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Teaching Your Child to Clean!

By Pamela Harris

When you call 911 because there is a distinct and suspicious odor in the neighborhood and the culprit turns out to be two pairs of sneakers, three pairs of underwear and a dozen or more hotdog remnants of unknown origin and vintage found under your child's bed, it's past time to get your child's room organized!

When your child has gotten lost for hours in the mounds of clutter trying to find his way from the bed to the door, it's past time to teach your child to organize himself! But if you haven't reached that stage yet, there is still hope!

Here are some tips to help you teach your children neatness and organization:

1. Your child learns by example. If the only clear area of your home is the path from the sofa to the television to the refrigerator and back, then it's time to commit to organizing your home! Make the process a family project so that your children can learn that everyone must pitch in to keep the home tidy.

2. Establish a routine and stick with it! Teach your child that beds are made and toys are picked up every day. It is easier for a child to clean a room a little every day, rather than be faced with a huge mess all at once.

3. Provide plenty of storage - shelves, plastic storage containers, hampers, etc. Create a special storage area out of a plastic storage unit made for storing garden tools. Attach laundry bags in colorful colors to the hooks meant for rakes and shovels. Spray paint the unit in a cheerful color to match the room. Voila! A fun storage area!

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4. Reward your child's cleaning and organizing efforts with fun! Make a checklist of tasks with a reward when the tasks are completed such as permission to watch a favorite show, time to play a favorite computer game, a special story time with you or staying up an hour past bedtime. Simple rewards such as these will provide an incentive to keep up the good work! Make a game of cleaning! This works especially well with young children. A game of "Pick Up" to see which of you can pick up more clothes within a certain time limit or a game of "Hide the Clothes in the Hamper" will make cleaning more fun!

5. Be specific. Telling a child to "clean that room" can set the stage for failure and frustration. The task may seem overwhelming! But telling your child to pick up the clothes which are on the floor allows your child to focus in on a specific, achievable task.

6. Limit the amount of "stuff" your child has. Once a month, go through your child's room together and give toys and clothes that have been outgrown and are no longer needed to those less fortunate. Not only will your child's room stay cleaner, but they will learn a valuable lesson in sharing and giving.

Although you may think it inevitable, the process of keeping your child's bedroom clean need not be a war! If you are consistent with the rules, your child will learn what is expected and do it (eventually!). If you are inconsistent, you have already lost the battle! Better stock up on flashlights and compasses in case you need to find your way to their closet!

© Pamela Cole Harris


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