A mom asked how to get her kids to clean up their own messes when "they don't give a fuck." (Get the desperation?) Here's the answer summarized, short and ... well, hardcore.
- Start very young. When they're 7-years-old, you'll be happy. When they're teens, you'll be delighted.
- Remember: Parenting means “Training kids to become responsible adults and problem solvers.”
- Parenting is not fixing their problems for them (like cleaning up after them).
- Parenting is very hard work. (Remember to take a respite when you need it.)
- Don’t train them that you clean up after them. (If you’re reading this, it’s probably already too late. You think it’s just easier to do it yourself. You’re training your kids to be slobs and dependent on others. If you’re serious, Skip to 10.)
- Train them that they are included in all cleaning (except dangerous things: but they can and must watch!)
- All attempts are worthy. Praise them for every attempt, not for success.
- Expect incremental, continuous improvements. Settle for no less.
2. Make it fun: Never work or struggle. Work and struggle happen for four reasons:
- You’re in a rush.
- You are not setting the example.
- You are not explaining and teaching.
- You expect perfection.
- It’s easier to do it yourself.
3. Get rid of ALL junk.
- Have the kids put all “their stuff” on their bed. Whatever is left laying around is junk. Get rid of it NOW.
- Then, have each child hold each item on their bed to their heart. If it doesn’t feel like joy, get rid of it. You set the example. Do this as OJT (4. Below)
- If the item doesn’t feel joyful, it’s junk. Teach them to distinguish between “clinging to something to fill an empty heart” and “this makes me feel joy.”
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: https://www.amazon.com/Life-Changing-Magic-Tidying-Decluttering-Organizing/dp/1607747308/
4. OJT: On-the-Job Training (Progressive ability) Teach them HOW to create order.
- Prepare: Break all chores into simple steps: Write them down as a Master Task List.
- Each step must be so simple that success is guaranteed.
- Make a chart of the steps you are CURRENTLY training them in.
- Give lotsa praise for best efforts. (Success comes later.)
- Use rewards that they choose.
- Give rewards steadily at first, less often later, and finally intermittently.
- Make it fun, even a game.
- Demonstrate several times: Show them how to do each step.
- Assist: Do each step with them: Clean up together
- Repeat a-e over and over until they form the habit.
- Supervise them doing it: “I’m over here doing this while you’re doing that.”
- Own it. Assign it to them: “You know how to do this.”
- Return to previous steps as needed to ensure success.
- Give persistent positive feedback: Joy.
- Red Flag: If anybody feels like it’s work or a struggle, see Number Two above.
5. Teach them to tidy as they go = less mess. “Everything has a place, everything in its place. Where does that belong?” “You know what we do with junk laying around.”
6. Make tidiness a trait of your family name: “We are Smiths, and Smiths put things where they belong.” (Also, “Smiths are honest.” “We are Smiths, and Smiths are helpful/problem solvers/caring/etc.” You can make signs and hang them around your house.)
7. Be persistent. It’s okay to give up and take respite, but persistently return to the task of training kids to be responsible adults. (When they get to be teenagers, you’ll be sooo glad you did.)
8. If they’re already wild, you have to get tough: Take EVERYTHING out of their rooms, no electronics, toys or games, no privileges until they’re earned.
- Big yard bags are great for throwing stuff in.
- Do it while they’re gone one day.
- Hide where they can’t get to it, where they’ll never find it. (Rent a storage space.)
- Spell out in writing how they can earn their stuff back.
- If you compromise at all, you’ve lost not just the battle, but the war.
- At this point, it’s all or nothing. YOU – THE ADULT – HAVE TO WIN THIS, or your kids will be dependent slobs for life.
- You want to train kids to become responsible adults, not expecting others to take care of them, not believing that a mess is acceptable. Teach them tidiness (above).
- After you’ve created the blank slate, THEN go back and start again at Number One above.
- Don’t be afraid to use every trick in the book:
- Cry, tell them how sad you are because they don’t love you (as demonstrated by not helping you). It’s okay if they think they failed at this point.
- Get angry … but don’t throw a crazy fit. Make sure they know things are NOT alright. It’s okay if they think they are in trouble at this point.
- When they do what you expect, FLIP IT. Remember: Hate the mess, not the child. Love the tidy! When they do what is expected, you have to tell them how good they are. They are expressing their inner goodness by doing a good action.
- The mess doesn’t mean that they are bad kids: It means that their inner goodness is NOT getting expressed, and it looks like a mess. When their inner goodness is expressed, it looks like tidiness. Tell them that.
- Back to the top now.
Please let me know if you have something to add to this summary. Or contact me if you want to talk about it. Blessings!