Children will take a mile if you give them an inch, and when you have a child that are perpetually cluttering the house with various belongings, the issue can be frustrating to all members of the family.
Children will take a mile if you give them an inch, and when you have a child (or children) that are perpetually cluttering the house with various belongings, the issue can be frustrating to all members of the family.
There are a few tricks to help keep the family peace as you work with your family and try to establish good housekeeping habits.
1. Don’t do it yourself
This is the path of least resistance, but it is one that is actually doing your child a lot of harm — today and tomorrow. Some days, it is simply easier to pick up the socks left in the middle of the living room floor than to go into a long discussion with Jack on why this untidiness is disrespectful to the family. Project this into the long term however. You are teaching your child that no matter what mess he or she makes that you (or someone else) will come clean it up for them. This is not the way to establish a healthy and independent adult. (And you really don’t want to be cleaning up after your children for the rest of their lives, do you?)
2. Don’t give up
Parenting is a one step forward, two step back dance with your children. The issue of cleaning up after oneself is one that really follows this line. Your child will likely resist any changes to their chores and the consequences for not completing them. If you are a predictable and consistent parent, they will learn more quickly and be able to adjust the behavior with less drama. Your dance will be worth it, and your child will be able to completely trust and respect you for your consistency and fairness.
3. Don’t make cleaning up a punishment
Seeing the piles of clutter around the house can grate on anyone’s nerves, but it is important to establish and maintain a positive attitude towards helping out around the house. Yelling at your child and nagging them to clean up tends to create the opposite effect. It seems to send the kid universe into slow motion, and activate the resist and rebel functions in their cerebral cortex. Put as much as you can on paper in the form of a check list, so that the clipboard becomes the enemy. It will keep them on track and all that you need to do is to a quick look over of the checklist. Give your child the responsibility of monitoring their own progress.
4. Don’t forget to include the whole family
Set a specific time daily that your family all works together. This can be a simple ten or fifteen minute blitz through the house — every member doing a few chores. Daily maintenance goes a long way in the common areas, and leaves time for a more intense clean-up in bedrooms, play rooms, home offices, etc. on the weekend. This simple practice will build family unity and show your children that a family is a team.
A. Lynn Scoresby, founder and president of My Family Track , First Answers , and Achievement Synchrony , and has been a marriage and family psychologist for more than 35 years. He has published more than 20 books and training programs.