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Problems, Plans, and Opinion Polls

Aug-Oct 1999 Question

June-July Question

Quiz: Do you expect your 8-12 year olds to pick up after themselves?
Results: 52 respondents, 27% said "All of the time.", 69% said "Most of the time.", and 4% said "No, I am quite happy to do it for them."


  1. how do you get your kids to pick up after themselves?
  2. how do you get them to do it without being asked?
  3. what age is reasonable to expect this?
  4. is there such a thing as a tidy house with kids?!
Below is the original post by the moderator and then additional answers follow.
Is your house a mess? A constant continuous mess?

No matter what I do around here it never seems to look much better. Let's face it kids are very messy people, and if you have a creative one like I do, the poor house doesn't stand a chance.

I love the creative process in kids, I must say, but I could sure live without the clean-up, and I tremble at the thought of entering his room most of the time! The concept of putting it away once you're done with it is beyond my (now) 10 your old son, but look out world if he can't find something, somehow he can't connect the two though! Strange that isn't it?!

Teaching a child to put it away is much harder that I would ever have believed possible, of course there are the odd few children who grasp this right away and I envy the parents who have them but for the rest of us it's a long, tough, uphill struggle. I used to think my son was maybe lazy, or perhaps very forgetful, but now I think it's just that he doesn't think of it, it simply doesn't enter his head to put things away or clean up after himself, it's not maliciously done at all.

How do you teach a kid that "put it away" does not mean shove it under the bed or into the corner? he thinks he will come back to it later but later never comes. This seems to be a hard lesson to learn and it is a bother to be reminded to pick up after yourself all the time, not to mention frustrating on his part and mine. What is the solution? You tell me.
Problems, Plans, and Opinion Polls Moderator

I have 3 kids age 5[Sept'99], age 7 and 9. I basically tell them if they don't do their part and mom then has to do it for them then mom won't have any time left to do things with them or go to movies etc., etc. It hasn't always been easy but rather, is an ongoing evolving process. My 9 year old has only now this summer got the idea on a consistent basis. Now, every am he gets up, makes his bed, gets dressed, eats breakfast, cleans his teeth, and only then may he play computer games. For him it works very well but he wasn't always so compliant. My 7 yr. old daughter needs a little more reminding but takes a great deal of pride in keeping her room tidy. Sometimes when they pull out all the toys they are overwhelmed by the amount. I help them break it into more manageable loads, such as putting away all the barbie doll clothes first, then the dolls etc. We are just starting on the youngest who at 5 in Sept obviously needs the most work. I try to help him to limit how much he plays with at a time. Instead, I say play with one thing, and put it away before playing with something else. His sister will help him to clean up if I ask her. It must be the mothering instinct in her as she enjoys teaching him even if he doesn't want her to! And then they have days as we all do when no amount of cajoling bribes or threats will work. Then I pour a coffee and sit on the deck until I can handle it without losing it. It makes for a more pleasant home for all if mom can keep from losing it too often! By the way I stay at home full time having given up my nursing career to raise my children. I live in Lindsay, Ontario, Canada. I sometimes feel I work harder than I ever did, but it IS worth it for the most part, even if I am still at work when I am on vacation, sick etc.
Sincerely, Michelle E.

I am failing miserably at this task myself..but I thought I would share what a co-worker suggested. She has two children, one 17 and the other 4 ( both girls) and says that everyone in the house (including her husband) knows that if it is on the floor when she wants to vacuum...it goes straight to the garbage. Doesn't matter what it is she says, it's history. She says she's thrown away shoes, dolls, notebooks..whatever!

She claims she is absolutely without mercy when it comes to vacuum time. She vacuums every other day and warns them about 10 minutes in advance. She said it was a mad scramble to clean up right before she vacuumed. I was told that the trick to getting them to clean up under the bed and behind furniture..vaccum well. MOVE everything!! After a couple of times of losing the toys that were stuffed behind the recliner in the living room, they stopped putting them there. (She said after that she didn't actually have to vacuum there EVERYTIME, but they didn't know when she would:)

I thought this was great!! I am going to try this one myself..will let you know how it turns out :)

I, too have two very creative children. They are also very social. When they ask to go to another child's house to play, I ask, "Is your room clean? Have you put away everything you had out in the den?" and any other applicable questions. If their answer is no, my answer is no. It did not take long for them to learn.

A second issue is that of "visiting" children who come over, trash my child's room, then say goodbye. This happened several times until I specifically addressed each child, explaining how we were glad to have them for a visit, but as our home was clean, they were responsible for helping clean up messes they helped create or they could not come back. We only had one little child who refused to help clean up. The next time she (uninvitedly) knocked on our door to come play with our daughter, we refused her admittance and explained that we were sorry.

The next time she came, it was with an apology and a promise to help clean next time. Cleaning may not be a big deal to adults, but sharing responsibility and helping is part of friendship building.

I am a SAHM with a 18 month old and a 3 year old, both girls. My husband and I farm and he works in town also, so we have come to expect alot from our kids. Even if they are little, they are expected to clean up after their selves and my 3 year old has a few chores she is responsible for. She feeds our angora goats and bottles feeds any orphans. We had 4 orphans this year, a goat, 2 llamas and a calf, so her help was invaluable.

I believe that this leads to responsibility and accountability. Both girls recieve something special each week for all their help. As far a making them do it, I think that in some way they know that this is just the way it is and this stuff has to be done. I won't say it is always easy, but for the most part there is no real problem getting them to help.
Carmela Park