Cleaning lays the groundwork for important traits like self-sufficiency and a good work ethic.

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It's not, perhaps, a child's favorite activity. For most, it's right up there with dental cleanings, sharing toys and getting to the bottom of a bowl of brussels sprouts.

For many parents, it's easier to just do the cleaning themselves than to set about getting "help" from the little ones. And while it may take some (sometimes intensive) effort to get a child to pick up a broom or dust his or her own dresser, it has marked benefits. First, once the effort succeeds, it can actually cut your cleaning time; but more important, it lays the groundwork for responsibility, self-sufficiency and a work ethic in years to come.

Of course, the "You'll thank me later" approach is more likely to trigger whining than get your kids scrubbing toilets. How, then, to make cleaning up a kid-friendly endeavor?

The first step is to avoid "Because I said so" as long as you can …