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Teaching kids to clean up
November 4, 2013, 12:21 pm

Children are terrific at making messes, and not very good about cleaning them up. They live from one moment to the next; as soon as they tire of one activity, they're off and running toward something else. While you may find the visual chaos your children leave behind to be terribly unsettling, they are probably not bothered by it at all.  Here are few suggestion on what you could do to to help kids take responsibility for their messes.

Start by resetting the rules:  Tell your children that the toys left behind will be confiscated if they don’t heed the reminders to store them after use. Decide how harsh you want to be, but make sure that you follow through.

Do not cave in:  Remind your children that you will not be cleaning up their messes. If you cave in and do the job for them, you will have taught them that if they whine or procrastinate long enough, they can shirk responsibility. Acknowledge that you understand their difficulties in putting away their paints, or the job looks like it will take forever. By letting them feel heard and understood, you'll ensure that their irritation will dissolve more quickly, and help them accept that the job has to get done.

Avoid tuning on as a TV Character: Like characters on television, you should not prescribe to heightened reactivity, attention and drama that can actually contribute to further misbehavior. This just leads to a showdown fueled by their resistance to obey.
Whenever possible, make cleanup fun: Most children are much more willing to participate in a game of "Who can clean up the most toys before the three minute timer goes off?" instead of simply saying, "Clean up this mess right now."

Add energizing music to the mix: "Can you put all the blocks away before this song is over?" Again, by injecting a little fun and silliness into the cleanup routine, you'll help your children overcome their resistance to dive into what might otherwise appear to be a boring task.

Model a cheerful attitude when you're tidying up around the house:  If your kids routinely hear you griping and complaining as you load the dishes into the dishwasher or sweep the floor, they will naturally think of cleaning up as a dreary activity to be avoided at all costs.

Break a big job down into small manageable steps: Encourage your children to work in time slots if they have a lot to clean up. Tell them to start by putting away items in red or the larger items that are on the floor. This will help them understand that little by little, they can get a big job done.


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