Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Teaching to Tidy

I've always hated cleaning my room.  But it was only recently that I realized I wasn't taught how to clean my room, only that I should.  It took several years - decades, really - to develop a practical way in which I could tidy my room without getting distracted.

Over time, I learned that I had to do cleaning in stages.  If I picked something up to put it away in an otherwise messy room, I would often get tripped up and distracted by the item or something else I came across.  The key is to group items into one "thing" each and deal with one thing at a time.

If you, like most parents, struggle to get your kids to clean their rooms, remember that they need to be taught how to do it, not just that they should.  Try practicing these steps with your kids to teach them how to tidy:

  1. Put everything from the floor and horizontal surfaces on the bed. Everything.
  2. Sort into categories: Clothes, Soft Toys, Hard Toys, Other Rooms, Trash.  Trash goes into the bin.  Each of the other three should go to a designated spot, ie. top of dresser, bed, left corner behind the door, etc.
  3. Pick one category and put it away, starting with clothes.  Dirty clothes go in the laundry basket, clean clothes get folded and stacked.  Put away the clean clothes after they’re all folded.  If you fold and put away items one at a time, it is too easy to be distracted.  This is a great time to teach your child, or yourself, how to fold clothes properly.
  4. Continue picking categories and putting them each away, saving “Other Rooms” for last.
  5. Finally, make the bed.

In five steps, your child's room is tidy and you can move on to what's next in your day.

At first, this will take a lot of chaperoning and you will have you repeatedly redirect your child to the task at hand.  That's okay, and even normal.  Don't get frustrated with your child's difficulty focusing at first.  If your child gets through this process without having to be redirected, rejoice in the fact that your child may be the next Marie Kondo.

Have your children practice this method of putting things away every day at a consistent time for about a week - try setting an alarm on your phone to remind yourself.  Once you no longer spend much time redirecting, you can let your child tidy their room on their own.  Having taught them the simplest way to keep from getting distracted, they will quickly become super stars at tidying their rooms.

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