The merry-go-round of tidying can be the least favourite part to general day-to-day life for a lot of moms and dads. And who can blame them? It can get tedious.
Parents have to pick up after their children nearly 1,500 times per year according to a new study. 92% of parents in the same study describe their child as messy and disorganized.
Does this sound familiar?
Let’s be honest -- kids make a mess. Quite possibly the understatement of the millennium. There is no shying away from it, though. We love them to bits, but boy can they create utter carnage given minimal time and plenty of toys and accessories. Kids can accumulate more mess than a summer music festival in a field.
Mess can be stressful for parents and carers as it can hinder your plans for the day and can simply frustrate you because you crave a little more law and order brought in to the day…and your house. And added to this, kids generally give you a hard time when it comes to tidying up for themselves.
How can tidying benefit a child?
Mess doesn’t always have to be seen in a negative way, it can represent a very imaginative and creative mind from the kids. The way a child plays can give us an insight in to their personality; it can also be used as a form of expression and communication. There does come a point, however, when a little bit of discipline is required to keep children within behaviour boundaries, and unacceptable mess may be required to be brought under control and order. It can also help establish or re-establish strong communication between parent and child.
Parents have to pick up after their children nearly 1,500 times per year according to a new study.
So how can we motivate our kids to tidy up after themselves?
Mmm. Well, this isn’t easy. But it is not too complex either. With a little creativity, good communication and above all else, patience, you can get kids to clean their room to the standard of a presidential suite of a 5-star hotel…ok, not quite. There may just be too many stray Lego pieces to go that far. But a clean room can be achieved on a regular basis with the correct attitude.
1. Consider their age.
For little ones up to pre-school age use clear words and simple sentences to see where their comprehension stage is at. Be specific in your requests. Avoid barking and shouting at them. This soon gets frustrating for yourself and reeks of negativity from the point of the child. Expecting the younger ones to clean their mess with simple instructions may not be enough for some – perhaps get yourself on to their level by offering them a helping hand. This will show them the way from a role model like yourself. It will increase bonding between you both.
For older kids write down a list of how you would like the room tidy, or better still –give them some control by telling them to write down what toys they have tidied and where they have put them. Again, try to avoid phrases such as, ‘Clean your room’! This is not overly helpful and can escalate in to a full-blown argument. Just provide them with a little direction – remind them where things go and the importance of keeping on top of mess they create. REMEMBER, MESS IS OK.
2. Offer age appropriate chores.
Who said chores need to be tedious? These can be fun if you feel this would increase their motivation. For the younger ones perhaps give them one simple chore for the day. Maybe to put away their favourite teddys into a specific area. For the older, more stubborn ones give them a list of tidying requirements. Get them to tick them off once complete. Trust them to complete the tasks, and if they do not, they will not be rewarded.
Which leads nicely on to my next point.
3. Offer incentives but punish non-compliance.
Behaviour works both ways and it is vital we can be consistent when it comes to a child’s behaviour development. If a child has tidied their room or area of destruction, offer a reward – perhaps some screen time or similar. Food bribing is an easy one to offer and we are all guilty of it on occasions but offering food or restricting food because of positive or negative behaviour is not ideal. However, it is important to punish non-compliance. Take away a favourite toy. Have a firm chat with them and encourage them that in life we sometimes must do things we do not like to do.
4. Turn cleaning in to a game.
Make tidying up fun. Have a stopwatch ready and make it a race to see who can clean up fastest. Create some sibling competitiveness by replicating this idea between them. Maybe use egg timers to give them a sense of time. Get creative, give them the control to be able to tidy up their board games in the form of a Jenga Tower, or to put all the building blocks in one place. Split up the room in to baskets. Allow them to choose which toys goes in which basket. Kids thrive on control.
Also, just a reminder to not give yourself a hard time if you are constantly tripping over crayons and slipping on tissue paper, this is fine. A messy room is not the end of the world. Tidying is just a simple way to introduce a little discipline and an ability to follow instructions in the build up to the ‘real world’ of pre-school, high school – or wherever they may be.
Above all else, try and remain patient – easier said than done I know.