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Cleaning with a Toddler

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Cleaning with a Toddler

I found a picture chart of “age-appropriate chores” for children. The comments on it were amusing. My favorites were the I’m going to call CPS on you Mom “are we raising slaves?” or The Entitlement/Martyr Mom “no child should ever have to clean a bathroom until they are grown up and on their own – then they’ll appreciate all their mother did for them” and The Perfectionist Mom “A 3 year old making a bed, I’d like to see how that turns out.”

Being more of a perfectionist myself, my tendency would be to wait until the child is old enough to do the job well. I didn’t even think about giving Monkey chores, until one day I was folding laundry and Monkey ran off with the stack of dish-cloths. I followed her and watched as she shoved them in the drawer where they belonged. If the child wants to help, why stop her?

Sometime she cleans up her toys all by herself while signing “keen-op, keen-op” and other times I have to ask her to help me, but I still end up doing most of it for her.

We are raising Monkey to be powerful little person, capable of taking care of herself (within reason). If she asks for juice, I say, “where’s your cup? Can you go get it?” Honestly I have no idea what she did with her sippy cup nor do I want to search the whole house looking for it, when there’s a good chance she knows exactly where she left it. If she drops her spoon on the floor, rather than picking it up for her, we say, “can you get down and get your spoon?” To which she’ll chant “get down, get poon” until she’s got her spoon in hand.

You could say I’m being lazy by making her get her own things, but have you ever tried sweeping the floor with a 2 year old helping you?

At this age, I’m certainly not going to send her off to do chores by herself. I don’t require Monkey to help with my chores, nor do I even ask her – I just let it be her idea to “help-a-mama.” But she does have her own little broom now because I was tired of her trying to steal my broom while I swept the kitchen. A toddler “helping” sweep is rather counterproductive. But why stop her now, and then wait till she’s older (and doesn’t want to help) to get her to start helping?

If Monkey is anything like her Mama, she’s not going to like someone telling her how to do something, so the best way for her to learn is by my example, as we do it together.

My other tendency would be to follow Monkey around and “fix” everything she does. But picture this: you’re 6 years old and your mom asks you do stop playing and make your bed. Once you finish, she re-makes it to perfection. How would that make you feel? My guess is, it would lead to feelings of inadequacy and frustration. Why waste time doing what mom asks, if she’s just going to do it herself anyway? So that’s why my kitchen drawers are such a mess. I do fold the kitchen towels, dish clothes, and bibs, but they don’t always stay folded when Monkey puts them away.

In the past 2 months Monkey went from throwing food on the floor when she’s done eating, to being a “neat-freak”, yelling “mess-mess!” at little spills until Mama wipes it up. Now she’s attempting to wipe up her own spills. Sometime when she’s pointing and yelling “Mess! Mess!” I’ll ask her to get a washcloth and clean it up. Sometimes it works, sometimes I get the washcloth and then she takes over, and other times I clean up for her. She recently discovered how the joy of operating the cleaning spray bottle, so I wonder how long it will take her to start spilling things intentionally just so she can use the spray bottle?

Becky
Becky
Becky is wife to Duane, mama to "Monkey-girl" and baby "Lioness" aka "PipSqueek." She is the administrative powerhouse for YWAM Bend and keeps our team grounded and organized. Her hope is to inspire and encourage other mamas in their journey to raise healthy, thriving families.
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