Help! Kids Leaving a Mess...

by Beverley Paine

Tidying! A mum's life, especially in the early years, seems to be one long continuous picking up session after her children. Eager little explorers happily open and pull things from cupboards, strew toys across the floor and keep moving on to the next box, draw or cupboard on their missions of discovery!

Frustration and tiredness can quickly overwhelm, especially home educating parents. For toddlers and babies we know this is essential developmental behaviour and we don't want to stop it. For older children there is the additional frustration of dealing with non-cooperative behaviour, adding to our frustration and fueling anger and resentment.  

This 'mess' need to be nipped in the bud early, but if a messy habit has developed in your home you can recover, but it will take time and patience and commitment.

It's not easy but diligence and consistency is the key: keep picking up and asking for help (but not insisting) as the stuff is pulled out. Only allow things that are played with for a length of time to remain. You might ask (even a non-verbal crawling baby), "Are you going to play with this? No? Well, let's put it away together." Model a tidy house, but not an obsessively tidy house, just an organised one! Children appreciate organisation as it helps them find what they need and makes exploring and discovery more interesting - and this is how children learn!

This time in our children's lives is short. If we have many children we can enlist the help of older children. There are a million things that beg our attention each day and it is up to us to work out which ones take priority. Our choice as home educators is to spend time with our children. This means we won't live like other families do or enjoy some of the activities that other mums and dads do. It's hard for us to find time to chat on the phone or internet, we are careful with social commitments scheduling and outings, and we embed chores emphasising cooperation and helping each other into our homeschool curriculum understanding that all of life is learning. We arrange our days so that our children and we have adequate 'quiet' times for rest and relaxation and to catch our collective breaths.

My friend had a list of rules posted on her fridge and the one on top said, "If you got it out, put it away."

Sensible rules like this don't have to restrict us or imply dire consequences if we breaks them. They just make sense. Point out why they make sense and why your children (and you!) need to follow them. Most make our lives easier, help clear the clutter so that we can think more easily which helps us to identify our true needs, wants and dreams. And allow us to get more done each day! The time we spend worrying, hassling, and complaining in frustration is time we could be spending doing a wonderful creative or relaxing activity that feeds our souls and hearts.

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