Housekeeping with children

In answer to the following question on the Unschooling Basics list:

"we used to demand that they clean up any mess they had made else there was
punishment (we thought this was the norm). Now we understand how disrespectful
that was to them, we are discussing with them how leaving a mess for our 1 year
old to find could be dangerous and how helpful it would be if they picked up
after themselves. Our problem is they ignore anything we've talked about..."

Try to step away from the idea that they are ignoring what you're telling them.
Start from the assumption that they love you and want to help, but something
else is getting in the way. What that "something else" is, is mostly childhood!
Kids are sooooo busy learning and discovering that things like tidying up tend
to take a back seat in their awareness. Often, by the time they even notice how
big the mess is, its overwhelming to them.

Explaining isn't going to be much help. Rearranging your expectations as to how
housekeeping gets done will help a lot. Streamline the process of picking up to
make it easier on *everyone*. Have bins and baskets in convenient places, maybe
put a big blanket or cloth on the floor for play with small parts so they can
all be swooped up at once. Remind kids of things that will be a hazard to the
little one - and expect to have to go on reminding bc they're too focused on
their own business most of the time to remember that detail. Be really specific
about that and come up with some easy strategies for quick cleanup. Otherwise,
designate "safe" play areas, away from the little one. On a table, maybe, or
behind a gate.

Clean things cheerfully, yourself, and invite them to help, but don't demand it.
Right now, they still likely see cleaning as being related to punishment. Its an
unpleasant chore. If You think of it as an unpleasant chore, you'll go on
reinforcing that idea. You need to reinvent cleaning as something you can do
happily - and that means You need to find a way to clean happily. See it as a
gift you are giving to the wonderful, creative people who you get to live with.
Every time you declutter a room, you make it easier for them to find the tools
they need to learn and discover even more! That's a better reason to clean than
"it has to be done".

>>> When you respect your children and they really don't show any respect back -
how do you handle it?

I remind myself that my kids are people, with needs and feelings that aren't
necessarily convenient to me (darn them!). My kids have grouchy days, bad moods,
get overwhelmed, are too wrapped up in their own selves to notice the rest of
the world - just like adults. If I want them to respect me despite My groucy
days, bad moods, etc, then its important that I show them the same respect. And
because I'm the mom, the role model, I need to be the one to do it first and
more often. That's part of my job.

The vast majority of the time I find that when I'm giving them enough attention
and care, showing my kids enough respect, and making an effort to help them get
their needs met, then they're kinder and more helpful to me. It makes sense if
you think about it - if I'm meeting those very important needs, then my kids
have energy to expend on being kind and helpful. If I'm not meeting those needs,
they're too wrapped up in neediness to look beyond themselves. Its not some kind
of magic. Its basic human nature.

If your kids have dealt with school and control and punishment, then they've
learned not to trust you to meet those needs. They've learned that you'll step
between them and their needs with lunatic demands, like "its time to clean up".
That sounds nuts to a young child, intent on playing or eating or watching a
show. Worse, to them it Looks disrespectful. So you're working to undo years of
modelling disrespect.

Eventually, kids develop to the point where they start to notice mess on their
own, and have the skills to do something about it. They don't have to be forced
or trained to do those things, although they may need little reminders. Just an
hour ago my 8yo was changing and dropped her dirty clothes on the bed, and I
said something like "laundry basket" and she merrily tossed them there. My 15yo
almost never leaves his dirty laundry on the bathroom floor these days, and as
I'm typing he's cleaning the kitchen.

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