Here is some excellent parenting advice for you, and I advise you strongly to take notes. I’ll wait while you find a pen because if your house is like mine, your children constantly steal all the pens and take them to school, so the only writing instruments left in your possession are an unsharpened pencil, a hot pink Sharpie marker, and an eyeliner. Okay. Ready?

If you need to go on strike to prove to your children that they need to help out around the house more you are DOING IT WRONG.

From the Huffington Post:

Jessica Stilwell has lived every mother’s fantasy. She went on strike. For six days the mother of three girls — 12-year-old twins and their 10-year-old sister — did no “picking up, tidying, washing, cleaning, clearing, reminding or nagging.”

It all began on Oct. 1, after Stilwell spent a weekend alone with her children while their dad, Dylan, was away playing golf. Also in the house was a foster baby, as Stilwell is a social worker by profession and regularly takes in infants in need of temporary homes. It was a typical weekend, filled with errands and sports, and at 11 p.m. Stilwell sat down for the first time all day and looked around at all that hadn’t yet been tidied — realizing with new clarity that none of it was mess that she had made.

First on Facebook, and then on a separate blog called Striking Mom, Stilwell spent the week chronicling the dissolution of her home. That outlet, she says, strengthened her resolve.

“If I hadn’t done the blog I wouldn’t have lasted more than a day, maybe two,” she told me in an interview this morning from her home in Calgary, Alberta. “I am a real Type A. The mess was making me crazy. The only way I stayed on this was by telling myself ‘that’s going to be funny to write about tonight.’ “

In the Huffington Post article and the Striking Mom blog you can see what became of the Stilwell home. It basically looks like it was soon to be featured on an episode of Hoarders. And before you accuse me of being all mom-judgey and dirt-shaming these people, I’ll warn you that this is exactly what I’m going to do. The Stilwell kids are two twelve-year-olds and a ten-year-old. They weren’t taught to clean up before now? Parents! You are raising humans here! Humans who will one day grow up and (hopefully) live in their own homes and apartments and need to be able to wash a damn glass and put it away!

My children are not perfect. One of my sons has a tendency to leave Legos and wrappers in his pockets. My daughter forgets to wash the sink out after she brushes her teeth. My teenager sometimes leaves his clothing in the dryer overnight. But this same son has been doing his own laundry and folding it and putting it away since he was twelve. My daughter hangs up the towels after brushing her teeth. And my forgetful Lego son carries down his dirty clothes and puts them away after they are washed. He also helps me fold them. And he has been doing this since he as a toddler.

I don’t do the dishes in my house. My kids scrape, rinse and put their own dishes in the dishwasher. After dinner they all clean the kitchen. If there is a pan that needs a bit of work either me or my husband do it, but the majority of the washing up is done by my children. My job is to purchase the groceries, cook the meals, and provide exciting dinner time conversation. Their job is to clean up after. Yes, we help them after holiday meals or family gatherings but my children have always been expected to help around the house. Especially in regard to cleaning up their own messes.

From the time they were crawling my kids have helped me “clean” the house. You give a baby a basketful of freshly-laundered socks and have them sit next to you while you fold laundry and they are happy as a baby with a basket of freshly washed laundry. Babies are very observant. And by having them next to you and talking to them about what you are doing you are stimulating their little minds. Sure, a baby can’t match socks but a 3-year-old can. And a 3-year-old can also toddle around the house and wave a feather duster around. As a 4-year-old one of my daughter’s favorite activities was washing plastic cups in a sink full of sudsy warm water. She would stand on a chair at the kitchen sink and I would compliment her on “helping” me. It was fun for her and it taught her that in my house, everyone helps. The house belongs to everyone, so the housework belongs to everyone. And because of this, my house is always pretty much “company ready.”

You will never see a pair of socks abandoned in my living room. There are never glasses on my counter. There is never a wet towel on my bathroom floor. 

I don’t understand parents who don’t teach and expect their kids to clean up after themselves and help with housework. Children need to be taught to put their toys away and to straighten their bookcases. Living in filth is not fun. And my kids understand that when the house is clean and I’m not the only one doing it that it leaves all of us more time for play, for board games and cookie baking and crafts and story time. With my own children, it was easier for me to get my daughter into helping me, because she loved being with me and we would turn music on and clean up together. My boys would grumble on occasion, but now they happily take care of business. One day these boys will grow up and become husbands and fathers. I’m not going to raise some assholes who expect their wives or girlfriends to pick up their dirty underwear or do all the cooking and cleaning. These humans I am raising need to be good humans. Part of being a good human is wiping your urine off the floor if you miss the toilet.

Parents who don’t teach their kids, well before age ten, that they need to be able to clean and help out around the house aren’t doing their kids any favors. You don’t need to yell or scream or go on strike to accomplish this. Start when they are young. Teach them that parents aren’t maids or dry cleaning services or professional toy picker-uppers. I don’t reward my kids for doing things around the house we are all expected to do. I praise them on a job well done and compliment them if they drag out the vacuum without me asking. For large jobs, like yard work or helping me clean the garage they get pizza and a movie out. We do it together. We talk and laugh and blare music and erupt in spontaneous dance contests while spring cleaning. My kids even come to me after seeing a television commercial for a new cleaning product they think looks interesting.

Jessica Stilwell, a mom who went on strike to get her kids to actually do something all kids should be expected to do may now have kids who appreciate her more and who will help out more around the house, but she really should have been doing this all along. Teaching your kids to clean and tidy up doesn’t make you a mean mom nor are you treating your kids like slaves. You are just teaching them that part of growing up is knowing how to clean up. One day the other humans who your humans encounter will thank you.

(Photo: Ilike/Shutterstock)