Love and Logic
Getting Your Kid to Clean Up
Some months ago Maisy made a habit of saying “no” every time it was time to clean up. I would count to three and she still would say “no.” So I’d put her in time out. For weeks. And for weeks, while she was in time out, all the other kids cleaned up. That didn’t sit right. So I started doing some research and came up with this, and it worked! Granted, I did fill two laundry baskets of toys before she understood that her “no” was losing her all her favorite toys.
At lunch time she said no. Toys went into a laundry basket and into time out.
Before bed she said no. Toys went into another laundry basket and into time out.
The next day before lunch I counted to two and she said “yes mommy” and got to work on the mess. After she finished cleaning up all the toys I gave back all the time out toys and we celebrated!
Now all I usually have to do is ask. Sometimes I have to start counting. And then random days like today, I have to pull out the laundry basket again. But I’ve only had to pull out a laundry basket a handful of times in the last 9 months since I started this. Yes, that means Maisy has cleaned up all her toys all by herself for the last 9 months! At least, so long as I remember to ask her to clean them up before she goes to bed.
I don’t require my kids and day care kids to clean up their own toys to be lazy. No, my goal is to teach the kids responsibly and how to respect the space they play in.
You can do this too!
- She says no or does anything other than start cleaning up.
- Count 1… 2… 3…
- If you get to three, silently go get a laundry basket and start quietly putting all the toys in the basket. If your kid asks what you’re doing you say, “this is so sad but because you chose not to clean up your toys now mommy has to put them in time out.”
- Set the basket on a shelf or surface within plain sight, but out of reach. A basket with holes is more effective for this consequence because then your kid can easily see the toys they’ve lost.
- You choose when your kid may or may not be worthy to get the toys back. Maybe the punishment is a whole day. Or maybe you wait until the next time it’s time to clean up. If your kid cleans up, awesome! Give the other toys back too and celebrate with your kid. If not, silently pick up the latest batch of toys by yourself and add them to the time out hamper. Your kid may start to run out of toys before they understand what’s going on and you may have to use more than one hamper for the toys if she takes a long time to learn. But it’s worth it!
Good luck! And feel free to comment below with any questions, concerns, or even tactics of your own that have worked well 🙂