Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Teaching Kids to Do Laundry

As my kids became teenagers, I decided they needed to learn to do laundry.  To minimize the chance that whining and fighting over this chore would occur, I assigned each kid a day of the week in which to do their own laundry.  (No way were my clothes getting ruined by amateurs, lol).  It also was a great opportunity for the kids to learn cause and effect:  if they didn't wash their clothes, they soon ran out of clean clothes to wear!  Seemed foolproof to me.

Enter the daughter who didn't care if she wore dirty clothes.  Hmm, this one definitely did not get my Type A personality.  It bothered me more than it bothered her that there were no more clean underwear in her dresser.  I almost broke down and washed them for her.  Almost.  But I didn't.  Instead I put on my Mean Mom guise and ordered her to gather her dirty unmentionables, as well as her dirty mentionables, and put them into the washer immediately. No reading of books, no watching of TV, no time on the computer, no talking to friends on the phone, no nothing until that washer was chugging away with her clothing in it. Not even any dinner.  A firm, guiding hand, and she was on her way to clean clothes.

Enter the son who thought he could follow in his father's footsteps.  When he objected to doing his own laundry, I asked just how he expected to have clean clothes when he went away to college.  His response:  "I figure I'd use Dad's method."  To which I reminded him he wouldn't be attending college close enough to bring his dirty laundry home to his mother on weekends (Yes, DH did do this his first several years of college, and yes, his mother did wash them for him while he was out having fun with his hometown buddies!).  Son replied "No, I'll just find a girlfriend to wash them for me."  Touche, child of mine.  Yes, I did wash DH's laundry for him after we started dating (mainly to keep him in town with me on weekends!!! instead of 200 miles away).  Quick thinking my way out of that one, I reminded the delusional child that this was not the early 1990s, and that he would be attending an engineering school, where most certainly any female student he should date would not be willing to do wash his clothes for him.  Liberated females of a different generation, they would be.  Shortly after that conversation he grudgingly made his way to the laundry room, read the chart I'd thoughtfully prepared on how to wash different types of laundry, and wonder of wonders, loaded the washing machine with soap and his own clothing!

Long winded illustrations just to say that when you start your kids doing their own laundry they will most likely balk.  They will wear every item they own until there is nothing clean left.  Then they will try to wheedle their way into getting you to wash it for them.  Be firm, parents!!  This is a learning opportunity.  This is a lesson in self-sufficiency and a door to adulthood.  Make them wash their own clothes.

Laundry, after all, isn't extremely difficult.  Show them how to sort the dirty items into piles that get  the same water temperature and type of washing (delicates, knits, normal stuff, heavy duty stuff such as jeans and towels).  Write it down and tack it to the wall in the laundry area.  Show them how to measure the soap and bleach and fabric softener (if you use it) into the washing machine.  Write it down.  Show them how to use the dryer, and where to find the dryer sheets.  Show them how to clean the lint trap. Write it down.  Show them how to line dry or dry flat the items that can't be dried in the dryer.  Write this down too.

Then stand back, and let them fly!  And, if you have to next week, put on your drill sergeant hat, make them gather their dirty clothes and take them to the washer again, standing by to insure they do this task for themselves.

They can do it.  They will do it.  And you will someday be blessed to have college-aged offspring who don't bring their dirty clothes home to you on weekends.

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