Every parent struggles with what can, at times, seem like an impossible task: teaching children to take initiative for cleaning their own messes. It can be difficult to train children to do something they don’t naturally enjoy. Many parents have struggled with this task and ended up with tears and trouble. However, getting children to clean doesn’t need to become a battle. By following these simple tips, you can teach children to clean, and resolve the issue with relatively little trouble. It’s a simple matter of training.
1. Start children off young. A three or four year old is not too young to clean, but they’ll need help. If you get them into the habit of learning to pick up after themselves, it makes things easier down the road when their messes get larger and more complicated to clean up. They will be trained to think from the start about the eventual clean up associated with their mess. Remember, young children should not be handling things like bleach, ammonia, or household cleaners; the dangers involved with ingestion and too much skin exposure can be very toxic. When teaching small children to clean, make sure to stick to simple things like dusting and picking up their toys.
2. Make cleaning easy. Both young children and older ones who are just learning to clean will need a little direction and help from parents when figuring out how best to tackle a very large mess. Make simple suggestions or ask questions like, “Would you like to pick up your blocks first or make your bed first?” Giving them a simple choice as to what to clean first will help them find a direction to follow.
3. Keep things positive. A shouting or screaming parent will fill a child with dread and they will learn to associate cleaning with negative thoughts and emotions. Remaining cheerful throughout the cleaning process will help the child feel satisfaction with the job, and as a result, they will not try to avoid it.
4. Help your children out by reducing clutter. The more things you have, the more difficult it is to sort and clean. When there isn’t enough space for everything, it’s time to sort out and see if you can reduce or donate excess toys or household items. This reduces the amount of household cleaning everyone has to do as a result.
5. Make cleaning a habit. If children learn that three times a week they will be sorting out their things and cleaning their bedrooms, they will grow accustomed to the routine and it will be less difficult to manage if the process is regular and organized. Children who are not prompted to clean often will have to relearn the same cleaning tasks over and over, because they have had no reinforcement.
6. Make cleaning a game. Children love a challenge. Their brains are naturally oriented to game structure. By making cleaning a contest and giving them a specific challenge to meet, you can make it more enjoyable for them. For example, telling children, “Let’s time how long it takes you to clean and see if you can finish before the buzzer!” will make them feel motivated to work hard and quickly. They will have the added enjoyment of “winning” if they manage to beat the stated time. For small children, make sure to give them a large amount of time so that they feel they’ve won. Older children will enjoy a shorter time period challenge. However, if you have multiple children, be careful not to make it a competition between them, or you will encourage sibling rivalry, which can lead to fights.
7. Divide the a large cleaning area into small segments. For example, in a child’s bedroom, suggest they start by making the bed. It’s a simple chore, but when it’s done, the large size of the bed makes the room look much cleaner. By pointing out how much progress has been made in a small time, you will encourage the child to continue with their cleaning. Suggest going to the bookshelves next and sorting out the books and toys. From there, move on to other areas of the room.
Special guest post provided to Jen is on a Journey.