How To Raise Tidy Kids
Nothing is more frustrating than trying to keep your house clean when your kids are working against you. And young kids can be messy! However, young kids can also be trained. You have an opportunity, right now, to help build the lifelong habits that will help your kids live a tidy lifestyle from the beginning.
These efforts may not turn your kids into perfect neat freaks, but they’ll lift a burden off of you and help to instill good habits. And a child’s messes can be far less frustrating when he or she becomes as involved in the clean-up process as you are.
Toddlers and very young children actually want to help out around the house. So let them! Kids in their twos and threes can do more than you think they can. Send them off to hunt around the house for dirty dishes. Get them to put the clothes in the laundry room. Send them on a toy hunt.
Their efforts may be slow, and they may not be able to complete the entire job. But they’ll be contributing, and right now that’s the important part. Praise them for all of their good work and help. You can even make it a game, awarding points, pennies, or other small prizes for each toy, item or clothing, or dish that makes it back to the place where it’s supposed to go.
Kids who are 4, 5, and 6 can push a vacuum, wipe up counters or wash the windows. They may even enjoy these tasks.
By the time your kid is 7 they can pretty much do anything you can do. They may be less cheerful about it, but you can still assign them a task and encourage them to pitch in.
Get The Whole Family Involved In Room Rescues
“Flylady” encourages her followers to set 5-minute timers and engage in what she calls the “5-minute room rescue.” During room rescues, a person runs through the house picking up, wiping up, or doing anything else they can do. The goal of these rescues isn’t to create a perfectly clean house. It’s simply to get as much done as one can possibly do in a very small increment of time.
Anyone can stand to do just about anything for 5, 10, or 15 minutes. Pick an increment of time that everyone can live with. When 4 people engage in a 5-minute room rescue you get 20 minutes of cleaning in the amount of time it takes to complete a commercial break. You’ll be amazed at the amount of cleaning that actually gets done. Here’s a household cleaning checklist for you to use.
Do a rescue a day and your house will actually begin to look spotless. Your family won’t even grumble if they know you’ll leave them alone after each rescue. After all, you’re not asking for hours of commitment here. You’re asking for everyone to chip in for five whole minutes.
Use Visuals And Chore Charts To Set Expectations
Kids do well with chore charts and check lists. Just make sure you break every task on the checklist down to its smallest possible increment. You don’t want the chart to say “clean your room” because that’s overwhelming to most kids. They don’t even really know what you mean by that. Instead, the chart should say, “Make your bed,” “put away toys” and “bring clothes to the laundry.”
Add a cute picture of each task for kids who can’t read yet. Even a toddler can understand a visual of a child making his or her bed.
It’s a good idea to use a consistent set of rewards and consequences for doing (or failing to do) each task. You can add the incentives and consequences right to the chart. That way, if a task doesn’t get done you don’t have to get mad, lecture, or yell. You can simply check off the consequence and enforce it.
If your children are very young you might want to add basic hygiene tasks to the list, like taking a bath or brushing one’s teeth.
Just make sure you don’t overload the child with too many tasks. If you add more tasks than the child can reasonably complete in 10-15 minutes of time you may find the items going undone and ignored as your children grow frustrated.
Break these tasks up into morning tasks and afternoon tasks and turn it into a routine to make it even easier for kids to accomplish what you need them to accomplish.
Watch Your Own Attitude
Sometimes, parents don’t realize that they can “poison the well” when it comes to household chores. Kids listen to everything you say. If you always sigh, grumble, and get angry when you have to do chores then they’re going to conclude that chores are horrible things they’d never want to do. In fact, kids may even become baffled by your insistence on doing them, since many kids simply don’t mind mess nearly as much as we adults do.
This isn’t easy, especially if you work. The thought of diving into yet another task after a long, hard day may legitimately fill you with dread. Nevertheless, you need to do what you can to keep a smile on your face. Get some help if you’re overwhelmed, but remain cheerful, even when you think your kids aren’t listening. They are listening, and they are watching.
In this, it can help to change your mindset somewhat by remembering that your own chores are a sign of your blessings. If you have dishes to wash it’s because you have food to eat. If you have floors to clean it’s because you have a roof over your head. Those who aren’t so blessed may see cleaning their own toilet as a privilege! When you are able to put your chores into perspective you’ll find that your kids can do the same.
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