Catherine Byle |

Save your sanity and teach your children at the same time | Moms

As a homemaker, cleaning is not my favorite pursuit. Many are much more passionate and diligent housekeepers than I.

Some even have a mental list of what must be cleaned, how and when, that includes even things like baseboards and curtains.

Understand, cleanliness is important to me, and I do work at tidy. But I tend to derive more joy out of a cleaned room that will stay that way, rather than the actual act of cleaning it.

Thus, my daily struggle to balance the priorities of loving and nurturing my family with having to clean up after them.

That being said, my brain studies ways I can involve my children systematically in housekeeping duties.

Involving my kids in shares of the labor, since they contribute their share to the mess, is necessary for my sanity, for the maintenance of the home and for their growth into responsible adults.

One of my favorite systems was developed for doing dishes. At our house, we do dishes by hand.

Like my grandmother, we do not have a dishwasher. (Maybe someday we’ll get one, but it takes a lot of electricity and hot water to run a dishwasher, luxuries that we choose to do without since we live on solar power.)

I remember family dinners at my grandmother’s house, where all the aunts and cousins pitched in to do dishes after the meal. We would gather in my grandma’s tiny kitchen and chat away around a sink of VERY HOT soapy water (she wanted to make sure those germs were DEAD).

Some took turns washing while others rinsed, towel-dried and returned dishes to kitchen cupboards or to those who would take them back home.

That memory sparked the idea for the system I incorporate for my family of four kids, ages 10 to five.

The old saying, “Every little bit helps,” guides my home management systems. In education, we talk about breaking down a large task into smaller, manageable goals.

There’s another old saying, “Divide and conquer.”

Perhaps in your home, you have assigned your kids certain chores, too – taking out the trash, for example.

In our house, a big-picture task, such as cleaning all four bathrooms, is divided into specialties – toilets, sinks, mirrors, and wastebaskets.

I find that doing a small task more often is much preferable to doing any big task.

Laundry, for example – kids can each hang ten wet items of clothing on the line, and remove their own dry clothing to fold and put away right then.

Post-meal kitchen clean-up is a big task with many steps. Each child is assigned a specialty. One puts dry dishes away, one clears the table. One wipes the table and chairs. The fourth sweeps the floor.

We assign these tasks in consideration of each child’s capability. I’m pretty picky about clean dishes, though, so that’s my job. But I still enlist their help.

Before sitting down to eat, I fill our sink with hot soapy water. As each child finishes eating she or he is excused to clear her or his own place, and wash his or her own dish, cup, and utensils.

They also rinse and set the dishes to dry in the dish rack. Simple.

This division of labor gives them personal responsibility, and prepares them for the more mature task of doing the whole sink full of dishes someday. It also lightens the chore for me.

And since the wash water’s ready, it motivates me to finish the job right then instead of procrastinating.

There’s another old saying, “Divide and conquer.”

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The News-Review Updated May 5, 2014 09:14AM Published May 14, 2014 09:36AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.