I am rehabilitating my after-dinner kitchen clean-up method. I am tired of the way we are currently doing it.
It’s not pretty. It’s not pleasant. It’s not effective.
So let me tell how it has been going…
We have a lovely family meal (mostly) with everyone chatting, laughing, and sometimes arguing (well, truth be told, at least one little debate, disagreement or argument at the table amongst the ranks, many nights).
As we wind down…I, or Father of the Year, says “So-and-so, would you clear the table tonight?”
OK, I know you are thinking why the heck would you ask for a volunteer to clean-up???!!!
We ask to be polite, to show and instill respect and, perhaps, instill some self-motivation.
It doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked–at least for my family.
What really happens when we ask for a volunteer?
The justification about why each child shouldn’t have to be the one to clean up:
“I did it last night!”
“That’s not fair.”
“I have an exam tomorrow and I have to study…I don’t have time!”
“That’s too much, Mom. I can’t do this by myself, I’m too little!”
I know it’s not easy to be that parent. The enforcer. The ugly, shouty, demanding parent. The parent who tows the line.
To be honest, it’s no fun.
I have gotten to the point where I dread the end of dinner. I know the scenario all too well. An unpleasant discussion about cleaning up, who cooked, who worked all day, and how the kids need to pitch in and this is part of being in a family and working together.
We persuade. They resist. Ultimately, one parent fires off an ultimatum.
CLEAN THE TABLE. LOAD THE DISHES. WIPE DOWN THE COUNTERS. PUT THE FOOD AWAY !!!!! (Yes, shouty, demanding voice)
Well, it’s time for a change on our home front. Time for a change to our kitchen clean up method.
I have a new strategy, thanks to a friend of mine. She has six kids, and told me how they do it. How they stay sane. How everyone has a night. And how there’s no negotiating, arguing or ultimatums. Sounds like heaven to me.
Here’s how it goes:
Each child gets a night. For our family, we’re doing Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (4 kids). Friday night and weekends will be a family affair—we all chip in.
On your child’s assigned night, she is responsible for the complete clean up of the kitchen after dinner. Cleaning the table. Loading the dishes in the dishwasher. Washing the pots and pans. Wiping down the counters. Putting the food away. Total KP.
Tonight was the first night (Monday) that we implemented our new dinner clean up approach. I didn’t ask if they wanted to, or if they would. I told the kids about our new plan and asked, “Which day do you want?”
My Little Man went first—he chose Monday. Before we even sat down for dinner, he started surveying the kitchen. There were dirty dishes from making our meal, lasagna. I told him he could wash those if he wanted to get a head start–no pressure, his choice.
He thought this was a good idea and opted to clean the pots and pans. After about 15 minutes (working on one pot), he said, “This is the most cleaning I’ve ever done in my life!”
Maybe that’s true.
He didn’t complain. I actually think he may have felt some relief that clean up after dinner would not be discussed at the end of a relatively nice meal anymore. And that he only had one night to worry about.
I wish I could say that one approach to feeding, chores, and discipline works all the time, but the truth is, I haven’t found that it does. I have needed several strategies and sometimes I have had to make a radical change, like with our kitchen clean up method.
I am optimistic that our new strategy for kitchen clean up will turn out to be a positive thing—for me, Father of the Year, and, especially the kids. I’ll keep you posted.
How do you handle kitchen clean up?
Written by: Jill Castle, MS, RDN
Published on: June 11, 2013
Updated on: February 13, 2016