Thursday, January 20, 2011

How do I get my kids to clean up after themselves?

Ms. Dorothy,
I can't get my kids (ages 3 and 6) to clean their rooms! I send them to clean, but when I come back it's still a mess.  I'm so frustrated, and I'm about to make their toy areas off limits!  What can I do to make them clean their mess?!
-Mother of two

The most important thing to do right now, is to decide what your real goals are.  

If you want your children to be creative and spontaneous, and, well, children, make sure the room is safe, and close the door so you don't have to see the mess. 

If you want your children to learn to care for and respect their things, you might want to work with them to create systems for order, and then repeat that process every time it gets too out-of-hand.

If you want your children to clean to your satisfaction, you will want to clean it yourself, take pictures and post them so that the children will be able to see what clean is "supposed to" look like. Then, though you will still have a battle to get them to do it, at least they will know what they are expected to achieve. 

If you want your home to look as if no children live there, then you might want to consider giving the kids away.

Whatever you decide, be clear about your goals, and take some time to play with them and try to understand their perspective about the toy areas before you make them off limits. Perhaps losing yourself in the joy of their laughter will help you think differently about your frustration.

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