"No! I don't wanna clean up my toys!" Most parents have experienced the frustration of trying to get a child to clean up a mess when he doesn’t want to clean. According to Jerry Wyckoff, Ph.D., and Barbara C. Unell, authors of Getting Your Child from "No" to "Yes” (Meadowbrook Press), “With a positive approach, clean-up time can be stress-free.”
Wyckoff says, “When your four-year-old ignores your request to clean up his toys, he’s telling you that his agenda doesn’t match yours. He wants to continue playing and making a mess, while you want him to restore order to the ransacked area.”
Preschoolers live in a self-centered world. They want to do what they want to do, when they want to do it. That’s why parents hear a lot of “NO!” during the preschool years. “Children say ‘no’ to avoid the unknown, to avoid change, to avoid failure and to avoid losing control,” says Unell. “This behavior is very normal.”
Strategy One: Positive Self-Talk
One effective strategy for getting your child to clean up is to talk to yourself in a positive way. Instead of telling yourself, “My child won’t listen to me when I tell him to clean up,” tell yourself something positive like, “A little effort now can establish a lifelong habit.” It’s true that working with your child, praising his efforts and celebrating the outcome will focus positive attention on teamwork and cooperation. Wyckoff says, “Look past the short-term challenge to the long-term goal of teaching good cleanup habits.”
Strategy Two: Avoid Negative Phrases
Wyckoff and Unell offer this advice for getting your child to be neat and clean:
· Don’t nag or ask, “How many times do I have to tell you to pick up your clothes?” Nagging only teaches your child to tune you out and use nagging to motivate others. It doesn’t teach him to value neatness or show him how to accomplish it. Instead of nagging, gently remind him of the rule that says he can only get out another toy when he’s put away the one he’s playing with.
Don’t label or say things like, “No wonder you can’t pick up after yourself. You’re a slob like your mother.” Hurtful words create conflict and can result in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead say, “I know it’s hard to clean up when you want to keep playing. I understand how you feel.”
Don’t threaten or say, “If you don’t put away your toys, I’ll just throw them in the trash.” This means that you’ll have to follow through if your child calls your bluff- a costly consequence for both of you. Make it a game instead by setting a timer and working together to get the mess picked up before it rings.
Other Helpful Hints
As you’re working on establishing those lifelong habits, here are some helpful hints for making clean-up time easier for your child:
Make it easy for your child to pick up his things so he’ll become more inclined to follow the rule. For example, set up low-level shelves and bins for easy storage.
Include your child in family cleanup routines so he can learn by watching and doing.
Consider limiting the number of toys available to your child by dividing his toys into four groups and then putting away all but one group. At the end of the week, put away that group and get another one out for the next week.
Preschoolers may never give up the occasional mess-making spree, but with these tips you can teach your child good lifelong habits and create the desire for tidiness within your child.
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4/30/2004 11:08:49 AM