Ouch – did that title get your attention? Spoiler Alert, I don’t have a way to make kids NOT messy. Kids. Are. Messy. They are wonderfully messy – they have amazing imaginations that allow them to use objects in ways that adults never would. However, parenting isn’t all about picking up after your kids. If your kids aren’t pulling their weight with the household chores, here’s some possible reasons why:
YOU aren’t organized. We’ve all heard it – Parents are a kid’s first and most important teacher. If your stuff is all over the place, that is the tone for the household. Be intentional about taking the extra seconds to put something where it goes when you are finished using it.
They have too much stuff. Whether it’s toys, books, electronics or clothes, set aside time every few months to weed out what is not being used. I like to participate in local children’s consignment sales – they are generally twice per year which gives me a deadline to get rid of all the stuff my kids don’t use or can’t wear. Look for gifts of experiences instead of stuff and use birthday parties to collect items for charity instead of gifts for your child that they likely don’t need.
Nothing has a home. It’s hard to put something where it goes if there’s not a predetermined home. For younger kids, make broad categories so your kids can easily and quickly pitch in. A bin for all trucks or a tub for all dress up will allow them to know where things go. The same for older kids – give them a spot to put their backpack every day, a spot for school papers and a designated charging station so electronics aren’t strewn everywhere. Here is a link to some of my favorite products.
They are not required to be organized. Kids like to see what they can get away with – it starts early and as far as I can tell, it doesn’t stop. Parenting is relentless boundary-setting, and this applies to picking up too. Kids can have age-appropriate chores (link for age-appropriate chores), and consequences applied if those chores are ignored. Choose consequences that are age and child appropriate – early bedtime might get one child’s attention while less screen time works with another. If the problem persists, consequences can escalate to a missed birthday party or confiscation of electronics. I do not ever call them “punishments” -- these are consequences of a choice, not punishment for bad behavior.