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If your kids are messy, and won’t clean up after themselves, it’s not because they’re bad kids, it’s because they haven’t been taught well. Some kids are harder to teach than others. For these kids, a little fun might be the answer.
With the two year-old in our home we made it fun. You can read about it here. The short of it is that just after he turned two he learned to set the table and clear the dishes all by himself. He was SO proud. Now, a year later, he still happily engages in dinner prep and cleaning.
The simple technique used to help him learn was (is) to have fun doing it together, give clear instructions about what is expected, provide help and encouragement along the way, and enjoy the results. Just the other day, when Eli wanted to go play downstairs, I said to him, “Eli, you can play downstairs as soon as you’ve put your upstairs toys away.” “OK!” was his answer, and one minute later his drums and blocks were properly put away, and he waddled joyfully downstairs. As a three year-old he truly values cleaning up his messes, and many times even does it on his own initiative.
Older kids present different challenges, but the same process can be effective. One time Lynne was praying about how to encourage 13 year-old Bethany to clean her room. She was hoping God would reveal some wonderful, crafty, and powerful consequence that would motivate the cleaning. Instead she felt like God’s spirit whispered, “Clean with her, and enjoy the results.”
So they had a fun time together cleaning. The whole time Lynne resisted the urge to make sure Bethany did it exactly “right” (whatever “right” is – who after all owns the corner on the market of exactly what is the “right” way to clean?), and instead joyfully worked with her until the room was decently clean. They then took some pictures and printed them so Bethany could be reminded of the day, and the results.
Over time, Bethany took increasing responsibility for keeping her room clean, and Lynne kept resisting the impulse to nag, and instead would offer to help when she could see Bethany was overwhelmed. This approach once and for all broke the intensity of the cleaning wars.
So whether kids are young or old, don’t fight them, join them, and enjoy the process.
Image © Udra11 | Dreamstime.com