Cleaning up with your kids

  • Make sure your child is able to do what you ask. A toy-box lid that is too heavy, shelves that are too deep, clothes poles that are over a child's reach, all make it hard, if not impossible for the child to help. Look for child size brooms and lightweight vacuum cleaners if you plan on having a young child use them. Low shallow shelving units are found in many day care centers for a reason. It's one of the best ways to encourage children to put things away for themselves. If you had 15 children you'd give up on the concept that it's easier to do it yourself a whole lot sooner. By the way, it may be easier to do it yourself this time, but multiply that by forever and compare that to the trouble of teaching the child to do it. That's a more reasonable comparison.
  • Be very specific about what you want a child to do. "Clean your room" is vague to most children as well as overwhelming. Does it mean to get everything off the floor-so it's all right to cram it all into the closet or under the bed? Does it mean I have to put away the puzzle I've been working on and dust and vacuum and wash down the walls? What's the least I can do and still pass inspection? "Pick up all the blocks and put them in the block box" is more useful. Keep giving instructions until the task is completed to your standards.
  • Use pictures or words to list the steps you expect a child to take in completing a task and let the child follow your "written" instructions. This frees you from having to repeat the steps every time and makes it more of a game. For older children this makes your instructions more specific and you are less likely to have to make repeated inspections only to find that they had skipped some important step.
  • Make sure there is enough storage space for everything that is being stored in the child's room. If you are helping a child clean his room and you get stuck trying to find a place for everything-you need to get less "stuff" , more storage, or both. Look for storage items that are easy to use and that will hold whatever it is that needs to be held.
  • Make it a regular event (as often as you need to) to go through your child's clothes, toys, and papers along with your child and discuss what they really want to keep
  • If you use a chore chart, keep it somewhere that YOU will see it every day and remember to keep it current. Nothing like a little inconsistency to throw the whole plan off. Make sure someone marks the chart every day and that rewards are given in a timely manner. It takes discipline to make a chore chart work, but if you want to teach a child discipline, the chore chart is one tool. You might also consider using file cards with your children's chores-list one on each and let them move them from one envelope to another as they complete the chores. You might also teach older children to make their own day plan-schedule their activities on a calendar or day-planner and include their chores and homework.
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