Get Your Kids to Do Dishes–This Book Tells You How

At age 40, author Richard Melnick was diagnosed with cancer. (Great news: He lived.) It made him rethink his connection to his two young boys. He completely rejected helicopter parenting and tiger mom-ing and came up with his own take-charge style. His kids, he believed, should be helping around the house–and when they did, the whole family benefitted. His methods worked so well that he wrote a fresh and scrappy advice book called Parents Who Don’t Do Dishes (and Other Recipes for Life).

Heck yes, I’m down with this. My kids already walk the dog and pack their lunch (sometimes and via bribery). But dishes? I asked Richard to please, please, please tell me how I can get my children to wash up after our nightly post-dinner disaster. We need to start tonight. Here’s what Richard had to say:

“Why not dishes? For starters, splashing around in the water is fun. It’s an entry-level position, and your toddler can begin on a stepstool. A 2-year-old can play at the sink, a 5-year-old can do it with your supervision, and a 7-year-old can do it on their own. In some countries, kids herd sheep at the age of 5 and play an important role in the family’s economic health. “Hey! How ’bout herding that pile of laundry?”

Your kids have the dexterity and intelligence to contribute. They are considerably more agile and smarter than your house pet. What they lack is training and focus. You’ll be shocked by what they’re capable of and the pleasure they may take in being helpful. Assign them tasks that YOU want done. All you have to do is train them properly, make an effort to keep them accountable, and tell them thanks every day, how much you appreciate all that they do. Ask them, “How does it feel to be so helpful and independent?” Tell them how good it makes you feel. Catch them being good.

You might explain how Daddy and Mommy work to provide for the family and that by doing dishes, folding laundry, helping out around the house, they are contributing and participating in an important way, too. They learn gratitude and appreciation for their good fortune, the food, warm clothes, their parents who love them and the innate satisfaction that comes from completing a job well done.

When they are actively engaged in the welfare of the household, kids align themselves universal forces that celebrate gratitude and service. By aligning their habits with service and gratitude, their values will develop accordingly. It actually feels good to be helpful and express thanks. Eventually, they may cheerfully do just about any mundane task, which feels nice for everyone.”

Do your kids help around the house? If so, what are your secrets?

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