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How to get kids to clean up after themselves

My kids are messy. I hate that, but they are. My kids would much rather play with something and then leave out the mess than to clean up after themselves. But, I refuse to clean up after my kids. I'll clean up after my hubby, but not my kids. I want to encourage you to get your kids to clean up after themselves, so I've come up with six ways to do that:

1. Start young

Don't expect that asking your 12 year old to clean up after themselves and them actually doing it will happen if you've never asked them to do it before. You must start with your kiddos when they are LITTLE. As young as a year old and you can teach them to put the toys back into the bucket. It may take awhile but when you clap and cheer for them doing it, they will get an idea that it's working. As a toddler, they have to learn that when they make a big mess, they must clean it up. But, breaking it down into small areas for them to clean up will help, but still you must let them do most {if not all} of the clean up whether it's perfect or not. But, it's also not too late if you haven't been diligent in this process with your kids - but, it will take a lot more work and a lot longer to get the habit established.

2. Stay strong and be consistent

You must always make them clean up - not half the time, not most of the time. Always. It's easy to be in a hurry and want to do it quickly so it's over with. But, if you do that, they will catch on to how to get YOU to do their job. You may want it done perfectly - don't be tempted to do that. It's OK to expect them to put things back where they belong {and label easily for little ones with pictures} but don't expect perfection. You need to watch your kids - some like to bulldoze their way through toys and make a gigantic mess. If this results in an all afternoon of putting toys away, that may be fine to teach them a lesson. But, you don't want to do that everyday - so limiting their toys or even getting rid of excess toys that they really don't need would be best. Most kids have way too many toys and having that much only exasperates you and them when they take out too much - especially really little ones.

3. Remind often

My kids hear me say more than anything "you have to put that away before you play with another" - meaning if they are done playing Barbies or Legos and want to do something new like play outside, they MUST clean up what they were doing before they are allowed to do the other. If I notice they already moved on to the new activity without cleaning up the old, I call them back in immediately and they must clean up right then before they can go back to the new activity. It's tough love, but my now 13 year old rarely ever starts anything new without first cleaning up. I'll start to say it and he says "Mom, it's already cleaned up" cause they know I'm going to ask!

4. Have consequences

What if you have a messy messy one? I do - we could call this one "pig pen" {in gest} because I can literally see where they have been throughout the house. I will know they've been in the kitchen {shoes left under the table}, in the bathroom {clothes left on counter}, in the family room {socks on the floor}- you get the picture. I have consequences when this happens. You have to figure out what your consequence will be - but they must be effective consequences that will give results.

5.  Stay the course

It's not going to happen overnight. Don't expect your kids to be clean freaks in a day. It's a LONG process where you need to be consistently reminding them to pick up after themselves, have consequences, and clearly state your expectations.

6. Set the example

If you are telling your kids one thing and then do another, that's hypocritical! You and I know it - so if you expect them to clean up after themselves, you must be doing the same. Be a good example to your kids and clean up after yourself when you are doing things around the house. Your kids know when you aren't being a good example.

I'm still working on mine. But, it's happening. They understand that if they make a mess, they clean it up. I try to coach them if it's something really new to clean up or crazy to clean up. But, I step back and let them do it. I try not to get super picky, but state my realistic expectations. It's great because they hardly ever have to be told to clean up after themselves.

Has this ever been a problem area for you and your kids? Or do you have any great tip or trick that you've used to help your kids learn to clean up after themselves?

If you'd like more help with getting your kids to stay organized, go HERE and HERE for more ideas.

Happy Organizing,

Becky B, Organizing Made Fun

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