• Op-Ed

    Helping Hands: The Importance of Cleaning Up

    Dr. Donna Housman       

    Let’s face it…life can get messy, especially at home with the kids. But it doesn’t matter whether you are a kid at heart or a kid who just wants an extra hour of play time, clean up time is important.

    Like many parents who can relate to this Wall Street Journal article, I understand that it can be frustrating & overwhelming to see your home turn into a chaotic Toys R Us on a Black Friday after a long day’s work. But you have a helper—your wide-eyed, playful child, who wants to learn.

    At the earliest age possible, try teaching your children that making a mess is easy to do, fun, and part of life, but that disorder can induce confusion and anxiety. There comes a lesson in organization, order and cleanliness—helping children develop a habit out of picking up the pieces.

    I suggest offering your child a choice. Children, understandably, resist cleaning up, because they want to play. That’s their ‘work’ if you will. But if you offer a choice, it helps the child feel more empowered, and the more control a child feels that he has, it is better for his development. You can say, “When we clean up the blocks, would you like to put them in the bucket or on the shelf?” If the child is struggling, you could say, “It seems like you’re having a hard time making a choice. I’m going to help you clean up.” That encourages modeling behaviors and a mutual understanding that clean up time is not an easy thing to do.

    These early lessons are about helping children realize that ‘clean up time’ is not just about putting their favorite toys away. Rather it’s about creating order out of disorder–skills that will eventually ease the internal confusion and frustrations that are bound to happen later in life.

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