The Tidy Tot

There is a great way to guide your child into being a tidy person. Reading the book by author Jean Liedloff, “The Continuum Concept,” I thought I would start raising my 2-year old son based on the author’s recommendations and studies.  One of the points in the book is our children learn from us by our actions.  If we negotiate well, our children will learn to negotiate well, granted that they hear us in action on a regular basis.  That goes for, if we are tidy our child will learn from us.  We really do not have to say anything to our children to teach them, the only thing to do is lead by example.

There are lots of parents, including myself, who would tell their child, “Now put your toys away.”  This is okay, and if you do this do not beat yourself up for it as I am sharing with you the most fabulous way I learned to give my child the “want to” clean up.  I can say that Jean Liedloff’s method works!

Forcing my child to pick up the house or clean his messes creates a unhappy environment, so I lead by example and do the deed by cleaning happily.  He spills, pees and even tracks mud around the house.  All I do is ask him if he wants to help Mama clean it up.  He would usually say No so I would not react to his no. I would just clean it up happily.

To my surprise, I was recently cleaning my house happily and then my son grabs the cleaning spray and starts spraying the floors.  He then asks me for the cloth to wipe up the floor.  I happily gave him the cloth and he actually cleaned the floor!  Then he started cleaning the floor in the bathroom as I was doing dishes.  I then got the vacuum cleaner out and he wanted to turn it on, so I let him.  He wanted to push the vacuum so I allowed him to assist me.  Before I knew it, he was happy, plus my house was clean.  Being two years old, he does miss a few spots, but I learned not to say anything as he feels satisfied. Why would I take that satisfaction away from him? Now every time I go to pick up his toys, baseballs or clothes he helps me.

The main points:

  • Allow the toddler to assist in cleaning up, no matter what.  It is for their self fulfillment.
  • Use only organic, non-chemical products that could do no harm to the child.  We give my son a special non-toxic cleaner and we show him how to use it.
  • When cleaning, clean happily as the toddler will learn that this is not a daunting task.
  • Best practice; cleaning, tidying or wiping a spill while singing a song or grooving to music.
  • Please do not make your child do anything. Demands and scolding can be harmful to their self-esteem and fulfillment. It could encourage them to refuse helping even though they may want to contribute or it could completely discourage them from doing something they may eventually want to do. They may just need you to model it happily for them a few times to get the hang of it.
  • Avoid rewarding. Rewarding will not create long term positive motivation. It will condition the child to look to the reward rather than focusing on the satisfaction of contributing and having a fun time.
  • Bribing is actually unhealthy. Please don’t resort to bribing. It is not a long term effective tactic, as it can only give any child the idea to ask for something or ask for more and more in return for their contribution. The child may then learn to look for extrinsic motivators to inspire them to get things done.  Through joyfully leading and modeling, children can tend to help through an intrinsic desire to contribute, perhaps for the sheer satisfaction of the outcome or the feeling of accomplishment or the joy of completing something WITH you….. even if it is simply loading or unloading the clothes dryer.
  • When they want to clean let them.  Just allow and don’t make a big deal out of them choosing to pitch in. Refrain from praising, especially over the top praising. Remember, they are doing something that is normal around the house, not building you a brand new custom home.  Continue to focus on the fun task just as the child has put his focus on the fun task. If he is helping by his own choice, he is not needing or seeking your encouragement or fishing for an approving look and word from you. He’s taking the opportunity to be involved because of his interest.
  • Keep being the example by action.  Get them away from the television and get them involved in the daily maintaining and organization of the house, preparing food and the usual household tasks.
  • For the older children, do not pay them to clean the house, it is by their own choosing. This has shown to be helpful and create joy for the child by him feeling and being considered a valued contributor to the home.

The intention here is be consistent and ask them if they want to participate or just do not say anything at all.  I take my hat off to all the parents out there, as we are all doing our best to raise our children to be happy and successful people.  Now go have a joyous time and clean your house.

The Continuum Concept: In Search Of Happiness Lost (Classics in Human Development) (See all Psychology & Counseling Books)


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