Teaching Your Daughter About Housekeeping
HOW successful have you been in teaching your daughter to be a good housekeeper? Does she know how to handle the laundry? Have you shown her good methods of dusting and dishwashing? Does she know the value of a schedule for cleaning?
Many young brides are totally unprepared for these duties simply because they have not been taught. Will that be true of your daughter when she marries? As we consider some aspects of housekeeping, why not analyze what you are doing to teach your daughter.
Cultivating an Incentive to Help
“Oh, you don’t know my daughter,” some mothers may say. “She just doesn’t want to learn.”
But why does she feel that way? While laziness may be a reason, usually such an attitude is the result of a lack of incentive. Does your daughter understand why housekeeping is vital? Have you explained how the various tasks contribute to the comfort and orderly functioning of the home? Have you really encouraged her to help you?
One mother told how she did this. She explained to her children that the home was theirs too, and that they also had a responsibility toward keeping it neat and clean. With this encouragement, they readily agreed to help. But it took patience on the mother’s part, as well as firm discipline, for the children were young and often failed to follow through on their work assignments. Now, however, they all pitch in and quickly get the work done.
Perhaps more than anything else, your own attitude toward housework will affect your daughter’s viewpoint regarding it. If you consider housework a drudgery, and are grumbling and fussing as you perform your duties, your daughter will probably develop the same attitude. On the other hand, if you regard housework as an expression of your love for your family, and are alert to ways to please them, she will notice your interest and cheerfulness. This will be a real incentive for her to want to help.
It is wise to make work periods as enjoyable as possible. One mother relates that often she and her daughter put on the radio or records while working. On one such occasion, while they were laughing and singing together, her daughter remarked: “You know, Mother, I think God meant for mother and daughter to have fun like this, don’t you?” This mother does not have to nag or cajole her daughter into helping, because they really enjoy working together.
When should a mother start training her daughter? Some mothers have said, “I’ll wait until she’s older and can manage things better.” However, mothers who have waited usually regret it. After children start school and become involved with schoolwork and other activities, it is often more difficult to get their help and cooperation.
Thus the ideal time to begin teaching your daughter about housekeeping is before she starts school. When the training is started early it becomes a natural part of a girl’s routine. It is something she continues to do as a matter of habit when she grows older. Girls of preschool age are especially eager to please and copy their mothers. So take advantage of this youthful willingness to help.
A mother who started training her children very early reports on the good results. She says that her children have learned to put their things away each night before they retire. And in the morning they make their beds, and do other regular chores. The mother observes that the work they do causes them to be more appreciative when things are done for them.
It is important for mothers to exercise patience when training very young children. Remember, your daughter is “in training.” This means that she must learn by a certain amount of trial and error. She is not going to become skilled by your doing the work for her. So after showing her how, let her do it herself.
Some mothers, however, are very impatient. They are sometimes heard to complain, “She’s so slow, I would rather do the work myself.” So their daughters never get the knack of doing it. Other mothers find fault with everything their daughters do. This discourages, rather than encourages young ones. It is wise to avoid these tendencies.
Neatness—a Valuable Lesson
For your daughter, housework may seem to be not only monotonous, but also a rather useless activity. “Why make my bed?” she may ask. “I’m going to sleep in it again tonight anyway.” Or, “Why do I need to put away my toys? I’m going to use them again.”
A Bible principle may help your daughter to appreciate why certain activities need to be repeated. It says: “For everything there is an appointed time, even a time for every affair under the heavens.” (Eccl. 3:1-8) And so it is with housekeeping. There is a time to make beds and a time to sleep in them. There is a time to bring out all the necessary tools for the enjoyment of a meal, and a time to wash and put those things away in their proper place. There is a time to use certain clothes, and a time to put them neatly away in their place, and so forth.
Your daughter needs to learn the value of keeping the home neat and orderly. She needs to appreciate, for example, that things are so much easier to find when they are kept in a proper place. You might point out that she does not need to hunt for the toothpaste or milk bottle, does she? No, these items have a place, and everyone in the house knows where they are. So she can be shown that if this simple rule is applied to other items as well, how fine that will be!
You might also point out to her that when toys and clothes are neatly put away or hung up, they last longer and stay cleaner. And how much better a room looks when the bed is made and everything is neat and orderly! Most women agree that it is not the dirt itself that makes them nervous. It is the mess and disorderliness in a house. As one mother expressed it.’ “As long as things are neat and kept in their proper place, you can see more clearly exactly what needs to be done. If the house is in order, you will not feel you have too much work to do and get tired before you start.”
Neatness, of course, need not be carried to the extreme of finickiness. In some homes everything is always in such meticulous order that one is almost fearful of denting the couch when one sits down, or of making footprints on the rug when one walks. A proper balance is desirable, maintaining a home in which things are neat and orderly, yes, but one in which the family can still be comfortable and relaxed.
Other Things to Teach
There are so many other things that you can teach your daughter that will be of real value to her. For example, there is much that she can learn on washday. Have you taught her how to sort out the laundry, get the clothes clean, and fold them when they are dry? Have you shown her how to get spots out of her father’s shirts and collars? She may have to do it for her husband someday. Does she understand the function of detergents and bleaches and the effect each has on certain materials? Have you explained the advantage of drying clothes in the sun in preference to doing it in a machine drier?
You will also want to teach your daughter the avenues by which dirt enters the home, and how to cope with it. The doors, windows and the areas adjacent to them are some of the obvious places to look for dirt. Others are not so obvious: in closets, corners of rooms, under furniture, and in kitchen cabinets and drawers that are used often. These areas should be cared for regularly to prevent a buildup of dirt, which will require a bigger cleaning job later on.
The entry of dirt makes dusting a necessity. Does your daughter know that there is an art to it? One can remove the dirt or one can merely transfer it from place to place. The difference lies in how it is done and with what. If a damp cloth is used, it will actually pick up and remove the dust from the surface of the furniture or floor.
Why not let your daughter experience this herself? Have her use an ordinary dustcloth and see what happens. Then have her dampen it and actually see the dust leave the furniture and cling to the cloth. Once she sees the difference, you will not have to repeat those instructions. She will get the point.
Does your daughter know how to make a bed? People have different ways of doing it, and often one way is as good as another. You can teach her the way you do it in your home. If she is very small and finds it hard to line up the sheets and blankets just right, you might sew a colored thread as a marker in the center of them. This will make it easier for her to get the sheets and blankets on the bed straight.
A fundamental part of housework is daily dishwashing, something that you will want to teach your daughter to do well. Does she realize that soaking dirty dishes can often make the job easier? And does she know how to wash items in batches? Teach her to wash all the silverware and then rinse it together, instead of doing each spoon or fork separately. The same principle applies to other items. It is much simpler and faster this way.
Cleaning the stove is a time-consuming, difficult job that many women dread. Have you shown your daughter an easier way to do it? Have her take all the movable parts and soak them in a sink or a tub of detergents overnight. The next morning the dirt and grime will come off much more easily. When your daughter is older and has her own home, she will be grateful for having learned this lesson.
Learning to Plan and Organize
One of the most important lessons you can teach your daughter is how to plan and organize her work. Train her to think before she acts. Let her know that not all motions mean accomplishment. This is why some women get so much more done than others in the same time and with less stress and strain.
So when she has her own room to clean, help her to analyze what needs to be done. For example, determine what needs to be put away in the drawers or the closet; what items need to be moved to another room where they belong; what things can be thrown out, and so forth. Once she is mentally organized, the work will go more smoothly and she will get done faster.
Perhaps you can help your daughter to see how to save steps. For example, you might observe that as she goes from room to room she makes repeated trips to throw things out. Encourage her to take along a large paper bag as she cleans, and to discard things into it. This will save both time and energy.
Good organization also involves the ability to coordinate several jobs, doing them as a unit. Teach her how to do this. For example, after breakfast the dishes and pans requiring it could be soaking while the beds that have had opportunity to air out are being made. She could then tidy up, using the vacuum or sweeper on the rugs, and afterward do the dishes. The house is now in order and ready for any unexpected company.
Or teach her to care for other jobs around the kitchen while the dinner dishes are soaking. For example, finger marks can be removed from the walls, refrigerator and cabinets; the stove and oven might be checked for drippings and spillage; take out the garbage; line the garbage pail with paper or a plastic bag to keep it free of dirt and odors, and so forth. After the dishes are done, she can finish up by using a damp mop over the floors. Has she as yet learned to do such things?
Managing the kitchen is a particular challenge. A good system is a must. One mother reports that in her home there is a rule that, aside from mealtime, anyone using a dish or glass has to wash it and put it away. In another home the family uses paper plates and cups one night a week when everyone has to get out at a set time. It eliminates dishwashing and also provides a festive mood for dinner. Some large families find it practical to set the table the night before when they must get out early the next morning. The important thing is that whatever system is followed, it should be practical and designed to make the work lighter.
It may not be easy to maintain a neat, clean and comfortable home, as well as train someone else to do the same, but it is rewarding. You will have the pleasure of seeing your daughter develop into a capable and efficient housekeeper.