Now that it’s April, spring cleaning appears to be on everyone’s minds. Well, maybe not on our children’s minds. So this week let me dust off a few tips on getting your children to clean up their rooms or do any other household chores without making a mess of the situation.
To begin with, it is important to realize that when your children help out with chores, there are benefits that extend beyond just getting a job done. Doing chores teaches a child how to contribute to a team – in this case the family – and allows them to feel valued and competent, which in turn can enhance their self-esteem.
It is best if you teach your children to clean up even as toddlers. Initially you should make it fun, or even make a game of it, such as who can put the most blocks in the bin or animals into the toy chest. This creates a routine.
Plan the clean up just before an activity your child will truly enjoy, such as going outside, so that it serves as an incentive to get the work done. Never surprise your child with a clean-up. Instead, give them a warning that it is going to happen.
Giving your child a choice of chores often makes them feel more in control of the situation. Clearly state what the chore is, and don’t give them too many tasks to do. Tell them what is expected on a daily or weekly basis and build the chore into the structure of your child and family’s day, which should include time for play, homework (if your child is old enough) and meals.
Don’t offer financial rewards for cleaning up routine things if you want your children to understand this is a necessary part of your home life and not a personal choice on their part. Praise can work a lot better to motivate your child and guarantee success.
Finally, set a good example as parents and keep your own areas of the house clean. Otherwise, your children will not want to keep theirs in order. Hopefully, tips like this will clean up any concerns you have when you want to succeed in getting your children to clean up their rooms or do other chores.
Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.