Are your kids making a mess? Today I bring you a unique idea to help your kids understand this problem from a parent’s perspective. I’m not saying to use this technique all the time. This is one strategy of I’m sure many you will have and try to help your kids learn to better clean up after themselves. Here are some of the other strategies we use or have used: Mess Management, Saturday Bin, Strategy for Confiscated Toys, and I have unsuccessfully tried to help them learn to just take one toy out at a time, but my children play big. They set up worlds and scenes that are pretty involved. They also want to come back to those, so I don’t manage it well. I call our small landing upstairs “the wrecked room.” It is still something we are working on in this home.
It was one of THOSE days. It was a day I wondered how I had any right writing a mom blog. I yelled at my kids – ugly yelled. It was a primordial soup waiting to happen. I hadn’t slept well. I normally get a couple windows of opportunity to be by myself throughout the week, and I had a couple weeks of running crazy where I wasn’t getting down time. It was a school holiday, so the kids were home on a normal “work day” for me, where I have set aside time to blog. The week before had conferences and half days all week. The kids were disobeying, messing up the house and not listening, and I was done. I yelled at them. Got in their faces and yelled. Like I said – ugly yelled. Yes, I work on self-control with my kids and want to model it in my parenting. Yes, I try not to yell, but I did, and it was gross. Then, I went into the corner of my room, sat on the ground, cried and prayed.
I would love to say that a good cry and prayer time just made it all better, but the truth is I just survived until my husband came home. I didn’t yell anymore, but I didn’t engage much. I can’t imagine what I looked like to him when he came home. We had talked on the phone, so he knew I was harried, but I’m sure I looked a tad like the woman in the photo above. However, rather than wide-eyed, I am sure my eyes looked downcast, and I’m pretty sure I had noticebly physically aged in the last 10 hours. Anyone want to stop reading my mom blog because I’m so incredibly human?
My husband walked through that door, and the rest of the evening he was my hero.
A Unique Approach to Your Kids Making a Mess
We ate dinner as a family and then I started to clean up the kitchen, but he kept the kids at the table. If your kids make a mess, what do you do? We normally have them clean it up. I’ll definitely sometimes clean it up or help significantly if I think it will make life a little more pleasant around our home, but in general we like to have them take responsibility for their actions. Today, my husband approached it from a very different angle, and I was impressed.
Today he made them sit. He didn’t say a word. He just began picking up things around them. He started finding things on the floor like pencils, papers and small toys, and he picked them up, showed them to the kids and put them away. He methodically started going through the room cleaning off the table with a myriad of crumbs and food debris left from their messy eating habits. He picked up more items to put away and began sweeping. The sweep revealed all kinds of stuff just from this afternoon. I had tried to teach my oldest to eat popcorn without shoving a punch in her face, leaving bits of pieces spilling to the floor. She ignored my instructions to only take a couple pieces at a time and proceeded to leave popcorn everywhere. I told you I had checked out by then, so I didn’t even follow through with a discipline for disobeying or by making her sweep up after herself. While my husband was doing his clean up, I was doing the dishes and making lunches for the next day. The kids were sitting and watching. They don’t like to sit. They would try to stand up just to bounce a bit, and he’d have them put their bums right back on their seats. I am not sure how much time had passed, but they were bored. They wanted down. He wouldn’t allow it as he methodically continued around the house and kitchen picking up their stuff. About half way through this process he said, “Do you know why you are sitting here? We want you to realize how much time it takes mom and dad to clean up all of your messes you leave around the house. Does it feel like you are sitting here a long time? You are going to continue to sit here until things are cleaned up,” and that is what he made them do. They had to sit and watch.
It felt impactful. In the end they were begging to help. One was begging to go to bed. He wouldn’t let them. They had to sit. They had nothing to entertain them. They had nothing to do. They sat at an empty table and observed.
Only time will tell if it made an impact, but I plan to occasionally use this method in the future. They can sit. They can watch. They can do nothing but feel time pass and consider the time wasted when they choose to turner house upside-down with their messes.