I will admit, as a parent, I am not past bribing my child to do things. I don’t consider it bribery though. I am giving my child incentive to do what I say and conditioning them. If we have a group of children and only one or two are cleaning up, we will say (way too loudly) “Oh <child> is doing a great job cleaning! You get a sticker!” Wanna know something? As soon as those words escape my mouth, all the other kids start cleaning. If you have only one child or multiple children who won’t clean, you can still use this tactic – “<Child(ren)>, if you can clean up all these toys in <time> we can <reward>!”
Stick to Your Guns
At first, cleaning will probably take a long time for your child. Your kids will probably throw tantrums, get sidetracked, or wait until you start picking up. Stick to your guns. Eventually, your children will get the picture and they will start cleaning. If they have any slight hint that they know you’ll do it for them, they will wait it out. Kids are really good at manipulation (or at least the kids in the daycare are) and if they can get away with it they will. They will try to test their boundaries so it is so important to make sure that you hold firm in what you’ve said. Did you tell them that they wouldn’t be able to have dessert if they don’t clean? If they don’t clean, make sure you follow through. It is hard, but you can do it!
Walk Them Through
Even with me staying on top of them while they clean, it takes two times longer than when I didn’t have to direct them (or so it feels like). Did you ever have to do an exercise where you had to instruct someone on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I remember doing this a couple times in school and if you weren’t super specific with the directions, your directions would fail. Keeping that exercise in mind, you have to be super specific with your kids when teaching them how to clean.
“<Child>, take this toy (point to it and make sure they see it) and put it <here> (point to it).>”
After a while, you can slowly start to make the instructions less specific and less often.
“<Child>, take the blocks and put them away.”
Remember to Praise!
Positive reinforcement is so vital for training your child to do anything. Kids also like to please the adults in their lives, especially parents and caregivers. If you act super happy (really play it up) that your child is cleaning up, they are more likely to keep going. The children in the daycare love it when I get so excited and start doing a victory dance or dole out those high-fives and fist bumps. It’s something so simple and easy, yet it has a massive effect on teaching your children how to clean.
Parents and caregivers, this is the most important thing you can do when teaching your children how to clean up after themselves. It will get SO frustrating. You will want to give exasperated sighs, you’ll feel so annoyed, and you may feel like you need a million glasses of wine, but remain calm. Children have this weird ability to sense what you’re feeling and if they can tell that you’re stressed, they will feel stressed too. What’s more, is remaining calm when you finally get the room clean and two seconds later it’s a mess again. Deep breaths, force that smile, and walk away if you need to.
Do you have any other tips for teaching your child how to clean up? Share it below!