Here's how to get the kids into chore time - and ensure everyone's success throughout the home.
Rule #1: Don't Have Too Many Rules.
Rather than a bunch of rules, just set a few important ones with catchy names. "No play, no pay" comes to mind here...
Post them on the fridge, and then enforce them with a combination of positive reinforcement and natural consequences.
Here are two of my favorites:
"When you put your towels in the hamper, I'll wash them."
"I feel your pain in not wanting to clean your cat's litter box, but you have to do it."
Rule #2: Lead by Example.
As the time-honored saying goes, it isn't what you say, it's what you do that will stick with your kids.
If your papers, books, DVDs and CDs are neatly filed and stacked, your child just might think twice before he leaves his stuff on the floor.
So do the right thing, Mom, whether the kids are around or not. After all, you may as well lead the way.
Rule #3: Limit Chore Time.
An age-appropriate chore should take a child no more than 15- to 30 minutes a day, max.
Rule #4: Work Together.
Resist the temptation to assign too many chores that send your children off on their own. From a kid's point of view, cleaning his bedroom after school each day is downright banishment.
Better still: Create a family cleanup time each day or once a week. Misery loves company, but the dirty jobs have to be done.
Rule #5: Don't Nitpick.
Don't be too picky about your child's results; he is, after all, a child. (Okay, you can press the perfection point a bit harder with your teens.)
And whatever you do, don't let your son or daughter see you redoing a job. When a child feels successful at something, she's more likely to continue doing it.
Rule #6: Focus on the Big Picture.
While one goal of housekeeping with kids is to help you take a load off, the more important goal is to teach your children the life skills they'll need to run a clean, organized, efficient home someday on their own.
Rule #7: Ensure Success.
Take the time to show your child how to succeed at a given task.
For example, tell your teen about the wonders of bleach on white cotton polos and about its devastating effect on black Lycra running shorts before sending him off to the laundry room.
Rule #8: Break Down Big Tasks into Small Steps.
Don't tell your preschooler to clean up his room. That's too daunting.
Say, "Let's put all the dinosaurs in the red tub." Then, when that task is complete, continue with "Now let's put our crayons into the cup."
You might not even get the room totally clean on the first attempt. The goal is to make kids feel good about what they did. Make the job small enough to do well.
Rule #9: Make Helping Easy for Them.
Whenever possible, set up your home with housecleaning with kids in mind.
Stash a stool in the laundry room so even your littlest family member can help load the washer.
Place breakfast dishes on a bottom shelf within reach of your 4-year-old so she can set the table herself.
Rule #10: Be Patient.
Make "good" good enough. Unless, of course, it's an older child trying to get away with sloppy work.
They'll have no satisfaction in a job well done, an extremely important concept most of us want to instill in our kids before they head off on their own.
In that case, you'll need to tell her the work just isn't up to par, and that she'll need to do it again, and again, if necessary, until she gets it (almost) perfect.
Rule #11: Praise Often.
Be effusive in your praise.
Remember the last aced test proudly thrust in your hands after school? Our little ones clearly delight in our joy at the work of their hands.