. They don’t know the days of the week yet but they can definitely get used to routine. It takes some hard work from mom or dad at first to get them used to doing chores but when done right it can be rewarding and even fun. After every meal I employ all three (mostly the 3 and 4 year old) to help clean off the table. I tell them, “It’s your job to clean off the table, if you don’t do it, it wont get done.” It’s good for kids to feel needed, as adults we want to feel needed and so do kids, it gives them purpose. I always push them to go faster, to see who can bring the most dishes, and praise them when they work hard.
  • Reward - Everyone who works should earn a wage for his labor, right? Would you work for nothing? Kids are the same, they need to know that their work is valuable to you. We are implementing a small allowance as the kids complete a job, a penny or a nickel, they are learning the value of money and savings. I always try to remember to praise the kids for helping me. It’s easy to focus on the all the obvious negatives when you have a bunch of little helpers in the kitchen. I’ve found that the best motivator is, “wow Aidan, you are working so fast!” Somehow that makes him want to work even faster.
  • Laugh - If we cant have fun while we work then what’s the point? We spend a majority of our days working, if it’s drudgery then we spend a large percentage of our lives in drudgery. One of my goals as a mom is to teach my children to enjoy work. This sometimes means I have to stop being the general and let things slide from time to time.

Some of the best advice I’ve heard yet in regards to children and helping around the house, a seasoned mother told me, “have high goals, and low expectations.” Meaning, have long term goals for your children and don’t be disappointed if they don’t get there today, they will eventually get there.



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