Help children learn leadership by teaching them to clean a bathroomby Flint Stephens on 09/19/13
Scrubbing toilets is not a task usually associated with leadership. But
for parents who hope to raise responsible children, proper bathroom
training can help them develop numerous positive character traits.
Many older people grew up in households with a single bathroom. When every prince and princess shared a single porcelain throne, establishing rigid guidelines about cleanliness and maintenance were essential.
Today many children enjoy the fortunate circumstance of having their own bathroom or of sharing it with only one or two siblings. Yet these same children are often not required to clean these bathrooms. That creates false expectations about life and robs them of valuable opportunities to learn life skills.
In referencing bathroom cleaning, the web site www.choresandchecklists.com explains: “Enlisting the troops is essential. But you already know that you want to get your kids cleaning—that's why you're here. You know that involving kids in chores not only saves time (eventually) but they learn skills that are essential in their adult lives.”
Here are some of the beneficial lessons children can learn from scrubbing toilets:
Deal with problems when they occur. Boys and young men are notorious for shooting wide of the target. Wiping up errant sprays immediately prevents accumulated stains and odor. As in many other life situations, delaying and ignoring issues makes them more difficult to clean up later.
Don’t expect others to clean up your crap. Not asking children to clean bathrooms does them a disservice by giving them false expectations. Every person makes messes and the world functions better when people clean up after themselves.
Don’t whine, just do it. Invariably there are selfish people who refuse to accept responsibility for problems they create. Teach children that instead of arguing and accusing, it is usually easier to fix the immediate problem before worrying about assigning blame.
No task is beneath anyone. In Boy Scouts young men learn that a leader must be willing to complete any task that he asks of others. It is easier to convince a child to clean a toilet if she has seen her dad, mom, and siblings perform the task.
There is value in any job done well. When children do well in sports, school, music or other activities, awards and applause often follow. There are no cheerleaders in a bathroom, so children might wonder about the point of doing something thankless and unremarkable. Having the privilege of using a clean and sanitary bathroom can help teach them that in many instances, proper completion of the task is its own reward.
Parenting expert and author Nicholeen Peck and her husband appeared on the BBC television show “World’s Strictest Parents.” As part of the program, they hosted a young man from England at their Tooele, Utah, home. Because all of their children help with chores, their English visitor, James, was assigned to clean the bathroom, something the 17-year-old had never before done.
Peck wrote, “I will never forget the look on James' face … when I showed him how to clean a bathroom. He was so proud of himself. He said, ‘When I get back home I am going to surprise my mom by cleaning our bathroom. She will be so surprised that I know how.’”
Peck noted that like most people, James craved learning to work and was proud that he learned a new skill. Most children don’t ask for new assignments, but after the fact, they are happy they are a bit more self sufficient.
Cleaning a toilet is not glamorous or exciting, but by learning to do it well children demonstrate that they are ready to ready to take on assignments that carry more responsibility.