Why We Should Stop Asking Our Kids to Tidy Up
Getting your home clean – and keeping it that way – can seem like a never-ending task, especially if you’ve got kids to tidy up after.
Most of us tend to tell our kids they need to clean up after themselves as soon as they’re old enough, although enforcing the rules can be just as hard as doing the tidying ourselves.
What if a bit of mess isn’t something to get worked up about?
According to research professor of philosophy and psychology, Dr Stuart Shanker, chastising your child to get them to clean up their toys won’t teach them anything, as it triggers stress. Dr Shanker explains that a child needs to be in a “calmly focused and alert state” to process what you’re trying to teach them.
Read on for a few reasons why you might want to consider not telling them off.
We should aim to minimise tension
Constantly asking someone to clean up their clothes, their crumbs, their toys, their act, creates tension in the home.
It can be easy to lose patience and raise your voice when they’re ignoring your request, but this only teaches them the habit, and can end up in yelling battles across the room. This leaves both parties annoyed, and upsets the peace of the home.
Try taking a gentler approach. Is a spotless floor really that important, if it means a tense and unhappy environment?
Don’t set yourself up for disappointment
In many cases, it’s just not realistic to think your children will put as much effort into tidying as they do into sports or playing.
With such busy minds that are more easily distracted than grown-ups, kids can find it difficult to prioritise their time and focus on a task. Their board game, TV show or skipping rope is simply more important to them than having a clean room.
While it would be great if your kids did what they were told the moment they were asked, expecting them to stop what they’re doing to perform a boring task may not be realistic, and will only leave you disappointed.
There’s creativity in the chaos
No, dirty clothes and sultanas stuck in the carpet will not turn your kid into a musical genius or a world-renowned artist, but a bit of untidiness here and there can actually encourage their creative thinking.
This may sound like an excuse for people to let their clutter accumulate, but that’s not quite the case. If your child is naturally messy, this could be a sign of their creativity. A spotlessly organised home could actually hinder this, which could mean less cute finger paintings to show off on your fridge!
Tips for getting your kids to tidy up
We’re not saying your kids should be allowed to leave a mess in every room and expect you to clean it up. Teaching them self-discipline and responsibility is super important – but we also need to learn to sometimes let things go.
There are plenty of alternative methods for encouraging your child to tidy up after themselves that don’t include nagging or raising your voice.
- Ask, don’t tell – Have you yelled out for your child to clean up their toys, only to be ignored? There’s a chance they: 1. didn’t hear you, or 2. didn’t comprehend your request. Try making eye contact, asking them to stop what they’re doing so you have their total attention, and asking them gently to clean up their toys.
- Confirm they understand – Once you’ve asked them to make their bed or pick up their clothes, be sure they understand the instruction by responding with an “OK, mum” or “Yes, dad”. This eliminates the excuse that they didn’t hear or understand the request.
- Tell them why – Because I said so just doesn’t cut it. If your child knows why they need to do something, they’ll be more likely to do it. Telling them you need them to put the lids on their markers or they will dry out will have them saving their favourite colouring-in tools in no time!
- Give them freedom in their own space – If all else fails, bribe them with a trade. If they help keep the living areas tidy, they can express themselves in their bedroom however they like (as long as you can still see their floor, and there are no sandwiches left under the bed!).
Have some messy kids on your hands? Keep the furniture and upholstery safe from stains with this handy post on how to care for your upholstery.
And if you’re a kid reading this article, show it to your parents. Thank us later.