How to Get Your Kids to Actually Pick Themselves Up

If only the words from the children’s song were true: clean up, clean up, everything and everywhere. Get out, get out, everyone’s doing their part .

In our house, it’s more like: Get out, do what I can threaten you with? Get out, damn it, I’m not collecting all this shit.

If you are a parent, you have struggled to get your kids to put their things away at one time or another. There are many methods to instill better habits in your offspring; from what I call “la di da” to more “atomic” methods that kick ass and take on names (and coat if necessary).

This primer covers the entire spectrum. Feel free to choose based on your mood or current level of frustration on your personal pick-my-kids-shit journey.

Take one, take one rule away

This technique teaches children that for every new toy they take out, they must put away one. It also requires a lot of reminders and close observation of the specified child during play, which can immediately make it difficult for some parents (myself included). I believe that a child who follows this method is cooperative and gentle, and does not have siblings old enough to quarrel with or distract them. But in my house, where none of these conditions exist, it wo n’t work.

Set a timer (and make it a competition)

Some say you can make cleaning “fun” by setting a timer and asking your child to beat the time. As a mother of three who might bicker over how the word fork is pronounced, no thank you; I don’t invite such emotional chaos into my life. In my house, competition leads to crying 100% of the time. Some also say that creating a playlist of your child’s favorite songs can make children more interesting. We’ll have to take their word for it.

Make it descriptive (and specific)

In this method, everything has its own marked place, so children don’t have to guess where something is going. (Includes baskets of images for pre-readers.) Set a timeline with clear end times — and tell them to clear out certain items. Instead of saying, “Okay, it’s time to clean up,” give them short instructions like, “First, let’s clean up all the cars,” or “Now we’ll pick up the red things.” Again, this requires a level of organization and control that may not work for everyone.

Make a request and attach a reward or consequences

It’s tempting to frame what we want as a question so as not to sound mean or demanding. But when we say, “It’s time to pick up, okay?” this leaves enough room for children to say no. Instead, make a vague request such as “It’s time to get out” or “I need you to pick up your things now so you don’t have any problems finding tomorrow.” Remind them of any rewards or rewards you have made with cleaning, whether it’s extra watching TV or reading, or a day without the things they don’t clean.

Do it together (and ask if they would like to donate)

Supporters of soft parenting support this method of working together with the child, either by placing a hand on their hand and silently guiding it to the right place, or by collecting things next to them so that they have company. It also normalizes efforts through simulation. Or you can calmly ask, “Do you want to take it away, or should I put it in the donation basket?”

Tell them how you feel

This article offers something subtle and radical at the same time; telling a child what do you feel his behavior (not to raise their hands). The idea is that when you let them know how their clutter affects you (“I’m sad when I see your stuff lying around like you don’t appreciate it”), it triggers their instinct to “feel connected.” and “making other people happy.” He claims that when you kindly communicate your disappointment, they will be motivated to change their behavior. Hmm. We’re not sure if this is manipulative and guilty, or honest and effective. solve.

Now about more drastic measures …

As kids get older, cute games will stop working. (This is where atomic methods come into play.) When I asked on TikTok how parents deal with endless clutter, the answers ranged from funny to practical. While responses such as “I usually end up screaming as hard as I can” or “I take but drop F bombs while I do it” were appropriate, they are clearly not long-term solutions.

The 80/20 Rule and “Here, Not There”

One person suggested using the 80/20 rule; where 80% of the time they pack for sanity reasons so they have enough energy not to take the other 20% when they want to teach a lesson (the lesson is to pick it up or say goodbye). Another suggested the philosophy “Here, not there”; telling their kids to pick up the phone “here and here”, but not “there” – “there” is reserved for their brother or sister. It lends itself to anyone who thinks they have some kind of break because “there” is not their responsibility.

Make them find it (create “lost and found”)

There are several variations on this technique, which are based on allowing your child to experience the natural consequences of not putting away their belongings. You can leave things where they left them (which may or may not match your level of tolerance for clutter and scrambling at the last minute), or you can place large plastic containers in the most hazardous areas (or in a garage for an additional fee ). gravity). At the end of each day, everything that has not been picked up will be added to this basket; until it sits on the floor, your kids will still have to dig to get what they need.

Lift it up … but charge them

One mother said: “I take it because the principle is this: the floor is washed. However, I charge them. Either money or immediate work. ” HM. Charge people for cleaning fees, which we always had to give away for free. What an innovative concept! (This applies to the trash cans just mentioned. Place them so they can see but not reach their belongings. Tell them they need to wash the toilet to get them back.)

Get it out of your way, but not theirs

One user said, “My mother blocked our bedroom doors with the crap we left that day. She got rid of it, but not ours. ” Some parents share this belief about placing everything on a baby bed or on the floor, so while the shared space is ship-shaped, they still have to deal with their clutter.

Give it up

And the most extreme measure of all … Toss. This. Outside. (Or donate.) When you’ve lost patience with all other methods, give your child a time frame — say 24 or 48 hours. Let them know if by then the item is not collected, it will disappear forever. Note: Make sure you are prepared to make this decision. Are you willing to give your child a new winter coat and make him wear last year’s little coat if they don’t pick it up? Then go on by all means. And enjoy hopefully better days with less clutter ahead of the kids.


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