Time to Clean: Gaining Kid’s Cooperation this Pesach – Mrs. Adina Soclof

Here it is again. That time of year when there is so much to do. You really need your kid’s help. You want them to cooperate without the arguing and the power struggles.
Here are 6 ways that can help:

1. Let them know the schedule:
Children need to know what is expected of them. They do much better if they are prepared. Older kids are more likely to help out when they know exactly when and what you need from them. Try to sit down with your kids and make a plan for when and what they will be needed for.

2. Be positive:

So often we start our conversations with accusations:
“You better help me this year! Last year you did nothing!”
“All you do is complain when I ask you to help! I am tired of it!”

Instead try to be more inviting and respectful:

“I need help with the following….what are you available to do?”
“Potatoes need to be peeled today by 12pm. Will 11 am work for you?”

3. Respect their time:

When children are in the middle of play, it is difficult for them to stop. When we adults are in the middle of important work, a good book or a phone call, we also need time to end our task and switch gears. Both children and adults have a tough time responding to immediate demands, stop doing what they are doing and transition to a new task.

We can say: “Hey, you look like you are in the middle of something important (building a lego tower, reading a book, talking to a friend) I am going to need your help in 5 minutes. Will that be enough time for you to stop what you are doing and come help me?”

4. Have a time for complaints:

Children really don’t like to clean, no one really does. Give them a time to complain (we also complain about all the work we have to do!)

Have a designated time for venting, let’s say dinner time or at 4pm- call everyone together for a “complaining” break.
“Alright everyone! Let’s do it- everyone complain and groan about their jobs!”

If they complain at other times, remind them: “Right now, I can’t hear any complaints about the cleaning you have to do. Can it wait for our complaining time at dinner?”

When you do have your complaining session, you might want to move your children to think of solutions:

“Okay, Sara, so you are really having a hard time with cleaning the pantry closet, is anybody else available to help Sara, or switch jobs with her?”

“Eli, you really don’t like the sweeping, what job do you think would be better for you?”

As the parent, you might want to end off the complaining session on a positive note:
“All this work can be tough, but it is all worth it when we get to Pesach! I love Pesach so much!”

5. Give over control:

Children feel important when they are put in charge of a task. It is hard to be a worker bee. Find age-appropriate tasks for your children and then instead of asking,

“Can you sweep the garage?”
“Can you peel the carrots?”


“Can you be in charge of sweeping the garage?”
“Can you be in charge of peeling the carrots?

This subtle change can help kids feel more confident, important and finally more cooperative.

6. Empower your kids:

This is another subtle way to frame your requests for help. Sarah Ward and Kristen Jacobsen, executive function experts, advise using “job talk”, where you assign a job title to a simple task, changing tasks from a “simple behavior to a personal identity label.”

For example, instead of:
“Set the table.”
“Pack your bag.”
“Eat your vegetables”
“Time to be a table setter!”
“Let’s be a bag packer!”
“You’re a vegetable eater.”

For older kids it sounds like this:

Instead of:
“Do your language arts homework!”
“Clean your room.”

“It’s time to practice being a writer!”
“You are a room organizer.”

This technique empowers children to take ownership of their jobs, making it more likely that they will complete it and do it well. It can increase a child’s motivation and fosters a more positive attitude around jobs.

Research has shown that this works for adults too. In one study, participants were asked to be “a voter” instead of “go out and vote.” This simple change in wording increased voter turnout.

7. Show appreciation:
There is no better feeling when you get to the Pesach finish line. Somehow every year we manage to get what needs to get done, done.
Make sure you thank your kids at the seder:
“Thank you so much for all your help! We did it! We worked together and now we can sit down to our beautiful seder and enjoy Yom Tov!”

After Yom Tov, preferably at Havdala time, make sure to show your appreciation again:
“This was a beautiful Yom Tov! We worked hard and it was worth it. I couldn’t have done it without you!”


Adina Soclof is a Parent Educator, Professional Development Instructor and Speech Pathologist working with children in a school setting. She received her BA. in History from Queens College and her MS. in Communication Sciences from Hunter College. Adina is the founder of ParentingSimply.com. She delivers parenting classes as well as professional development workshops for Speech Pathologists, Teachers and other health professionals. You can find her text based CEU courses at PDResources.com and video courses at Homeceuconnection.com and SpeechPathologypd.com. Her book, Parenting Simply: Preparing Kids For Life will be available soon.
Adina is available for speaking engagements. You can reach her at asoclof@parentingsimply.com or check out her website at www.parentingsimply.com

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