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#1 of 11 Old 08-20-2014, 02:58 PM - Thread Starter
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gentle discipline and cleaning up toys

I'm at my wits ends with my 6 1/2 year old and 4 year old sons and picking up their toys (and shoes, and clothes and, and, and).

We've weeded out, we've done chore charts, we've weeded out some more etc. Nothing is working.

I keep searching gentle discipline blogs, books, pages etc. and the main thing I keep finding is to help them pick up. We've tried this but to make ends meet I now have 3 jobs (full-time babysitting a baby in addition to my 3 kids, 2 part time ministry jobs) plus an etsy store in addition to homeschooling the boys, DH has 1 full time job and an 1 1/2 minimum commute. There is simply not enough hours in the day to do everything we need to do and help them pick up as well. This is our constant fight, battle and strife in our house. Help Please!!!!
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#2 of 11 Old 08-20-2014, 03:36 PM
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I have the same issue with my 7yr old daughter and 4 yr old son... I feel like I have tried everything.... So they have these great short chapter books called The Magic Tree House; it takes about 3-4 minutes maybe to read a chapter. When it is time to clean up or I notice a little mess I tell them to each clean up 20 toys or items that are out of place and I will read them a chapter. They are more than eager to clean up because they get a chapter and want to see what happens next. The books are very exciting and adventurous and every library has them guaranteed! It is also nice because I don't have to drop what I'm doing to "help" them clean up. When I help it is usually me cleaning, them watching, and me reminding them to help... ugh

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#3 of 11 Old 08-21-2014, 09:22 AM
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Have you tried the book Kazdin Method?:
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#4 of 11 Old 08-21-2014, 10:50 AM
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Some things that have helped around here:

Make sure everything has a place, a bin, a shelf, SOMETHING, and that it's easily accessible. I don't care if things go in a specific spot but we do need to have enough spots, bins, buckets, shelves, or whatever for all the stuff. I know from cleaning up that it's miserable to try to tidy up and not have an "away" to put things.

Don't let the mess get too big. I usually call clean up time once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once before bed (this is summer time, when I have my daughter and niece). If I notice that the mess is getting big, I tell them it's time to clean up. Sometimes if you go too long without clearing up, the task really just becomes overwhelming.

Set a timer. Two kids can get a lot done in fifteen minutes. You can go a couple of ways after that - if they are dragging their feet, I tell them anything not picked up is mine and it's going in the garage for a while because clearly they have more stuff than they can manage. Or if they're working hard and they just can't finish in fifteen, take a break, try again. I never had to take anything away. My daughter and niece were so impressed with how much they could do in fifteen, they started trying to beat the timer. Every time they beat the timer, I gave them pennies for our gumball machine. They would get one piece of gum, chew it for like seven seconds, and spit it out but it was and still is the best! treat! evah!

IMO, refusing to help means no toys for your. You work too hard, your husband works too hard, you don't need to do things for your children that they can do themselves. We are all part of a family, we all do our part to make the family work.

We are also pretty hardcore about routines. When you eat, you put your things away and you only eat at the table. Shoes come off and go in a bin by the door. Clothes always go into the hamper and there are clothes hampers in the bedrooms and towel hampers in the bathrooms. It's just so much easier to do things the same way every time and as you go instead of waiting until there's a mess.

I can't keep up with charts and stickers and rewards (except the gumballs and they came up with that without me) but I can give reminders about putting dishes in the sink and shoes by the door and it pretty quickly becomes habit and I don't have to worry about it.
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#5 of 11 Old 08-21-2014, 11:53 AM
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Everything has a place then it's easier to clean up - we've have a set bin or basket for legos, wood blocks, cars, disney characters, little name it, it has a designated bin. If DD doesn't want to help clean up, I give her a reminder that what I clean becomes mine, and if she doesn't help it goes away. My closets always have various items that she's lost privileges to. If she doesn't ask for them back (forgets about them) I may donate them. Other times I use their return as a reward for cleaning up without me having to ask.
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#6 of 11 Old 08-22-2014, 12:48 PM
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It sounds from your post that the bigger issue is being overburdened, and the constant mess is a trigger for you. It's hard to find enough time in the day with just one job! It doesn't sound like hiring a helper is an option, but maybe finding a middle-schooler or high schooler who is willing to come do some chores and play with the kids for very little money or free snacks or something would help relieve some of the burden. A few bucks can be a big deal to a twelve year old.

But as far as cleaning, I agree with what the others have said - being hyper organized helps a ton, drastically reducing the amount of toys and clutter is KEY (this means different things to different people - for us it means we have virtually no toys at all because DS plays almost 100% by jumping and climbing, not with toys. Our couch cushions get the most play use out of anything we own, along with the trapeze we hung from the ceiling and the trampoline).

Also, even though DS is younger, something I picked up from How To Talk So Kids Will Listen is using ONE word to make a request and then going about my business assuming that he's going to do it, rather than nagging him and telling him over and over and waiting to watch him do it. So after we eat I point to his dish and say, "Sink." If he tried to hand me a piece of garbage just I point to the trash can. If he drops a shirt on the floor I get his attention and say, "basket." He responds to this SO MUCH BETTER than if I were to say, "clothes go in the hamper, not the floor," or, "please put that in the hamper, we don't drop clothes on the floor."

The reason behind using one word and then assuming they'll comply is that the subtext is, "I know you know what to do, so go do it."

They might be old enough to have a one-word reminder to tidy up everything, and I would incorporate it into a daily routine, so a few predictable times a day they get their "cue" to tidy up. And I'd break it down for them into steps - "tidy up" means first put balls in the ball basket, then put puzzles away, etc.

It's also worth mentioning that even though you're short on time, they'll be more likely to comply when they feel connected to you, so taking those few minutes wherever you can to set everything aside and just play with them with your undivided attention will give you a lot more cooperation later on.

Living and loving in ATX with DH (of 7 years) and DS (3.5)
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#7 of 11 Old 08-24-2014, 10:15 AM
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We have a puppy. He chews up anything left on the floor. This has been a pretty big motivator for my kids/husband to pick their stuff up off of the living room floor. They'll even pick up after each other.

We have a different standard of cleanliness for their bedrooms. They get cleaned about once a month. The door remains shut to keep the puppy out.

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#8 of 11 Old 08-28-2014, 04:16 AM
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That's one of parents' dilemma with kids. With my experience, I have to help them keep their toys and clean their mess and do it in a creative way like singing while keeping the toys so they would enjoy the it and do it by their self next time.

My love for children has seen me featured in many education and children websites, whether talking about healthy snacks, motivating students or children's fashion at Bonza Brats. I love reading books, and shopping is my way of spending time with my young family. If you would like to catch me, you can via Google+ or Twitter: @HollyEasterby
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#9 of 11 Old 09-08-2014, 09:46 AM
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Have you tried having a family meeting where each person presents his/her concerns and then you brainstorm solutions? Here's how my mom got me to put away my shoes when I was 6.

I relate very much to your problem. Starting when my son was 2, he and I were out of the house for many hours a week, as I increased my working hours and his attending preschool increased our commute time, and meanwhile he was developing tendencies to adopt various ordinary objects (often things other people were discarding) as toys and to play in ways that involved arranging objects over a large area of floor. He still has these tendencies, and the clutter was a nightmare until we finally found several at-least-somewhat effective approaches:

1. Provide kid-friendly storage, using containers that are easy to tell apart. We got one of those grids of shelves with the fabric cube drawers, each cube a different color, and had him decide what kind of toys go in each cube. Also, for some of his toys that have a lot of pieces (like the wooden train and its tracks) we use fabric drawstring bags that sheet sets came in; we can hand him the bag and say, "Pick up all the train parts."

2. Take 5 minutes after he's in bed to confiscate the objects that are bothering you most. I'm often surprised at how much better I feel after getting to choose what will make the biggest difference to me and converting that mess into a clean space! For a while we used a Treasure Chest system in which we rewarded a day of good behavior by letting him choose what to reclaim from the box of confiscated toys. Mostly we've just waited for him to notice it's missing and ask for it, at which point we talk about the need to pick it up when you're done before we give it back...and if it's persistently left out, or he never notices it's gone, it gets given away.

3. Make specific requests instead of just telling him to "clean up". Again, getting to choose what area will make the most difference to my sense of peace helps me feel better. For me and my kid, "Put away everything on that table" works much much better than "Put away stuff for 15 minutes" or "Put away 15 things"--he will work slowly or find the tiniest possible objects to put away, and that's really irritating!

4. Set an example: When I am picking up something of mine, I kind of think out loud about how I approach the pile, decide where to start, sort into categories, find appropriate containers....

5.Give him responsibility for cleaning a surface and explain that the first step is putting away everything on the surface. My son likes to clean the tabletop. In order to do it, he needs to put away the clutter he's left on the table. We've had to insist repeatedly that it's not okay to move it to his chair and then put it back on the clean table--he has to actually put it away.

6. Use a token or sticker-chart system to reward him for the times he cleans up the first time we ask. Not only does this reinforce positive behavior for him, but it shows us that he's not as bad as we thought--the times he did what we asked become more memorable.

For us, the "help him pick up" approach has gotten less and less effective because we have the kind of kid who loves to debate and argue and order us around. When we are already stressed by the mess, pressed for time, and annoyed with him for making such a mess in the first place, "NO Mama, put the square blocks at that end of the box and only rectangles over here!" is just infuriating. I guess fundamentally, we don't want to help him pick up; we want him to help us by picking up, and we resent feeling like we're helping him and thus at the mercy of his ideas about how to do it (which are almost always inefficient, taking longer to get things less clean). So I totally understand why you're feeling you don't have time for that!

I hope some of these ideas help. Good luck!

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Last edited by EnviroBecca; 09-08-2014 at 09:49 AM. Reason: Numbered List feature didn't work--had to number the items and put in line breaks by hand.
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#10 of 11 Old 09-21-2014, 07:05 AM
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great,he needs to put away the clutter he's left on the table. We've had to insist repeatedly that it's not okay to move it to his chair and then put it back on the clean table--he has to actually put it away.thanks
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#11 of 11 Old 09-23-2014, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by EnviroBecca View Post
3. Make specific requests instead of just telling him to "clean up". Again, getting to choose what area will make the most difference to my sense of peace helps me feel better. For me and my kid, "Put away everything on that table" works much much better than "Put away stuff for 15 minutes" or "Put away 15 things"--he will work slowly or find the tiniest possible objects to put away, and that's really irritating!
This was the thing that made the biggest difference for me. When my son was little, he didn't want to put things away AT ALL. Then, when he got older, he was willing but didn't know what to do. The more specific the directions, the less he had to worry that he was doing it wrong and the more quickly and efficiently he accomplished the task.

It's also true that I'm more organized now and I know where things go, so I can tell him. That was another thing EnviroBecca said that I like.

If one of the issues is that he won't pick up because he's "still playing," take a photo with your phone. Works in an emergency.

Divorced mom of one awesome boy born 2-3-2003.
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