Your 5-year-old refuses to pick up his room. Timeouts don’t work, and you’ve tried taking away everything he cherishes – TV, dessert, playtime. What now?
“Tokens! (Really poker chips on clearance at Target.) One token per task, or two if it’s a huge cleanup. Once five tokens are earned, my child can select something from his or her reward bag: toys and books I’ve picked up at the thrift store, clearance bin or dollar spot at Target.”
– Jennie Biggs, Chicago
“Turn cleanup into a race. Nothing motivates a young boy more than a little friendly competition!“
– Vivian Manning-Schaffel, Brooklyn, N.Y.
“I fussed and fumed at my two boys until someone said, ‘Why don’t you close the door?’ It really worked! The only rule I had was they had to get the clothes they wanted washed into their laundry basket. When their rooms got too messy for them to get around in, they picked up their stuff. At first, they complained to me about the mess. I just told them if they
wanted their rooms picked up, they would have to do it. The first couple of times I did a wash, I did not pick up the clothes that were not in the laundry baskets. When they complained, I reminded them of the rules. They learned fast.”
– Jean Rubinson, Dorchester, Mass.
I assign a specific task, such as, “Pick up all the Hot Wheels and put them in this basket.” Often when I ask my 5-year-old to clean his room, he’ll wail, “Not the whole thing!” But if I say, “All you need to do is make a pile of your books, pick up your stuffed animals and put the dirty clothes in the hamper,” he’ll often say, ”OK.” And then the room is clean.
– Lise Caldwell, Indianapolis
Anne Oxenreider, child development expert for SixtySecondParent.com, says the first step is making sure your child knows how to clean his room. “Sit him down and say, ‘I am going to show you how to clean your room,’ ” Oxenreider says. “Use eye contact, and give specific and realistic cleaning-up-your-room tasks, such as, ‘Put all your clothes in the hamper,’ and ‘Put your stuffed animals on the shelf.’ For this to work, items need a designated place.”
If that works? “Praise him with words and a loving touch.” If not, “Box up the specific item(s) that he did not take care of properly, and take them away. Make taking away the items a non-event. There should not be yelling or tears. He knew the expectation and the consequence ahead of time, and now part of what you are able to teach him is how to accept a consequence – another excellent life skill. He can earn them back by completing another cleanup task.”
Compiled by Heidi Stevens, Tribune Newspapers
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