DDs are 6 and 3. We've been having big problems with picking up. When I say it's time for clean-up, I get screams, whining, excuses, lying on the floor, fighting with each other....I totally get that it isn't a fun thing to do, and that this age they will still need some help. However, I'm having trouble getting past that reaction to be playful and creative and make it work.
I'd like them to grudgingly get started, politely ask for specific help, complete specific tasks, and generally get the area noticeably cleaner (but not perfect) in a reasonable amount of time. Is this totally unrealistic?
I also get that it's not their fault I'm 7.5 months pregnant, that it's hot, that my patience is not what it could be right now, and that other people's stuff all over the floor is a trigger.
But we need something to work better.
We generally make the beds as part of the morning routine. I try to get them to pick up things when they're done with them, but in reality, unless I follow them around all day long and do half of it with/for them, it doesn't happen. They (like all children, I'm sure) can destroy a room in no time. I can vacuum in the morning and by afternoon the floor is covered. I like to do clean-up again after dinner / before bed, the rationale being that we're done with it for the day. This is when we seem to get the biggest protest -- because the mess is the biggest? It's certainly routine -- both that we're supposed to do it and that they throw a fit. I often give myself a time out because I can't help in a productive way amid said fit, and then they usually just don't do much of anything.
This is very disconnecting, and I want to be enjoying them and doing fun stuff before DD1 is in school all day long and I'm taking care of a newborn full-time.
I've also decided I need some place of my own that isn't going to get messed up by other people. I'm just not sure where this would be... For now, they're basically not allowed in our bedroom. Though that doesn't help with DH's mess..... I'd like something more useful than a storage closet! I just want a place that's predictably peaceful.
Some stuff will also definitely be going to the basement, though I'm trying not to be punitive about it. I think losing things you don't take care of is a natural consequence, but being punitive about it kind of loses the natural impact. I don't think them having their rooms however they want is a good option right now, as I'm trying to install good habits, and after just a couple of days it's really starting to be a safety issue.
Once in a while a race will help, and DD2 usually responds to counting, but I need a lot more techniques, (and patience), and I'm really just not willing to do the majority of cleaning up the things that they can take care of themselves right now.
It's my husband that I had/have help clean up after my 2 1/2 year old when I just didn't have the energy (I am 31 mths pregnant) or ability for whatever reason. I have had weeks here I had plenty of energy to do some cleaning but other times when I can barely manage a minimum. Just try to take advantage of your stronger moments and insist on help from your partner for the rest. Good luck.
Here are some awesome tips from my author friend Kathryn Kvols. I forget about some of theses sometimes I'm glad I'm posting them to help remind me.
1. Stress internal rewards.
When you do a chore share with your child how it makes you feel to get it done. For example, “My room was getting so cluttered that I was starting to feel not good about myself.” After he has heard you make several statements like this, start asking him questions that internally motivate him like, “How do you feel about your clean room?” Ask him questions that help him to look inside for the good feelings he has when he has done a job well. Versus saying “You are a good boy” which is external motivation.
Internal rewards have longer lasting effects than external rewards.
External rewards make your child dependent on the authority and create self-centered children who only do good works if there is something in it for him.
2. Emphasize the joy of doing
“I have put my all into a project. I feel like I have really accomplished something.”
“I feel like I really contributed or stretched myself or stuck through something that was not pleasant.”
3. Point out how good it feels to give 100 %.
Sometimes children do just enough to get by or do a sloppy job. When this happens, don’t do the job over for them or criticize their work, or give up on having them do chores. Instead, ask in a light tone of voice. “Did you give this project 100%?” If they say yes, challenge them to do one thing better in a light tone.
4. Teach the importance of being helpful.
Look for opportunities for your child to be helpful in their daily life. When they have been helpful, make sure to ask them how they feel rather than simply praise them. Again, it is helpful to model the behavior several times before you expect them to demonstrate the concept. Show how valuable your child’s work is to the whole family. A simple “Thank you” can mean a lot.
Don’t talk about having to do chores. Talk about having opportunities to contribute or “Household Operations!”
5. Accentuate teamwork.
A lot more can get done in a short time if everyone works together. Play a game where you set the timer on for 15 minutes, put on loud music that makes you want to dance and see how much you can get done as a family in 15 minutes. You may need to do this at several intervals a day in order to get everything done. Short segments where you make work fun makes children feel more cooperative.
6. Teach self-reliance.
When we give children chores to do, we teach them to become dependent on an authority figure. Instead, frequently ask, “What needs to be done?” Then follow their lead. This also helps them develop a sense of ownership in the care of the home. Children often become compliant or defiant when there is an authority figure. We want them to become self-reliant.
I got these from her website
she also has a new Facebook page
I do believe a 3 y.o. and a 6 y.o. should be responsible for cleaning up. This idea might be harder to implement with your 3 y.o. but the 6 y.o. should be able to catch on fairly quickly. My DD is 5 and I do the same thing with her as my Mom did with me. She is allowed to play with anything she likes but before moving on to a new activity or toy the previous items/mess must be cleaned up first. Depending on what it is I sometimes help with clean up but for the most part she is old enough to understand that if she can get everything out to make the mess she is old enough to put it away as well . I can't say it always goes smoothly without complaint but as long as you're consistent with it it might give you some relief. Good luck Mama, I hope everything works out for you!
I have a cluttery house anyway so I don't have advice on that score - I can't even clean up my own messes! However, I wonder if your nighttime cleanup routine is just too hard for little ones right before bed. I know any request I make of my 6 year old right before bed is too much for her tired emotional state and ends up in whining and moaning. Maybe try cleaning everything up first thing in the morning before you do anything else. Or if it's important to you to have a clean house before you go to bed, it might be more peaceful to just do it yourself.
I remember as a primary school-age child I had a big tea chest I used to keep my toys in. Periodically I would empty the whole thing onto the dining room floor. At then end of the day my mother, not unreasonably, would ask me to clean it up. No sorting was required. No decision making. No what goes where. Everything on the floor had to go in the one box which was right there. I found it virtually impossible to do. It just seemed insurmountable.
I think *some* kids could do it but I don't think it's a reasonable general "at this age" expectation. I think the best you can hope for is you start doing it and ask for help and they help you. Maybe you can hand the 3yo items to be put in a toy box etc.
I totally sympathise with being pregnant and at the end of your rope but I don't think you're going to win this one. I'm sorry :-(
Mother of two spectacular girls, born mid-2010 and late 2012
SAHM to 6
I fully support your compulsion to put a lot of the stuff in the basement without it being a punishment. I think that kids generally need far less in the way of toys than we think they need (the book "Simplicity Parenting" is such a phenomenal read), and it's actually beneficial for them to become deeply familiar with a small set of open-ended toys than to have a whole room chock-full of countless toys and activities.
My general advice would be to simplify as much as possible - only keep out the most beloved and oft-used toys and materials, and box everything else up. Then organize the heck out of what's left - it will be so much easier for them to manage cleaning up if there is very little clutter and everything has a very specific home. Easier for them, and easier for YOU! Because while I don't have kids that age yet, I probably agree that 6 and 3 is too young to clean up without your direct involvement.
And I know that part of the problem is that you don't feel up to making clean-up time fun and playful, but try to be aware of the fact that they will be taking their cues from you as far as how to approach the task. If you are dreading the clean-up time and would rather be doing just about anything else, then I'm sure they will too. If you go into it expecting to battle them over it, then they'll give you a battle.
Best of luck!
The list from Kathryn Kvols' website really speaks to me. It's what I aim for. I'm actually kind of embarrassed to say it's what I try to do, because I've obviously been really ineffective at it.
I try to avoid external rewards and punishments, although I know DD1 would prefer the rewards. I have used it rarely, and when DH is involved, it's what comes naturally to him. DD1 gets lots of that type of thing at school, so it is something she's used to, even when she doesn't get it at home.
Foodymama, I'm wondering how exactly you enforce putting each thing away before getting another. I try, but if they're playing in their rooms (which they're quite good at playing together and entertaining themselves, allowing me to get my own work done), they whole room can get trashed very quickly. And then we're to the overwhelming mess... Do I need to keep them in my line of sight at all times? Keep the toys inaccessible? I really do believe this, and I say it a lot, but I haven't quite figured out how to make it work.
I've thought about ditching the nighttime clean-up routine, but it seems no matter how much we do during the day, it still needs it then. And it's common for us to tackle a mess before something fun, but I guess we either don't get completely finished, or it gets messed up again.
Whether or not this is "winnable", we really need to get lots better habits.
Here's specifically what I'm seeing lately:
They are very fast at leaving a mess. They were just in and out of my room the other day and left 4 things on the floor and the screen door open (the A/C was on). They always seem to have things in their hands that just get dropped whenever they think about something else.
They are way slow about picking it up. I spent a good half hour trying to help them clean up this morning. "What do you see that needs to be done?" response -- "I'm tired", "This is boring", "my sister did it", "did you know?....", pretend not to hear me.... It's like I ask what needs to be done 3 times for each thing that actually gets done. And when something does get put away, they'll do it with their feet, or carry it with a pencil, or shut themselves in the closet each time something goes in there. Now if that makes it fun, and I wasn't in the room, I wouldn't care. But when I'm in there, it feels like a total waste of my time and drives me batty.
They don't seem to have these attention-type issues in other parts of life. DD1 is over a grade level above reading and can sit for hours with a project of her choosing. DD2 is about the same for her age. It may be just the overwhelming scope that makes it bad, but they go so fast, I haven't figured out how to avoid it. DD1's shoes end up on different LEVELS of the house somehow. I ask her where they belong, remind her they're easy to find when put away, but unless I remember to make sure she puts them away correctly every single time, who knows where they could end up.
This is what I'm working on:
The above post dealing with internal rewards, etc.
Doing shorter spurts of time to make it more manageable.
Connecting anyway. Because if I'm not using external rewards, connection is my best bet at getting them to do what I want.
Controlling what I can. (my own mess)
my attitude -- even when I'm able to be patient, I don't really have a knack for making it fun.
Enforcing the one at a time concept
Getting rid of excess stuff.
But I would really love to see better, quicker results.. :)
To me it sounds like you're in a power struggle over this issue. DDs realize that this pushes your buttons and they are going to push them! I guess I would try appealing to them for solutions. "A mess in the house makes me cranky, and it seems like when I ask you to clean up it makes you two cranky. Can you think of any solutions so we could all be less cranky?" Write everyone's ideas down and pick some to try for a week. Then come back and discuss how they worked. This is right out of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, which is a great book for these kinds of situations.
A few other ideas:
I limit the amount of toys I allow my son to play with to the number he is willing to pick up every morning right after breakfast. That can grow or shrink over time. That means I keep the vast majority of his blocks, puppets, stuffed animals, puzzles, and giant beeping plastic crap in organized bins out of his reach and he only gets one at any given point in time. I have locks and gates to keep him confined to the areas I want him and his toys to be.
I love taking him outside and to parks where he can't mess up the house. But with two little boogers, it needs to be someplace you don't have to chase after them if they run off.
I am too brain fogged right now to be learning songs and riddles to make pickup time fun, and frankly I think at ages 3 and 6 with another one on the way, now is the perfect time to intriduce chores that aren't fun but must be done. Maybe you could appoint the 6yo the "manager" and explain they need to teach the younger one to do a good job. Then, reward.
I am about 29 weeks pregnant, and I would tell you to just start taking away the toys they don't pick up and hiding them away, but that will only result in more whining. So, you either get to choose between whining or mess. I personally choose a little bit of mess.