My kids are really great at making messes. So are most kids… and some adults too!! I think that’s part of having fun!
As a mom though, seeing a disaster that I can’t walk into is quite maddening, sad, frustrating. I also feel disrespected when things I spent money on (even if it was just $1) are tossed on the floor to be stomped. I have to admit, it is quite amazing that they can manage to get EVERYTHING out in the time it takes me to go to the bathroom!!
The topic of how to get them to clean came up in our mom’s group and I was inspired to expand my answer into my personal arsenal of tactics. Some of which work consistently and others I rotate between because every day is different.
First of all there are 2 basic rules:
Rule no. 1… If you got it out you are capable of putting it back. Period.
Rule no. 2… If I have to clean it up you won’t like it so follow Rule no. 1.
What age do you start teaching?
A child’s most important learning years are from birth to 5. It’s during that time when a lot of habits are formed. In our house, my husband and I set a goal to have the good habits outweigh the bad so we started teaching our daughter from the time she was a baby. Could she actually do it? No. But she was watching and listening. My daughter is now 4-1/2 and while cleaning up is not her strength, she’s consistent about a lot of other stuff… AND she’s learning, getting better every day. Our son who is 1 is already doing things like taking his plate to the sink because he’s watched her. Little ones are FAR more intelligent than most give them credit for so don’t underestimate what they can and do understand.
Now here are my tactics. The one I use depends on the mood that day.
Break it down into smaller chunks. I believe it is too overwhelming to simply say to a toddler – “clean up your room” … Well, where to start? That’s what I figured out with my 4 year old daughter. I want to get to the point I can say “clean your room” and we are however I backed up and started with talking to her about respecting her stuff and why it needs to be cleaned and why was she having trouble. I started teaching her how to go about cleaning her room by breaking it into smaller chunks….and we do it together. “We are going to clean your room… Let’s start with your coloring books. Can you stack all the coloring books in a pile?”… Then we work from there. Yes I’m in there with her however I’m not doing it FOR her; I’m helping her make and execute the larger task of cleaning her room. We are working as a team to figure it out. I’m proud to say that she has started to be able to clean up on her own! Each day gets a little better and I simply shoot for her doing better than the day before.
Take the toys away. On not so cooperative days, when we have asked more than 3 times, we get a box or bag and let her know that we would like to see progress or the next thing is that I’m taking stuff away. I hate doing that but … You gotta make an impact sometimes when they are blatantly not doing what they are asked.
Race the timer. Kids love to win. Make cleaning up a fun thing by setting a timer and saying “let’s see whose faster… You or the timer! Ready. Set. Go!”
Make it a game. This is best with balls or stuffed animals. I think they multiply at night when no one is looking! 😂 One game example is getting all the balls back in their bin by playing a short game of toss. Same goes for the stuffed critters.
Sing a clean up song. “Clean up, clean up, everyone do your share”
Model the behavior you want to see in your child(ren). While they are cleaning their mess mom has to work on one of her messes. I make sure to explain that just like she has to clean up so does mommy…let’s see who can clean up faster. Sometimes I let her win if she’s close. 😉
Bribery. Stickers, chocolate, nickles, watching a movie, playing on the iPad. These are days when I’m tired and desperate for relief. When nothing ekse has worked.
Join a Taekwondo class or adopt and teach the basic tenets. We just started her into a trial class and are seeing amazing changes in her level of respect. The rules of concentration are simple place to start. Talking about what focus means and then going over the 4 rules….Focus with your eyes. Focus with your ears, Focus with your mind, Focus with your body. More on this in the coming days 🙂
There you have it…my toolbox of tricks. Every day is different so I pick one that fits for that day and everyone’s moods….including mine. And there are some days I simply throw up my hands and leave it because tomorrow is a new day.
Do you have a bag of tricks that you pull from? Share in the comments 🙂