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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a newly 1 year old and 3 year old. They are both awesome fantastic children. They are also very messy. Today the older one wanted some tortilla chips so he went and got the bag, brought it to the living room, and ate some. Many were falling on the floor. Then he put the bag down and the 1 year old picked it up and started dumping the little crumbs everywhere. The older one started stepping on them, causing them to get further embedded into the carpet. On its own the mess doesn't bother me since i know it can be rather easily cleaned once they're in bed. But, as they get older i noticed i'm starting to get more stressed when they make large messes like this, i think because i'm worried that i'm doing wrong by them by not teaching them to do that sort of stuff. You know, you can't just go around in life making messes expecting others to pick it up. I'm worried that i'm not teaching them the right thing by letting them do this. What do you think? At what age should i start worrying about this? I don't want my children to have no social skills, but at the same time i don't want to expect more than they can give for their ages.

Thank you!!
 

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I think at that age it's reasonable to have some guidelines like

- a small amount of chips in a bowl rather than eating from the bag (fewer to spill, refill the bowl as needed)

- no food in the lounge room or only certain foods or only sitting at the coffee table or whatever.

Next week my kids will be 5 and 2.5 and they cope with those sorts of rules. They need to be reminded and they need help with preparing some things but they go along with it without too much drama. They don't really have any concept yet of not needlessly or thoughtlessly creating work for others, which I think *is* beyond them at this stage but I keep the discussion going and we battle on :)



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Agree with PP. If you start now, it will just be their normal. I get hugely stressed out by huge messes, so I have to use a mix of pre-setting boundaries and REALLY talking myself through to let the kids be kids.
 

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I think @katelove had some great ideas. I also think that they can start helping clean up after themselves. We have a little handheld vacuum and my son loves vacuums. When he makes a mess, we clean it up together. If he spills milk, he can wipe it with a towel. He's not coordinated enough yet to do it all by himself, but I help.
 

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I second the bowls, & location limits but clean up help starts the moment they have mobility in our house. If they pee on the floor they can run to grab a diaper to soak up mess. They can go grab a towel to wipe up spilled water. They help pick up spilled food & put it back in the bowl. Initially, around 9 months, I guide their hands to put their toys back into the box, clap & make a big deal of their accomplishment. They feel pretty proud & seek out that reaction from mama.
They are NOT responsible for perfection, but once they acknowledge that there is a mess they need to participate in the cleaning up. I don't even make it be exclusively about their mess. We're a large family & everyone serves/ cleans up after each other.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks, we haven't been too into the helping yet but i've heard that's a really good way to go. We're trying. Another issue is that we don't punish at all. Once i realized my nanny was using time outs we started trying that but she left and then i forgot about them so that was only for around 3 weeks. I guess i just talk a lot and hope that'll work, but often it doesn't. The past couple of days ds has been a little monster, crying non stop when he doesn't get his way. I just don't know what to do! It doesn't seem fair to the rest of us that he "highjacks" the situations like that, but what can i do. This morning i got so overwhelmed i picked him up and put him in his room for a couple of minutes to cool down, which did seem to help. I grew up with my mom *constantly* yelling - and i mean constant - she was very mean. So i guess i just naturally try to do the opposite, but i do need to have some boundaries!
 

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Honestly, boundaries prevent yelling by keeping you from ever reaching your limit. There are days when I'm just grumpy and forget to set boundaries, so instead I just find myself barking at my DD over everything. Her behavior gets worse. At some point I remember that I can just set a clear expectation and follow through immediately. It's magnificent. My DD always seems relieved.
 

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You're wise to start working on this now! All but the most tidy and attentive kids take a long time to learn mess control. If they get used to spending every day in a gradually messier space, which magically gets clean again when they're not around, it will be very hard to get them to learn neater habits later.

Another good reason to put the snack into a bowl rather than eating from the bag is that it fosters awareness of how much you are eating, and experience with that eventually leads to reasonable portion control for preventing weight gain and food waste. (I mean, it isn't automatic to learn not to serve yourself too many calories of a food you could eat without getting too full--but if you are accustomed to setting your portions and then you are unhappy with your weight and want to eat less, it's easier to serve yourself less or use a smaller bowl than to break the habit of eating from the package at that time.)

About setting boundaries and what to do if they're crossed: It works best for me if I speak up about something when it first starts to bother me, instead of waiting until I'm mad. I state the boundary clearly. If the child ignores me, or complies but then starts testing the limit, it's time for a consequence, which usually involves taking away the thing that is being used incorrectly. If he protests, I can explain what was wrong and what would be right, then offer a second chance.

For the example with the chips: "Wait! If you want to eat chips, serve them in a bowl. Okay, now let's close the bag. Please eat in the kitchen." If he runs off with the bag, catch up to him and take it back: "That's not the way we use a bag of chips. Do you want some in a bowl?" Fill the bowl, place it on the kitchen table, "Please stay in the kitchen while you're eating," and put away the chips out of reach.
 
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