My tricks to get your kids to clean up are pretty simple and they work!
Before using these tricks cleaning time sometimes got a little frustrating (mostly for me) because I had a hard time ignoring their attitudes. I would turn into crazy general mama and let me tell you that wasn’t fun for anyone. Or sometimes they were content playing with the “new” toy they discovered in the midst of cleaning.
When they were younger I did the “clean up” song and they absolutely loved it and I was amazed with this magic the song worked but now that they are a bit older having me sing the clean up song to motivate them seems a bit ridiculous.
We’ve tried many things but these are the 4 that have stuck. I do have to rotate them throughout the year to shake things up.
My Tricks to Get Your Kids to Clean Up
First things first, let’s talk about you. You have to get over your expectations of what cleanliness should look like and adapt them to your child’s age and ability. It’s important that you are clear on what you want done and take the time to walk them through it several times. Finally, don’t let their attitudes get to you, learn to ignore the attitudes and stick to the task at hand–cleaning up.
The Song Routine (not the clean up song)
We love music in this house, I realized one day that I had gotten away from playing music probably because there was enough noise in the house and the thought of more noise in the background was overwhelming. I’m so glad I got back into playing music again because it really does wonders for our ambience and attitudes. It lightens the mood when we are cleaning and adds an ambience of fun.
You can have them race to clean up as many things in their room as they can in that one song period. This is great for little ones after they have dumped all the toys out on the floor. Or you can just have fun music going during the whole clean up time. I’ve done it both ways.
If and Then Principle or When and Then Principle
One of the many things I love doing is being a parent educator and coach. In one of the classes I teach the curriculum emphasized the “if and then” principle. I had actually been using it for years but never called it this. I called it the “sandwich principle” because I sandwiched the “routines or chores” they struggle with in between things they love doing.
This principle when used effectively is amazing!!! Here’s an example of how you will use it:
“If you get dressed, then we can go to the park.” or
“When you get dressed, then we will go to the park.”
I have gotten really good at sandwiching the tasks that are hard for my kids to accomplish with things they like. There was a time when having them get their pjs on took 30 minutes. So I would sandwich this task of getting their pjs on with something they enjoy doing.
“If you get your pj’s on quickly then we will have time to read 2 books.”
This works when you follow through. If they don’t get their pjs on then guess what? You don’t read 2 books. It also works because they have something else to look forward to in the midst of the tasks. Don’t you feel the same way as an adult? If you had to run a mile but it’s not your thing this would make all the difference. If I told you, “If you run a mile then we can get your favorite ice cream at the end of your run.”
Wouldn’t this help you look forward to the ice cream instead of focusing on the dreadful the running part?
This would go great to pair it up with the first trick I share above. Our walk through time is exactly that I have everyone in the family including the adults walk through the house before bedtime and put things back where they belong.
When they were younger they had baskets they would fill and once the basket was full they would go and put things back. Now that they are a bit older they just walk through the house and put cups in the sink, toys where they belong, wipe down counters they forgot to clean up after snack time and put jackets/shoes where they go.
Use a reward chart to get your child motivated. Now remember that reward charts are only used for a defined time in order for them to work. Also, it’s important for you to follow through with quick rewards and only focus on 1 or 2 tasks per reward chart.
We recently had a lot of changes in our home so I had to go to a chore and morning routine chart to get our kids back on track with doing their chores without me constantly reminding them. We did it for two weeks and I had my boys place a check mark next to the chores after they did them. This is all they needed to get back to our normal routine. I could’ve done rewards but because we’ve been doing this for years I knew all they needed was a reminder.
The Glue to Making the Tricks Work
The glue to making these tricks work is developing a routine.
Kids thrive on routine. Routine provides a sense of structure, security, familiarity and self-discipline. You’ll be amazed at how much kids thrive and long for this.
I know this sounds basic but if you have a certain day or time of the day that you clean up regularly your kids will come to expect it.
And in their little world this makes a BIG difference.
They may not accept it every time but they will expect it. In fact, it’s normal for them to give you some push back at the beginning but just keep with it and before you know it they will come to expect it.
Here’s the beauty of routines, once your routine is set, it is on autopilot and the need for constant willpower and motivation is no longer necessary. You eliminate the power struggle with the routine.
In our home, our clean up day is on Saturday. Our kids know that after they’ve eaten breakfast on Saturday morning it’s time to clean up because we have talked to them about our family being a team and we all need to pitch in to make our home a home.
So, on Saturday I’m not bossing them around they just know that this is what we do in this time of the day. I still get attitude here and there but when I remember to ignore it the sassy attitude we move on.
As you may have heard me say before, as a faith based family the glue to all of our “grand” parenting ideas is prayer.