Teaching children early on to do chores around the house is important. It helps them grow up into well-adjusted individuals who contribute both to the households and to the community. Cleaning their own room is an activity that every parent must make their child do. It teaches children important life-skills and gives them the first lessons in valuing their possessions and keeping them organised and safe, and keeping their surroundings neat and tidy.
Messy surroundings can affect a child’s ability to focus which, in turn, can slow down the learning process. Living in an unhygienic environment can cause frequent infections, resulting in poor health and affecting cognitive development. Also, the sight of cluttered surroundings can arouse unpleasant and negative feelings in the mind of a child. — Dr Anita Gautam
So, let’s see how we can motivate our children to clean their rooms.
1. Define the job: Sit with your child and explain to her what cleaning the room means. Make a checklist of all the things she should do when she is cleaning her room. For example, arranging the books and toys, making the bed, picking up the trash and putting it in the dustbin, dusting the furniture and so on. A checklist will give your child a clear idea of the tasks she is supposed to do as a part of the cleaning process. To make the process more organised, you can list the tasks in the order in which they should be done.
2. Instil a sense of ownership, responsibility and accountability: Talk to your child and make him understand that his room is his own personal space and that it’s his job to keep it neat and tidy. To make him feel connected to his room, allow him to make some adjustments that he wants to do, like hanging up his favourite painting or keeping his study desk in a certain corner. Make him responsible for keeping his room clean and accountable for it by linking it to consequences. For example, if he doesn’t keep his books on the bookshelves, he may not get to read his favourite comic book that night. Likewise, you can even reward the child for keeping his room clean, let’s say by having an extra week-end outing.
3. Do it together: Initially, your child will need your help to understand how things are done before she starts doing it all alone. Tell her what goes into the bookshelves and cabinets. For ease of understanding, fix labels on the shelves so your child can understand what goes where. Also, provide her with cardboard boxes or plastic bins to keep such things that can’t be kept in cabinets. Tell her to keep those articles that she uses frequently in the lower shelves and those she uses occasionally on the upper shelves. Make her understand the importance of keeping her room clutter-free and ask her to discard those items that she no longer uses. Encourage her to donate such items to the needy to foster a sense of charity.
4. Make it fun: Children are fun-loving by nature and will be ready to do any chore that does not make them feel bored. There are several ways to make cleaning an interesting job. For example, put on your child’s favourite music and ask him to dance to the beat while cleaning, or encourage him to compete with you to see who finishes the tasks first.
Some interesting activities to inculcate the habit of cleanliness and to make cleaning fun are:
- Demarcate an area for your children to clean. Set a timer and tell your children to finish cleaning up before the time runs out. The one who does a better job can receive a standing ovation from all the family members.
- Write the name of clean-up tasks on pieces of paper and fold them, so that what’s written isn’t visible. To allocate the jobs, ask your children to pick up one/two of the pieces and get on with the chore.
- Encourage your children, including family members, to give a 2-minute speech on the importance of cleanliness. The members who have finished their speech or are awaiting their turn can be the audience.
- Ask your children to make posters showing the various ways they can clean up their room and the surroundings — for example, drawing the caricature of themselves using a broom to sweep their room.
5. Advise about safety: Caution your child about how to keep herself safe while she is cleaning her room, like not picking up broken pieces of glass or using cleaning liquid with bare hands.
6. Be a good role model: Children learn most life-skills from their parents, and they learn more by observing rather than listening. So, set a good example for your child to follow. Keep your belongings in place, and your room neat and tidy. And while you do this, remember not to complain or make a fuss about cleaning.
The key to getting your child to clean his room is to motivate him to do the job. Make him realise that everyone appreciates cleanliness, that cleaning is not time-consuming but easy and fun to do, and that it is his responsibility to keep his room and his surroundings clean. Once he understands these, you probably won’t have to tell him ever to clean his room.
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