Picture the scene… you walk into the room and WHAT THE HECK?
Did Toys R Us vomit all over the floor?
Yes, we have all been there. For some this will be a daily occurrence for others it happens just once in a while.
And then the following goes down:
Mom: Right then, you have 10 minutes to tidy up.
Kid: Blank Stare
Mom: Come on, chop, chop, get on with it. You made the mess you can tidy it up…
Kid: Blank Stare (but in their head) “What the actual… she really expects me to do this, look at it, there is SO MUCH STUFF, Lego and dolls and play food and trucks and trains set and oh look there is my ball. So much stuff, so much stuff, so much stuff, where to start, what do I do, I can’t do it, it’s too much, it’s too difficult and…”
Oh yes. And if this happens every night it can make parenting feel like the worst job in the world.
One word can explain what is going on in those little brains…
Kids can’t explain that is what’s going on because they don’t understand themselves. Often parents don’t realise that is what’s going on and can’t understand why the kids can’t just pick up the stuff and put it away.
Just think about when you are faced with a big job, one that you have zero training in and someone tells you to get it done. There are a handful of people who have the type of brain that allows them to take a deep breath and dive straight in and then there is the rest of us.
That old cliche of taking the first step and just get started is so handy here because it’s so true. But if you are that overwhelmed paralysis then sets in and taking that first step becomes impossible.
So, back to the kids, here’s what you can do to enable them to take the first step.
Give them a direction. Pick up the cars, put away anything red first, let’s tidy up this section of the room first.
Break it down into kaizen style baby-steps.
Some kids will go with this others you might meet some resistance. For those that dig in their heels, give them the power with this neat trick… a choice!
- Do you want to put away the Lego or the train set?
- Which do you want to do, the blue toys or the yellow toys?
- Where shall we start? Over here or over there?
Nine times out of ten, giving the child the power of choice will diffuse the battle and you can move forward.
Choose Your Battles
There are going to be days when you are going to get a point blank no and a complete refusal to do anything. It happens. Those days I would say, is it worth getting into a battle over? Is the child over-tired, feeling under the weather? There may be many reasons why he or she could just be pushing your buttons. It’s impossible to give blanket advice without knowing the child but here are a few scripts to try:
Are you tired? Me too, could you put this one thing away and I will help you and do the rest.
Are you sleepy? I thought so, it’s been a busy day, how about you just put the *thing* next to you away and I will put this away then we can take a break.
Do you want to play outside/go to the park…? Yes! Well, we can’t leave the room like this, and we’ll be tired when we get in so let’s tidy up as quickly as possible, once it is tidy we can go.
But Tidying Up Is So B-O-R-I-N-G
Yes, it is, there are a thousand and one things I would rather do than clean up! But it has to be done so how can we make it more fun… Cue the music…
No seriously, cue the music. Music can make ALL THE DIFFERENCE and there are scientific reasons why adding music to the mix works.
It’s in everyone’s best interest if cleaning up is as EASY, QUICK and PAINLESS as possible, I think even the kids would agree with that. So how do we do it?
First of all, clean up is going to be so much easier if everything has a home. A box for Lego, a box for cars, a box for dress-up etc. A home for everything and everything in its home is vital to having a home that works for you, not against you. This is something we cover in Clear The Clutter, you can’t put something away if it doesn’t have anywhere to live!
Why do we need to add music?
Music stimulates emotions through our brain circuits, you will have your own personal playlist of songs that make you feel happy or sad or excited or angry, depending on the track and the association you have with it. Think about the track that you played all the time when you first met and fell in love or that high school anthem you’d sing in front of the mirror with your friends.
As we listen to music, our emotions are peaked and our dopamine (which functions as a neurotransmitter) heightens making us feel good!
One of the other things that music does is make us move our bodies and often sing along too; when that happens our body then releases the love hormone Oxytocin.
Basically playing music and moving when you listen to it is going to make you feel good! And it’s hard to fight it! Isn’t that better than a full out family battle? Of course, it is and you probably burn more calories too – but don’t quote me on that!
Bonus Point: Petr Janata of the University of California discovered that there are parts of the brain associates memories and music, his work is with Alzheimer disease and how music helps trigger memories but we can use it to trigger the cue to tidy up if we use the same music each day. Often schools employ this technique to signal the end of play time or the start of the next lessons etc.
And there is more, will this goodness ever end?
Music can also help with our attention span. There are all kinds of musical tracks that we can listen to help us be more productive but how does it help clear up all the toys? You could just set a timer for 5 minutes but then there is a chance that after a couple of minutes the child’s focus goes from tidying back to playing. Having the music in the background makes the difference, it is there to act as a constant reminder!
What kind of music works best?
Well, that depends on your kids really, you definitely want something upbeat and fast in tempo! I’m not a Disney fan but if your kids are and there is a great upbeat song that they can sing and tidy along to, they whack that on. If your kids love Pharrell Williams then use Happy as your anthem. Or find 2 or 3 songs and put them into a cleaning up playlist!
Make it fun, sing and dance as you clean up, kids love it when their parent goof around (until they hit the tweenage years and you are out n public, apparently that’s not cool!) who can do the funniest dance, cleaning up to the grooviest moves, clean up like a ballet dancer? it doesn’t ned to make sense, it just needs to be fun.
Not a lot of people know…
That children, toddlers especially go through a sensitive period known as the sense of order, this might sound a bit mad considering how much chaos a toddler can inflict in a room when left alone for 2 minutes.
“… nature endows a child with a sensitiveness to order. It is a kind of inner sense that distinguishes the relationships between various objects rather than the objects themselves. … Such an environment provides the foundation for an integrated life.” ~ Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood, p. 55
Maria Montessori identified several planes of development that children go through. One of those is is the sense of order, that usually happens between the ages of 6 months and 3 years old. Children at this stage naturally are curious about their environment, they are trying to make sense of their world and can get quite out of sorts if someone upsets the order. This might be you moving the furniture around or not following the “right” order for your morning routine.
The kids don’t understand exactly what it is that has got them feeling uneasy and their natural reaction is to be upset. Which is why sometimes kids seem to be throwing a tantrum for no apparent reason, it could be all down to a simple change in their environment or routine.
My mom likes to tell everyone about how upset I got as a toddler when they replaced our oven. Apparently, I sobbed and sobbed for hours saying I loved the old oven, yes and the family still get a good laugh out it. What we now know is that my sense of order has been disrupted. And I can assure you that you will never find me sobbing over a kitchen appliance these days!
How to embrace the sense of order?
If you have ever caught your child lining up their dinosaurs or putting their stuffed toys in a specific order on the bed every day, no, they are not OCD, more likely it is that you caught them in a sensitive period for the sense of order, this is a great time to introduce clean up after themselves and showing them how to help with jobs around the home.
In a Montessori home or school, everything has a home. If you have ever seen pictures of a Montessori school, it looks very organized and there is a reason for that. Montessorians know that a child’s environment is an important part of their development.
But it’s not just that, we want the kids to be independent, to take out what they want to work with and put it away by themselves, because of this the shelves are set up in a way to make it EASY for even a three-year-old to tidy up after her or himself. Using this concept at home is a no-brainer. If you want your kids to be able to tidy up by themselves then you have to make it easy for them. In Clear The Clutter we work on not only chucking the clutter out and keeping it out but think about how the home is working for you and your family.
Montessori uses what is known as a work cycle, in a nutshell: Take out a toy, play with the toy, put the toy away. You can read more about introducing your child to work cycles HERE.
Kids cleaning up after themselves, helps them to understand their environment, helps to keep your home tidy and under control, decreases the tidy up battles (because who needs them?) and free up your time!
Not sure what sort of jobs are suitable for your child?
Grab the cheat sheet and start delegating!