Put down the toys and back away, slowly, so you don’t trip and die. Then go make yourself a cup of coffee and relax.
And that’s it, that’s the secret.
Just kidding, well sort of.
The secret to getting your kids to clean up, is not to do it for them.
Let them wallow
Yes, you let them wallow in their filth, run out laundry and lose their favorite stuffed animal. Then you gently remind them that if they picked up their room this would all end. It may take months, I know personally, but eventually they will get tired of the chaos. They will decide to clean it up. And when they do, you let them do it on their own. It is important that they come up with their own organizational system and that they feel confident in what they are doing.
While you wait it out
While you are waiting for the epiphany to happen here are a couple tips to keep you strong.
- Do not let them play anywhere else. Make them stay in their area (bedroom, playroom,etc). If they stray simply pick up the toys, clothes, kid paraphernalia and dump it in their room ( I find dumping it right inside the door is helpful to driving the point home). Remind them that you are choosing to live in a tidy space because that makes you happy, and that they are free to make their room a happy place also.
- Be an example. Cleaning up with a good attitude, letting clutter go and having time for you all work to show your child good habits. They are watching you, and they will want to repeat the behavior. When my children are cleaning I have heard everything from,”Everyone is so lazy and never helps me pick up!” to “I love how nice my room looks, I am glad I got rid of those toys!” I have really started checking myself when cleaning!
After the epiphany
Because I think it is so important I will repeat it again, when your kids starting cleaning, let them do it on their own. They need to come up with their own system of organization. They need to feel proud of what they are doing. This will hopefully reinforce the behavior and help it to become a life long habit. Give them genuine, positive feedback. Pick a particular thing that they organized well or a creative solution they came up with.
If your kids are very young it is okay, even good for you to help. Kids need to know how to clean up properly and that can only be done through teaching. Just make sure you are guiding and not doing.
Allow them to let things go
As the kids start cleaning, I always remind them they are free to get rid of anything they want. It is important to start teaching them young that they are not obligated to keep items no matter how they obtained them. I know I can often be tempted to incite them to keep a toy because so and so gave it to you for your birthday,but that’s wrong. They don’t tell me to keep presents I don’t use!
In the end, there most likely won’t be an overnight miracle. It will take diligence and patience on your end. But don’t give in, focus and being a good example. And have another cup of coffee.
Photo Credit: Lisa Quadros Photography