Come the weekend, children go berserk at home playing and having loads of fun. There are toys strewn all over their rooms, every inch of their desks are taken over by books, stationery and craft supplies. The living room is a war-zone after the little ones have watched the favourite cartoon show. If you thought that was enough to drive a parent up the wall, there’s more -- clothes on the bed, water on the bedroom floor and so on. Sometimes, even admonition does not work.
Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Do you spend half your weekend shouting at your kids and then cleaning up the mess they have made? It needn’t be that way. From a toddler to a teenager, children need to be made aware of their responsibility to undo whatever disorder they create. This is an important step towards discipline and taking ownership of their actions. It is impractical for parents to tidy up after their children -- while it will just leave them unhappy and frustrated, children will never learn to clean up their mess. This will serve them badly when they grow up.
So how do you get them to do it? Try these super-easy tips and you will be surprised how capable children can be in cleaning their own mess --
1. Break the work down into smaller tasks -- So the children’s bedroom is one big mess with toys cluttered, books on the floor and clothes strewn. No amount of reprimanding or telling them repeatedly to clean up is going to work. Instead, break down the chores and assign each child one chore (if you have more than one kid). When done this way, children will not feel that it is a laborious task and they also learn teamwork along the way. Toddlers can be given the smaller tasks such as picking up the toys and putting in the box, while the task gets complex as they grow. You could also assign a separate space in the kitchen or utility cabinet to keep specific cleaning supplies for them. So, when there is a spill, they will know which mop to use, to quickly clean up.
2. Let the tasks be fun -- It may sound outrageous but even cleaning can be fun. Encourage your child to do the chores in a positive manner instead of nagging them. Make or get your child to make, a colourful work chart with tick boxes, so that she looks forward to filling it up once a particular task is completed. Create a treasure hunt-like game, where she finds a small treat in between the stuff in the room while cleaning. Put on some music and encourage the children to sing along and dance, while going about the work. A happy and fun approach to chores is always a better solution than negative reinforcement.
3. Lead the way -- When you show children how it’s done, they are always forthcoming to do a task themselves. Join them while they are tidying up the room and show an easy way to de-clutter the toys. If doing the laundry, help with loading the clothes etc. It will also be a good excuse to bond with the children, as you spend time with them. At the same time, you are also helping them learn important skills.
4. Set some rules -- When you assign chores, make sure you give instructions on how to do the work and set the time limit for finishing it. There may be times when children just ignore your repeated orders for completing a task. In such a situation, be clear that you want the chores completed within a particular time and if not, there would be consequences. The consequences could be anything from less pocket money to refusing their favourite food and so on. It should just be a small disincentive for the task not finished.
5. Appreciate their effort -- Every time your children clean up their room or help you with the dirty dishes, there is no need to reward them for their efforts. It should be inculcated in children that doing various tasks at home is part of the duties of every member of the family. Otherwise, children will construe that every time they are asked to do something, they will be rewarded. The reward should not be the motivation alone for finishing a task. But it would be nice to appreciate kids’ efforts if they have done a task well. Say some nice things about their work. If you want, set up a chart which has the chores written on it and put up stars or smilies against the ones that have been completed.
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