Laundry! For many parents, laundry can quickly become the one household chore that never ceases to end. The moment you get one load finished, folded and put away – a hamper in the bathroom begins to overflow with stinky socks and soiled clothes.
According to Proctor & Gamble, the average family washes between 300 and 400 loads of laundry per year. This equates to nearly 7 weeks per week. However if you have multiple children living in your household, or have kids that participate in extra curricular activities, you are likely washing anywhere from 10 – 15 loads per week. And no matter how much you encourage children to air-dry shower towels rather than throw them in the hamper, or to hang up clothes that are still clean rather than toss them into a pile on the floor – chances are your teen is not listening. This encourages the question, should your teen wash his or her own clothing? Would requiring them to be in charge of their laundry be a responsible way to teach them how to take care of themselves in the future, and would it quite possibly, encourage them to be less flighty when it comes to tossing clothes in the laundry basket?
The reality is that with the technology involved in today’s washing machines and dryers – laundry really isn’t that much of a chore. What is a chore is separating clothing, drying the clothes, removing them from the dryer and putting them up before they become a wrinkled haggard mess. One of the reasons enlisting your teen to help with the laundry chore is because it will definitely teach them how to follow through on a task. For instance, its one thing to simply throw the clothes in the washing machine with some detergent and press a button to turn it on, but it’s altogether different to remember to take it out before it turns musty, dry it and put it away.
Additionally, your children will at some point be responsible for themselves. Raising a child who cannot wash their own clothes is no way to prepare them for life. Washing clothes is a household chore that won’t likely change much in the decades to come. If a teenager can handle the intricate technology of a computer, smart phone, and figure out how to master the highest level of a tricky video game – then they certainly are qualified to learn the inner workings of a washer and dryer.
It is also true that making your child responsible for ALL of their laundry – will make them appreciate the clean clothes that you have provided for them over the years. It won’t take your teen long to realize that the laundry chore is a constant in life. And due to their inherent slacking nature, your teen will quickly find ways to ‘lessen the loads’ they are forced to wash. Who knows, they might come up with a system where they reuse the same hair towel after their shower for a week. Or, they might be more careful about spilling spaghetti sauce on their favorite shirt, or staining their jeans with grass and red clay when they realize that mom and dad won’t be there to do the laundry.
Your child is fully capable of laundry duties around the age of 10 – 12. When you first make your child in charge of laundry, it is important to give them a workable system. This includes giving them their own laundry basket – in their own room! This way, you won’t be tempted to toss their clothes in when you notice the bathroom hamper overflowing with underwear. If you are a stickler for sorting clothes by color – then buy your children one of those hampers that has three divided sections where they can toss in the different loads of clothes. Next up, is to prepare them an informational sheet that teaches them what kind of clothes to wash in which water temperature. Again, today’s washers are pretty easy to figure out – and many of them make it incredibly simple to find the right wash cycle. Last but certainly not least, hand the entire job over to your child! Once you have provided them with the information and given them a walk through on how to use the equipment, let it go. If they wake up one morning and don’t have any clean underwear to wear to school, then so be it! It really isn’t your problem. And going to school without underwear one day, or being forced to wear dirty jeans or a smelly shirt goes a long way in teaching your teen responsibility!
Laundry really is a family affair. While you might not want your 5 or 6 year old touching your expensive washer and dryer – the truth is that even at that age, they are able to help with laundry duties. Kids should be empowered to sort out laundry, re-use towels when necessary, put dirty laundry in laundry baskets, as well as help unload the washer and dryer and fold and put away clothes. If you enlist their help from a young age, by the time they are 10, they will likely be able to handle laundry responsibilities on their own – and may even be able to help do some of YOUR laundry. This can help the function of the family run much more smoothly, and can save you from weekends of facing mountainous piles of laundry.
Bottom line is this! Everyone wears the clothes and uses the towels, sheets and covers in the home, and EVERYONE, should take part in caring for them. If you aren’t handing over some of this responsibility to your kids, you have little room to complain because THEY ARE CAPABLE!