As you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been presenting installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” This is number 40 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to have servant hearts. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.
I know you’ve already noticed it’s a lot easier to do the vacuuming yourself than to take the time to be sure your child does it correctly. You’ve probably had a curtain sucked into the vacuum cleaner, a breakable destroyed while a child dusted the desk, and multiple streaks have always remained all over the curio cabinet glass or the deck door. Little helpers are rarely ever really that. It’s important, though, to remember that keeping a pristine house is a distant second priority to keeping clean little hearts devoted to service and submission.
So let them clean. But don’t overwhelm them. A big job like “Go clean your room” may be just too big for a four-year-old, while “Let’s clean off this shelf” may be a lot more reasonable. Thus, a cleaning rotation for little ones sometimes works better. Once you’ve picked out a doable job, then show your child, in detail, giving step-by-step directions and checking each step before proceeding to the next step.
For instance, actually cleaning a shelf might involve these steps.
1. “Carefully lay everything that is on this shelf on the floor and come get me when you’re done with that.”
2. Brag on the completion of number one. Then say, “Go through all of this stuff on the floor and pick out what you think we need to throw away.” Then show me that pile.
3. Make sure that pile has been reasonably assessed and then instruct him to get a bag, put the stuff to discard in it, and take it to the trash.
4. Give your child a dusting glove or rag and instruct him to wipe every spot on that empty shelf. “When you are done, come get me.”
5. Then instruct him to dust each item that’s going back on the shelf. Check each one of these steps behind the child.
6. Then have him make piles of like items before placing them back on the shelf. For instance, a pile each of books, action figures and money.
7. Give the child appropriate containers in which to place the action figures and the money.
8. Give the child praise each time you check his work.
9. Ask him to line up the books on the shelf. Then check those and help him, finally, to arrange the containers on the shelf.
10. Talk about how good it feels to finish a job.
I know that this post seems very elementary and that I have insulted your parental intelligence. But, because I have recently been involved in talking with a good family whose house has a very hard time functioning due to an extreme lack of organization and common sense about cleaning, I wanted to put these suggestions out there for servant development. I was one of those unwise moms who would ask my very young children to go and clean their rooms. (Translate that “rearrange the clutter, the dust and the random old snack foods.”) Because I learned the hard way, I want to be sure to say that servanthood best grows in an arena of self-confidence. Thus, assigning tiny phases of bigger jobs and paying attention to the details of their completion helps kids learn to organize tasks, categorize belongings, and assess progress (all of which, as a bonus, by the way, are preparing them to use the scientific method in doing research later on.)
Again, I know you’re exhausted by the time you get that one shelf cleaned off. But you are preparing your child to serve others in the very most selfless and thorough way possible. You are teaching him or her the concept of Colossians 3:23: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men…” You’re also teaching a big chunk of Titus 2 and Proverbs 31. And, one day, when they are teens, this laborious kind of teaching will pay off. They will actually know how to help you keep your house ready for service and hospitality.