What are your rules/expectations regarding cleaning up -- for your four year old? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 08-18-2007, 01:11 AM - Thread Starter
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My DS is four -- just turned four, actually. We've always had clean up routines in our house ... usually at the end of the day, we have a clean up time (with songs). In the past, we were able to make it a game with racing and timing, etc. We are always pretty appropriate about what we ask and we are still pretty specific about what we want (that is, no blanket statements about cleaning his room; instead, we say, "please put your whales back in their home" ... which is a regular, consistent place).

Now, DS doesn't fall for those games ... he says he doesn't want to race, doesn't want to clean up, etc.

I really really don't want to get into power struggles about this with DS -- especially at the end of the day when we are wanting to get into cuddly mode.

So ... I'm curious. What are your rules about toy clean up for your four year old? How much do you help? Do they clean up throughout the day? After each toy? What if they don't help clean up? Natural consequences (i.e. can't find toy again?; fall b/c toys on floor) Logical consequence (take away toy if can't clean up properly?) ... what do you do?

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#2 of 11 Old 08-18-2007, 06:55 AM
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Well, this answer may be a bit of "power struggle" suggestion. We simply have the rule that nothing else can be taken out to play with until the first thing is put away. I also lead by example... I don't take a bunch of stuff out and leave it laying around, either. For example, if I'm cooking, I don't move on to something else until the mess is cleaned up. I remind dd that I have to do the same thing, as does everyone else in the house. But the "one thing at a time" has worked well for us and I've actually been able to keep my house very neat and tidy, even during the toddler years (dd is 5 now).

I don't suggest this, but I have actually taken away toys if they were consistently left lying around. I did it because I was mad, not because I was thinking rationally at the time. :
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#3 of 11 Old 08-18-2007, 09:50 AM
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My boys are 4.5 and 2. We don't clean up after using each and every toy. During the day, we clean up according to need - like if the living room is just trashed to the point of not being able to see anything, we'll "reset" the room in the middle of the day. We always pick up at the end of the day, but who does it varies. I don't have any rule about picking up one toy before playing with another, I don't have a good reason to set a rule like that and sometimes toys can be mixed in new and interesting ways. We often pick up so that we have a clear space to do something else, though.

Some things that help to get cleaning up under way here:

- first/then: have an activity that we will do after the room is cleaned up. "Let's make lunch after we clean up the living room" or "ooh, a puzzle. Let's pick up some of these toys so we have more space to build it."

- working together: cleaning up a mess alone can be overwhelming to anybody. Working together goes more quickly, provides companionship, and we can keep each other on track or look for missing items together.

- picking jobs: "I'm going to pick up all the dress-up clothes. Which thing will you choose to pick up?"

- fun: we have a variety of clean-up songs, sometimes make things into games or competitions. This isn't always interesting to everybody. If it's not working for you right now, take a break, but it might work again in the future.

- a place for everything: we have lots of shelves and bins and while it's not a rigid organizational system, there's a certain box for toy cars, a basket we always use for hand puppets, etc. Returning things to their place every day has built a sense of organization. My 2 y/o has started picking things up on his own and putting them in their bin/shelf lately.

- natural consequences of cleaning: we often stand back to admire the clean open space we've created, or say how happy we are to have a clear coffee table to build a puzzle, or how nice it was to find the missing piece of tinker toy, etc.

- timing: sometimes the time when *I* want to clean up is arbitrary. If the kids don't want to pick up then, I need to step back and ask myself if it's truly important to clean up right that moment, or if we can wait.

- who is responsible for the job? Sometimes the kids pick up, sometimes we all pick up together, sometimes DH and I pick up. I try not to make it a battle or have hard and fast rules, but just emphasize that we all do work to keep our home neat and take care of our belongings. Sometimes I pick up after my husband. Sometimes he picks up after me. The "you made the mess, you pick it up" thing doesn't really seem to apply to adults, so I don't see a need to apply it 100% of the time to kids.

So far I haven't dealt with an absolute refusal to help clean. If that were happening, I'd have to do a lot of thinking about why my child was choosing not to help. Is there something frustrating him? Does he just not want to clean up right that moment?

may my heart always be open to little birds who are the secrets of living whatever they sing is better than to know  - e.e. cummings
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#4 of 11 Old 08-18-2007, 02:40 PM
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I have 4 children, they all have chores.

Everyone: their bedrooms & tidy up bathroom, after a bath.

4 yr old.
tidy up dinning room & stairs, feed the dog

6 yr old
tidy up living room & hallways, feed the rabbit

8 yr old.
dishes & putting away laundry (washes the odd load too)

11 yr old.
(joint custody, we have her every other week)
cleaning bedrooms, washing laundry,

cleaning. laundry

meals, groceries, monthly de-clutter, laundry

What works about this is I can see who did & didn't do there chores, & disipline appropriatly.

Oh the guys do the bathroom together.
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#5 of 11 Old 08-18-2007, 03:57 PM
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The logical consequence for not cleaning up stuff when asked is that dh or I cleans it up and chooses where to put it. That might be on a shelf that is out of ds's reach, or it may just mean he can't find it when he needs it bc it's not in the place HE likes it.

We also do not require him to keep his room tidy, just shared space. His room can have toys on the floor as long as there is a safe path from the bed to the door for me to walk on. We periodically help him clean up his room, usually when he has friends coming over. We save the regular challenge for common spaces.
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#6 of 11 Old 08-18-2007, 06:42 PM
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My daughter is 4 yrs 3 months, but has some developmental delays with her motor skills and a few other things. Plus I am not a great housekeeper myself so take the following with those caveats.

I don't have any required chores for her. And we don't pick up the toys every day. We usually will get them picked up every other day, but not always. When it's time to pick up the toys I just doing it and I ask her to help me. Usually she is more than willing, but sometimes lately has decided to say "no." When that happens I explain to her that if the toys aren't picked up then they may not be available for play when she nexts wants them. She will usually start to help after that. I give her very specific things to pick up and put away and that works well for her. I always make sure to mention how much more quickly cleaning goes when we work as a team and how I appreciate her help with it.

The one thing I do insist is put away immediately is puzzles so no pieces are lost. With that either I tell her to put one away before another is allowed out or we have several puzzles at the end and we divide up who will put away which puzzles.

Otherwise I go with where she wants to help. She loves to feed the dog so she feeds him dinner. I tell her when it's time and remind her how much as she would love to just give him his whole box of food. She also likes to help set the table so I get out the dishes and hand them to her one plate at a time and she will take them in. It actually takes longer than if I were to just carry them in and set the table, but I like to encourage her thought to do it. She likes to "help" dust also so when I'm dusting I will give her a dust cloth also and she goes around a wipes up stuff.
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#7 of 11 Old 08-18-2007, 07:53 PM
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I think I missed the part about what if they don't want to.

If my children don't want to, well tough luck, cause they are not doing anything else until they complete what I said to do in the first place & since if you don't listen to me you earn additional chores, the list of chores will only get longer, so they do it.
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#8 of 11 Old 08-18-2007, 08:30 PM
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Honestly, we do not have any rules. The house is clean every night. Many nights, I will just start putting things away and dd follows. Other nights, I come out of the kitchen from doing dishes to find dd beaming and everything put away. And other nights, dd goes to bed and we clean afterwards. I have been tempted to use games, come up with rules, or push dd into cleaning up, but I find that just doing what needs to be done usually results in her following or simply doing it herself without prompting.

I have made sure that it is very very easy for dd to clean up. We have very little clutter. Dd's toys are usually rotated so there is not much even if every single thing is out. She has low bookshelves for books and games and easy-to-use bins for toys. If I notice that she has left something out that could get ruined, lost, or dirty, I might point it out to her. If she still decides not to deal with it, I might put it away myself if I have the time. I might add that she does the same for me like the time I left my knitting out and our new kitten got a little too curious.

I remember years and years of being nagged to death by my parents to clean up. I HATED being told to do it. I was the messiest child EVER. My mom is now shocked that I am actually a very neat (bordering on too neat) person who just happens to hate being nagged. Who knew?
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#9 of 11 Old 08-18-2007, 11:21 PM
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If my children don't want to, well tough luck, cause they are not doing anything else until they complete what I said to do in the first place & since if you don't listen to me you earn additional chores, the list of chores will only get longer, so they do it.

Every couple of hours I set the timer for 15 minutes and in that time we all race to put things away.
they can retake stuff out but you can't call, "I'm still playing with that" during the time b/c then nothing would get put away.

The less help I get the less I can actually sit and play with them or read...and I tell them that. The work has to get done and it will done much faster if everyone pitches in.

The first rule of homeschooling: water the plants! :
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#10 of 11 Old 08-19-2007, 04:09 PM
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We just went through this, as a matter of fact. My DD's room was literally wall to wall with toys strewn everywhere, to the point where she couldn't even find her favorites. All of us got together and thinned out the herd. Anything that was broken or missing pieces was gone. The same went for toys that were too young for her. She now has a few toys that can be used for multiple games that have all of their pieces and she can clean up after herself, because now she's not so overwhelmed by the amount of toys. As far as the getting her to clean up, she has seen us all clean up and actually helps out in her own space, because she likes it neat. She can find her toys that way! It takes a bit of practice, but enlisting help from everyone and having a group straightening up time helps, so that everyone is working, not just your child.
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#11 of 11 Old 08-19-2007, 08:07 PM
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I am really struggling with this right now. My 4 year old is a one-man-wrecking-ball and I just can't keep up with him. And he is spirited, to put it mildly and just won't clean up his stuff. Period. It's a constant struggle. I do expect him to clean up his stuff, but he doesn't do it. So I end up doing it and getting frustrated with him.
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