The trick to getting your child to do just about anything that they don’t necessarily want to do is to make it fun. If chores, homework, and other things suddenly become a game, they forget about how much they don’t want to be doing them.
Unless you have a child with a compulsion for cleaning, chances are that things are out of place pretty much every day. They may have toys and clothes strewn about their room, items left in other rooms of the house, or dirty dishes that they’ve left on the table; whatever it is, it should be their responsibility to clean up after themselves.
Picking up toys is something that should be taught as early as possible. When your children are about six months old they begin sitting up and playing with toys. Have them watch as you put things away so that this becomes a regular activity.
Once they begin walking and gain more understanding, you can start having them put a few things away themselves. Pick up a toy, put it in the toy box, and then hand them a toy and let them take a turn. In this way it becomes a game that they can understand while also teaching them the basics of responsibility.
During these early months, be sure to praise, clap, and let your child know that it makes you proud when they tidy up. Children will do just about anything if they know it makes you proud. It’s also never too early to start teaching children the correlation between doing what they are told and being rewarded. After you clean up their room, even the smallest children can be rewarded with a special treat.
Be Clear and Consistent
No matter how hard you try, tidying will never be fun for your children if you just suddenly spring it on them or if they don’t understand what you are asking. Have set times for tidying so that your children always know when to expect it and they can plan on having to do it.
Rather than just telling your children to clean up, be extremely precise; “Put your toys in the toy box, your books on the shelf, and pull up the covers on your bed.” If you have not told them exactly what you expect, then you can’t be upset if they don’t do it!
Once you’ve made yourself clear you’ve got to be consistent. If certain chores are set for certain days and times, you must make sure that they get done when scheduled. Likewise, if you’ve offered rewards for jobs well done you must not give them unless expectations have been met.
Consistency is key in just about every aspect of parenting. You may feel that you sound like a broken record, but in time, you’ll be able to stop repeating yourself and your children will do their tidying all on their own.
Make it a Game
The second that tidying becomes fun is the second that you no longer have to fight with your kids to get them to clean up after themselves. You can create your own games, turn cleaning into a race, or offer rewards and incentives for getting it done.
Here are a few ideas:
• Label everything in your child’s room with a picture or a word label of what is supposed to go where. Have them go around their room and find which things go where and put them where they belong.
• Make it a race; tell your children you are timing them to see how quickly they get their chores done.
• Have a weekly drawing; aside from their own rooms, you can shake up their regular chores by placing each one in a drawing on a daily or weekly basis and having them draw out what their job will be that day or week.
• Chore charts are old news but they still work. Having a big, bold display of your child’s responsibilities as well as a way for them to mark them off and work towards a goal does wonders. Not only does your child have a clear idea of what needs to be done, their self esteem is positively affected each time they place a star on the chart and get a step closer to a reward.
• Allow your children to play music and dance while they are cleaning; so long as the tidying gets done, they may as well have fun while doing it.
• Even as adults, we often need a change of scenery. If you’re feeling ambitious and your budget allows for it, consider giving their room an overhaul and an entire new look. Allow them to choose the colors and décor that they want; if they are proud of their room they are much more likely to keep it clean. You can also do this same thing with their bathroom or any other area of the house that they can have a say in.