You know when there’s a power outage? You walk to whatever room you keep your flashlight or candle stash, and even though you know the power is out (because you’re moving with the sole purpose of finding a light source), you still flip several switches on your way from Point A to Point B purely out of habit. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this!
That’s how I feel in my kitchen since I flipped it upside down. I reach for where I think the plates are, knowing full well I won’t find them there anymore. I go to grab a cup only to remember the pots are in their place. I look for a dish cloth and find the silverware instead.
Let me explain:
If I asked where you keep your plates, bowls, glasses, and mugs, I bet you’d tell me that they’re in the upper cabinets, right? Your pots, pans, and mixing bowls probably fill the spots under the counter. In most of the houses I’ve been to that’s the typical setup. It was at my house too.
Until I changed it all around.
How to Get Your Kids to Unload the Dishwasher
It all started when a conversation with one of my children, who shall remain nameless, made me realize that we had a big problem. The idea of work was totally abhorrent to this kid. It was a small chore that triggered the outburst (putting clean clothes away) and the whining attitude that accompanied the task (also the cry of “I hate work! It’s bo..ho…hor…ring”) was a sudden wake up call to me.
If this attitude wasn’t nipped in the bud now, our dear child was going to be in for a miserable life, and much of the blame would lay at the feet of my husband and I, who often (and wrongly) take the “it’ll just be easier if I do it myself” approach when it comes to family and household tasks.
The problem with that approach is that it teaches our kids that someone else will do everything for them: Clean up their messes, get them their snacks, tidy their rooms, you get the idea. If that doesn’t lead to an entitled attitude, I don’t know what will.
While I don’t expect my kids to grow up and think that work, whether it’s cleaning the house or being in a corporate high rise, is the best thing they’ve ever done, I am concerned with instilling a good work ethic in them. When they have a job set before them, I don’t want them to just squeak by; I want them to do it to the best of their ability.
So my kid woke me up with his bad attitude and I realized I needed to get all my kids onto a regular chore schedule.
We’ve never enforced regular chores before, other than making them put away their own clean clothes, so I wanted to make sure that we started with ones that wouldn’t be too overwhelming or difficult so that they could complete them, do well, and feel a sense of satisfaction for a job well done.
But what does this have to do with my kitchen being turned upside down?
It’s really quite simple.
When I came up with the list of chores, I realized that if I wanted one of the chores to be emptying the dishwasher, the kids needed to be able to easily access the plates, bowls, glasses, and mugs without having to climb onto the counter.
So I moved them all.
Now my pots, pans, mixing bowls, and baking dishes fill the upper cabinets while all the things we eat and drink out of are down below. It’s annoying for my husband and I, but it works for the kids and it’s their favorite chore to do. (Bonus: They can get their own drinks now too).
The other chores they’re required to do are:
- Vacuuming the living room
- Sweeping the kitchen
- Collecting the household garbage
- Folding the towels
Along with a short list of other things they have to do before they get any screen time (we call it our Summer Screen Time To Do List and you can read about it here), the kids have adapted really well to this new responsibility. Like, shockingly well. Like, crazy shockingly well. Their lists are hanging up in the kitchen and every morning they just get to work. No nagging, no reminding; they just do it.
So if you want to get your kids to unload the dishwasher and do other chores too, here’s what you need to do:
- Put the dishes in easy-to-reach locations.
- Create a daily chore list.
- Be clear with your kids about your expectations.
I know, I know, it sounds too easy. When we first started I fully expected there to be an adjustment period, but because we told the kids exactly how it was going to work before we started, and because there was something they wanted to earn (in our case, it was screen time), they jumped into the new routine without complaint.
I don’t love our new kitchen setup; I probably never will. But teaching our kids life skills is worth a little annoyance on my part. Besides, before too long they’ll all be tall enough for us to switch everything back around. And hopefully at that point they’ll be doing their own laundry too 😉