Children can really benefit from getting involved in household tasks and taking on some responsibility in tidying up their things. However, tidy up time can easily become a struggle between parent and child, with the child firmly refusing to lift a finger and the parent getting stressed and frustrated. Here are my top tips for creating harmony and serenity during tidy up time.
- Make it fun. It sounds simple but so often we are focused on the end result and just want to get it done. We rush through our jobs showing no joy, which doesn’t entice children to want to join in with us. Show them that tidying can be enjoyable. Sing, dance, make a game of it and try not to take it all so seriously.
- Don’t force it. Ask your child to help, but accept their answer. Sometimes it will be no. That’s OK. Forcing them to help will create resentment and avoidance of chores in the future. Back to point one, if its not fun, they wont willingly want to get involved and tidy up on their own initiative.
- Leave yourself plenty of time. If leaving the house in a tidy state before you go out is important to you, make sure to get started on tidying up early enough to do it calmly. Remember that your little one is likely to work at a slower pace than you. If they feel rushed and hurried, they are likely to avoid the task completely rather than get in your way.
- Make tidying up part of your daily rituals so that it doesn’t come as a surprise. Children like to know where they stand and what is expected of them By including regular periods throughout the day where everyone is asked to tidy up, your children will be expecting it, which will help reduce tension and arguments. Times which may work for you could be prior to leaving the house, meal times and bedtime.
- Be flexible. Sometimes your child will be in the middle of something that they don’t want to put away. They may feel like coming back to it later or they may not want to do what you have planned if they are very engrossed in their current activity. Think about how you feel when you are passionately working on a project, and remember, a child’s play is their work. Don’t undermine that or stifle their creativity.
- Give set tasks. A whole room of toys to tidy is just too daunting for a toddler or even an older child to cope with. They would have no idea where to start. Instead give them jobs that are within their capabilities and show them what to do – “Can you put the cars back in to this box please.” When they get bored, set them a new task to reignite their interest. But be careful in completing their set tasks without asking first. I once asked my son to tidy his train track in to the box. He got bored near the end, so I gave him something to put in the kitchen bin instead. While he was gone I threw the last bits of track in to the box, only for him to come back devastated that I had done his job for him. He tipped it out and started all over again!
- Thank, instead of praise. Praise gives the message its special and unexpected for them to tidy up. Instead let them know you are grateful for their support with a simple thank you.
- Adjust your standards and understand that while your child is learning, you should accept their standards in tidying up. Try not to redo their task for them if its not completed how you hoped it would be. They are feeling proud and helpful but in undermining their efforts they will instead feel devalued and will avoid helping in the future for fear of doing it wrong.
Children are social beings and learn by imitation. Role model the tasks you want them to do and don’t expect them to do things you are not prepared to do yourself. Tidy up time is so much more fun when everyone pitches in and makes a game of it. Why not leave a comment below to share your best tips for tidy up time?
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