Last Updated on February 14, 2021 by Katie Barton
Every day you come home from work, take a look around, and you see it – wrappers on the table, coats, and shoes thrown around, dirty clothes laying on the floor, and kids who don’t seem to notice any of it.
So frustrating. I get it. I’ve totally been there.
You want to relax and spend time with the family, but instead, you’re picking up after your kids.
There is a better way, I promise.
Your kids CAN help out around the house, and it doesn’t have to lead to a full-on war.
One of the best strategies for having kids clean up after themselves is to start them young. But if you’re like me and didn’t do that, then you have some catching up to do.
Here’s how to get your kids to clean up after themselves for good.
How to Get Your Kids to Clean Up After Themselves: Start with the Basics
One way to ensure that your kids NEVER learn to help out around the house is to overwhelm them. I’m guessing there’s a laundry list of things that your kids need to improve on. Trust me; I get it! But if you give them too much too fast, it just will not work.
Start with the basics, get those down, add on from there.
Here are some things to start with:
- Throw away your own trash
- Pick up your toys
- Hang up your own coat and bookbag
- Clear the dirty clothes out of your room
Whatever is driving you the craziest, even if it seems small, that’s where you should start. For me, this was the constant straw wrappers that laid on the floor every time a kid got a juice box.
My kids were required to pick up all of their trash, put away their shoes, coats, and bookbags when they got home, and put their dirty laundry in a hamper. None of this is hard at all. BUT I had been doing all of this for them for so long that it took some time for them to make these tasks a habit.
Make it Empowering (A.K.A. Encourage instead of Nag)
If I’ve learned one thing with my girls, it’s that they don’t respond well to yelling and nagging.
The key is to make a kid feel empowered rather than bossed around. When you ask your child to do the agreed-upon chores, don’t yell, don’t nag. Ask them to do it and if they refuse, keep your cool.
Calmly tell them they can’t watch TV/use electronics until their chores are done and stick with it! Do NOT give in. (If they’re not into TV or electronics, then take something else away.)
If your child doesn’t put a fight and gladly takes on his/her new chores, give some praise. Make them feel good about what they’ve done.
Positive reinforcement and consistency is what you’re going to need.
Let’s harp on consistency one more time. If you don’t consistently reinforce the rules, this will never work. It would help if you stayed consistent for at least a month.
Add More After a Month
It takes a minimum of 21 days to create a new habit. Once your kids have the basics conquered and habitualized, it’s time to add a bit more responsibility.
Of course, the chores you have your kids do will depend upon their age. Here are some ideas for more tasks to have them help with:
- Make their bed every morning.
- Unload the dishwasher
- Fold the laundry (or do their own laundry depending on age)
- Vacuum and Mop
- Take out the trash
- Wipe down the counters
Again, it’s important not to overload them. Pick a couple of things that would make the most impact and work on them until they become a habit.
After that, you can keep repeating the same steps.
Habits are Where It’s At!
Your end goal is for your kids to create habits. Habits work on autopilot – they are the things you do without even realizing you’re doing them, like brushing your teeth or taking a shower. You don’t think about it – you do it.
Cleaning can be the same. If you’re willing to start slowly and keep reinforcing these habits, they’ll become as natural as breathing.
Stay consistent. You got this. And so do your kids!
Katie Barton is the owner of Cabin Lane. She's also a home improvement writer for Bob Vila and Homedit. Her cleaning and organizing advice has been featured on Realtor.com, Yahoo News, GoBankingRates, and more. In her spare time, you can find her with a paintbrush in hand, searching for her next project.