Cleanliness covers many areas of life: personal hygiene, care of personal belongings, general tidiness, etc. I am the first one to tell people that I'm not hardcore concerned about germs. I'm a firm believer in the 5 second rule...and totally believe some germs build immunities (right? right?). This isn't a post where I'm saying I'm Miss Clean Freak and that everyone else should be too! However I do think there is a lot of value in being a person who takes care of themselves, their belongings and their environment. Here are some of my tips for helping instill the virtue of cleanliness in your home!
1. The Clean Up Song: It may sound silly but find yourself an easy to remember "clean up" song. I think the one we use is from Barney? From BIRTH whenever I'm cleaning up my baby's toys or other things I sing the song. It helps them to associate that particular song with cleaning up and as they get older they recognize it's time to clean up when they hear that song. Genius right? And it works! It's awesome to see my toddler clean up her toys when she hears me singing that song!
2. Model Cleanliness: Just like any other area of parenting, your kids are watching you all the time! My kids see me putting away laundry and doing other household chores. They see the care we give to keeping our things in good condition and they watch as Zach and I get ready for the day, brush our teeth and care for our bodies. I'm not perfect in my modeling of cleanly behavior (I'm the WORST about remembering to make my bed!) but the effort is there and I think it really helps set the stage for our children. My house isn't spotless, but I like it to be picked up and I believe keeping a tidy home instills that same desire in my children (Zach and I both prefer a tidy home because that's how our homes were kept as children!).
3. Everything has a Place: Keeping a tidy home and teaching children to take care of their belongings is centered around everything having a place to belong. You can't clean up toys if they don't have a place to be put! You can't hang up clothes that don't have a spot to be hung! When everyone knows where things belong it makes it easy to keep things tidy. When it comes to personal hygiene, the children knowing where their toothbrush is makes a difference! They may help you remember to brush teeth on days you forget ;)
4. Teach Independence: It's EASIER to clean things up for my kids myself rather than have the patience to allow them to clean up on their own. But they can't learn to clean up if they never have to clean up! I am very passionate about taking good care of my belongings (my clothes are always in awesome condition). I'm that way because I was raised very independently. I know how to take care of my things because I have always taken care of them! The best rule of thumb is to have children clean up before they take something else out. It keeps the clean up easier, quicker, and less frustrating for everyone. Also from an early age we let the kids be involved in their personal care. They can help wash their bodies and brush their teeth. This helps them to learn how to care for themselves!
5. Teach Responsibility: Everyone in our family enjoys our home and it's important to me that they all feel it's their home. It's not just Mommy's and Daddy's. It's our family's! Part of feeling that ownership is taking care of our home and contributing to it running smoothly. What better way to encourage that than pitching in with keeping the home clean? If you start when they are young then helping out will not be a hassle, it will be fun and a joy! The hardest part of having kids help around the house is being patient with the time it takes to teach them and letting go of the control over the end result. Yes my windows are streaky, but they were washed by my 4 year old and I don't go back and re-clean them. I'm proud of her for pitching in and I know by going behind her and re-doing it then it would only diminish her hard work.
6. Discipline: All kids go through tantrum phases to one extent or another. My current toddler is in the throwing things when she's mad phase. Throwing things is not something I allow at all. It's important when disciplining to always turn to God's Word. Luke 15:12-14 says "Wastefulness leads to poverty and a foolish man destroys what he has." I wait until the tantrum is over and have my child pick up the object that was thrown and then she loses the privilege to play with it for a time period. I discuss with her how God commands us to take care of what we own and we pray together for forgiveness. I do the same routine with my older children and it really helps for them to understand the importance of taking care of our belongings.
7. Teach them Pride: When things are kept clean and tidy, it's a GOOD feeling right? Who doesn't love coming home at the end of the day to a clean home? Who also doesn't love the feeling of being clean? Freshly brushed teeth, brushed hair, fresh shower? Reward with LOTS of praise when your children clean up, especially when they initiate it and/or obey your instructions with a happy heart. Just as singing a clean up song trains children to clean up with they hear it, positive reinforcement will also help to train your children to enjoy keeping things clean!
All of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network Bloggers are covering similar topics related to teaching virtues! Be sure to visit them all! If you have any other tips for teaching cleanliness I'd love to hear 'em in the comments!