School's Out for Summer: Teaching Kids to Keep the Kitchen Clean

By Tanya Steel,

"No more pencils. No more books. No more teacher's dirty looks," snarls Alice Cooper in the infamous song. But my kids got dirty looks yesterday--from me. I got home at 7 from work; it was the last day of seventh grade and my kids had two hours on their own in the house, in between school and my father coming up to "teensit."

I had charged my 13-year-old-twin boys with keeping the house neat, and making themselves a snack when they got home. Well, you know a snack for teen boys means essentially emptying the contents of the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer into their bellies, and that's just what they did.

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Milk and milk droplets were on the counter, tortilla-chip crumbs were all over the kitchen floor, chicken salad was smeared near the light fixture, chocolate cake bits had landed on the carpet near the Play Station equipment, and the microwave door was ajar. It was, in a word, a disaster zone. After my anger abated somewhat, I had them clean and vacuum and sweep. Where, you ask, was my father in all of this? Good question. He didn't even seem to notice the mess.

I am on a campaign to get my boys to always clean as they cook and eat but I wonder if I am fighting a losing battle, and the propensity to keep a tidy, clean kitchen is more nature than nuture, or maybe gender or age related? What do you think?

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