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Fifteen Minutes

I have devised a simple method of getting my children to help with chores and it works. With three children of my own at home ages four, eight, and fourteen, plus two foster daughters, ages eleven and sixteen, it is quite impossible to keep the house spotless. I don’t expect perfection or miracles, as our house is very “lived-in,” but I do expect the children to help me with basic housekeeping. However, no method I’ve tried in the past has worked quite as well as this one and all it takes is getting them all together, getting their attention, and a fifteen-minute timer.

My oldest brother, Eugene, paid me a surprise visit today ... though honestly, I think he was the one who was surprised. Not one of my five children stopped to greet him, hug his neck, or even acknowledge their uncle was in the house. They weren’t intentionally being rude, just deeply involved in their cleaning, knowing the consequences if they stopped. He laughingly stated “You must be a real slave driver!” Looking up, my oldest foster daughter smiled, but continued cleaning.

“They can’t stop or they have to give me fifteen more minutes,” I commented. Looking a little confused, I decided to elaborate a little more. “The timer is set for fifteen minutes. Each child has to give me fifteen minutes of non-stop cleaning. If they stop for any reason, the timer is re-set for another fifteen minutes. If they work hard without taking a break or goofing off, when the timer goes off, they stop where they are regardless of whether or not they are finished and I complete their tasks,” I explained.

Though fifteen minutes doesn’t sound like much time to put into housework, the results are amazing and my house is tidied up in no time. With five children cleaning, it saves me more than an hour of housework myself, thus giving me more time with them and they like that! Not one child complains and each child is given a different room to tackle.

The oldest daughter is normally given the kitchen, the room she most prefers to clean. She’s a heck of a dishwasher, quick and thorough, and takes pride in her accomplishments. I have made it a point to always shower her with praise and she thrives on the compliments. The eight-year-old is given the bathroom and her four-year-old brother helps with toting the laundry to the utility room and other simple duties. Though this room should not take fifteen minutes to clean, she always finds plenty to keep her and her little brother busy; putting away the toothpaste and other toiletries, scrubbing the sink and countertops, and cleaning the mirror to perfection.

My fourteen-year-old son takes the living room eagerly. He doesn’t mind the vacuuming or dusting the furniture. Moreover, if he isn’t caught standing still, doing nothing, he can still keep an eye on the television and accomplish his tasks. My youngest foster daughter tackles the dining room wiping down the chairs and table, plus cleaning the sliding glass doors inside and out. Again, these are easy tasks, but saves me some work and teaches the children responsibility.

Often times when the buzzer on the timer sounds, the children continue working even though they know it’s not required. They take pride in their accomplishments and know that Mom is going to praise them for their hard work. And if they choose to stop, it’s not a big deal. I finish the dishes, scrub the toilet, pick up the remaining few toys, or whatever may still need to be done. Regardless of whether or not they finish, they are learning some life skills, much needed responsibility, and to be productive members of the family. It goes way beyond completing the chore at hand. It’s the child’s future being molded.

Giving your children chores will benefit your children in many ways, even the very young ones. It helps to make them feel important, teaches them skills such as cooperation and teamwork, and also teaches them about fairness and commitment. It is the children who have been taught responsibility who will succeed in life.

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