Teaching Your Teens About Cleaning Before They Leave Home

Teens need to learn the importance of cleaning before they leave home -- and doing chores around the house is the best way to teach them.

There's nothing worse than getting a frantic call from your teenage daughter after she's turned all of her new sorority T-shirts pink in the wash. "Mom, is there anything you can do to fix them?" Sadly, there usually is nothing that can save a mistake when reds and whites were mixed in the washing machine. But, a few short lessons at home could have prevented this mistake. And, don't get us started on those dirty teenage boys whose college dorm rooms require we wear a HAZMAT suit before we enter.

Teaching your teens about cleaning before they leave home is crucial. Not only is it a valuable life lesson about obligations and responsibility, it will also save you some time and stress while it teaches your teens important lessons about caring for themselves and their environment.


So what are the most important cleaning tasks to assign to your teen? If they're going off to college, cleaning their rooms and doing their laundry are musts. But what if they're moving into their own apartment instead? Well that's when cleaning the bathroom and kitchen will be critical, as well.

Start off with the most basic tasks first. And don't forget to demonstrate everything. Vacuuming is pretty easy to get the hang of, but your teen may not know vacuuming includes the drapes, couch cushions, and underneath furniture. And since practice makes perfect, don't begin teaching your teens quick cleaning lessons the summer before they leave for college. Start when they're young and make sure they get in lots of practice through weekly chores. While they're perfecting their cleaning skills and learning responsibility, you will get a much-needed break from your usual duties.

Easier said than done, you say? Well, that may be true, but the task is well worth the effort on your part. And, if you make it fun, your teen might not even put up a fuss. Read on to the next page for our tips on showing your teen the importance of cleaning.


Tips for Showing Teens the Importance of Cleaning

The first thing you need to make the task of teaching cleaning skills a little easier is buy-in from your teens. How do you get this? Try making learning to clean and doing chores a little bit fun. Is your teen inseparable from that ever-present MP3 player? Encourage him or her to take it along on their chores. Or pump the house stereo and jam out together while you're scrubbing the tub. If you have multiple teens, you could create a little friendly competition by assigning chores points or scoring their finished product. The winner could be exempt from the chore they hate the most for a week or receive some other treat or reward.

It's also important to make sure your teens completely understand each task at hand. During the teaching process, have them shadow you a couple of times. Then, when it's their turn, have them explain to you what they're doing and why. You might even want to check in on them the first couple of times they're on their own. You should make sure they know enough to not run after you for each step with questions, but encourage them to come to you with any questions that due arise, so you avoid unfixable mistakes like ironing silk or bleaching your carpet.


Work your way up to the complex tasks. If you're starting your teens young, increase their responsibilities each year. Or, if they're older, add a new, more complex chore after they master each skill. Vacuuming could be first, followed by dusting and then finally washing the floors. In the laundry room, start out with folding, and then move to ironing and loading the machine. You might want to save the bathroom for last. Begin with the floors and the shower, followed by the counter, mirrors and faucets. They can work their way up to that scary toilet. Once your teens start getting the hang of more and more skills, creating a chore calendar will help them keep track of what they completed and what's still on the to-do list for the week.

Finally, make sure you encourage and compliment your teen. Positive reinforcements will help make them more confident in each skill. And, compliments and thanks will help them understand the impact they're making on the family unit. This will add to their "buy-in" and the lessons of responsibility and obligation they're learning.


Lots More Information

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  • Maranjian, Selena. "Chores, Yes. Allowance, Maybe: Teaching Kids About Work and Money." DailyFinance.com. April 3, 2012 (July 29, 2012) http://www.dailyfinance.com/2012/04/03/chores-allowance-teaching-kids-about-money/
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