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DEAR HOPELESS #1: My Kids Don’t Clean Up

DEAR HOPELESS #1: My Kids Don’t Clean Up

Before I officially kick off an advice column, I want to give a DEAR HOPELESS subthread and hashtag a shot. If others find me to be as therapeutic and helpful as my peers tend to, I’ll make it more official! 🙂

To kick us off, Brianna tweeted me (@hopelessMAblog) that she has a tough time getting her 4- and 5-year-olds to clean up after themselves.

Let me just preface by saying that I don’t know much more than this! I don’t know what Brianna has and has not tried, nor do I know how she typically handles each situation or just how strict she may or may not be about refusing to give in.

That being said, before I present you with my list of helpful tips, let me put myself in both parties’ shoes.

If I’m Brianna, I’m a busy mom of two little ones who never help me out, so I’m frustrated and maybe running out of patience.

As Brianna’s children, I know my mom gets a little upset with me that I won’t clean up my toys, but maybe she ends up doing it for me. I’m busy thinking of what I want to do next. I don’t see the benefit in wasting my time putting things away. My mom seems to be the only one who needs it done, so she can do it.

Make it Fun

As a mom, *I* find reward in having a clean living room, but I can see how children do not. I can’t blame them for not having motivation to clean up, so we’ll have to create it.

Children love games and competition, so why not make a game out of cleaning up? Promise end goals that you don’t mind doing or giving them anyway. Do you have exciting plans for the family on Saturday? Tell them that you’ll only end up going if the toys are put away each day first. Or, if all of these toys are put away in the next five minutes, we’ll have ice cream after dinner. Your kiddos love to try and impress you SO, who can put the toys away the fastest? Mommy wants to see!

Sing a Song

One of my absolute favorite things to do with my son is make up sing-songy custom tunes to signal the start of routines. The clean-up song we do is nightly and just before his bath. It’s actually NOT one of my custom songs, but one I remember from MY preschool (which means it really must have been effective!). Use an easy, elementary tune similar to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, teach your little ones the words and encourage them to sing along as they straighten up.

Offer to Help

Looking back on when I was a kid, I probably never noticed that my toys were tidied by my mom each day, or I came to expect that as normal, so I never took it upon myself to clean up.

However, I knew, even at a young age, how hard my mom worked to keep the house together, and I was her biggest fan.

That being said, if she had gotten down on her hands and knees and started putting my toys away and she jovially encouraged me to help her out– acting as though she truly couldn’t do it without me– I wouldn’t have hesitated for a second! All she would have had to say was, “here you go, Col, put this one over in that blue bin,” and so on and so forth. Or, even better, allow your kids to show off. “What toy does this part go with again?” And allow them to place it accordingly, showing off how well they know their toys. I know I would have felt like an incredibly important helper!

Limit Number of Clean-Up Times

Ok, I had a girlfriend show me a couple weeks ago a Snapchat of her living room wherein she referred to it as a “mess”. I kid you not, her house was literally immaculate with the exception of a MAXIMUM of 3 small toys on the floor. I actually thought she was kidding at first. NOPE. I immediately snapped back a shot of MY floor with about 20 diffferent toys thrown about. Is she cleaning up all day?! Are her kids?! Let’s be realllll. Your little ones are going to repeatedly play with their toys throughout the day. Unless you’re having guests soon or finally winding down for the night, consider letting toys stay astray for a bit. Aim for one or two daily clean-ups as opposed to cleaning as you go. This can be updated as they age, of course.

Enjoy YOURself

If you’re huffing and puffing, stressing and sighing while scrubbing the kitchen, you can’t expect your little one(s) to find the joy in cleaning either. As we already know, our little ones want to emulate everything we do. They mock us, they impersonate us, they follow in our footsteps, they heed our cues… what have you. Next time you pick up a broom, try playing some fun music and singing and dancing along.

Honor Certain Toys

If all other efforts fail, it could be more effective to let your little one know that, until x amount of toys are put away, one particularly special/preferred/favorite toy of theirs is going to be unavailable for x amount of minutes.

Consider an Allowance

Wait, seriously. Let’s instill real-world pay-offs early on! My mom had jars for my sister and I when we were awfully young. They were each labeled something different: college fund, savings, spending money, ice cream man. Use your best judgment. If we completed a chore, she’d divvy a dollar up into each jar. As soon as my ice cream man jar started growing, I was more and more okay with cleaning up!


Are you in need of parenting or relationship advice or tips?  Be featured in a Dear Hopeless entry! Tweet me @hopelessmomantics or send me an email!

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