5 tips to raise tidy, helpful kids by modeling tidy & helpful behavior, teaching them to clean up after themselves, letting them help, and giving them responsibility and autonomy.
My favorite part of being a mom is the moments Emi totally catches me by surprise and all I can do is sit and marvel at how awesome she is.
Like when she shows kindness and compassion to a friend, even if its just a stuffed animal.
Or when she wakes up one morning and can suddenly draw the letter M, something we’ve been working on for weeks.
One that never fails to catch me by surprise is when she cleans up after herself without any prompting.
I love that one because its a testament to me that all the tiny teaching moments I’ve taken advantage of since before Emi could walk are paying off. We’re raising a tidy helper who will grow into a responsible adult.
why you should want to raise tidy, helpful kids
As parents our primary goal and responsibility is to raise our kids to be contributing members of society. We want them to be successful, well-adjusted, kind, considerate, confident, and responsible. These things don’t just happen. It requires intentional guidance and teaching.
Teaching kids to be tidy and helpful is a great place to start building the foundation that will lead to these other important qualities.
Plus, tidy and helpful kids turn into tidy, helpful, independent teenagers. This means less work for you in the long run.
And kids really want to help! As early as 12-months-old I would catch Emi copying things she saw me doing all the time like putting on my makeup, vacuuming, and cleaning.
My sweet husband has a knack for reminding me of everyday teaching moments that double as chores and kid entertainment. Just the other day he was playing with Emi but also needed to get some laundry done so instead of telling her she had to go play by herself he enlisted her help. They worked on the laundry together and she loved every minute of it!
how to raise tidy & helpful kids
1. model tidy & helpful behavior
All parenting should start here. Kids are always watching what we do and know when we’re big fat hypocrites. If you want to raise tidy, helpful kids the first step is to be tidy and helpful yourself.
You’ll be surprised at how many behaviors your kids pick up all on their own and how fast they will pick things up when a little formal teaching is required.
2. teach kids to clean up after themselves
Before we go much further I better make sure we’re all on the same page about what I mean by tidy. At its core I mean this, they clean up after themselves. If they make a mess, they clean it up. Simple but not something most kids grasp on their own.
One of the first and most obvious chores you can give your child is to clean up their own toys but don’t stop there. Help them put their clothes in the laundry hamper at the end of the day and throw away their own garbage.
As they grow, they expand their responsibilities according to their abilities. Eventually they will be able to put their own dishes in the sink and wipe up their own spills and messes.
The important thing is to weave these tidiness opportunities into your everyday life. Clothes come off, they go straight in the hamper, not on the floor to wait until the next time the room gets cleaned. Tidiness is not cleaning, it’s not an event or chore, its a way of life.
3. let kids help
While tidiness is something that has to be taught, I believe most kids naturally want to be helpful. If you have doubts ask your toddler if they want to help stir the pancake batter. Case closed.
The best way we as parents can encourage our kids to be helpful is to let them help.
Give them chores and let them be 100% responsible for those chores. If they mess up or make a mess don’t get upset. Nothing will crush their helpful spirit faster than criticism and frustration.
Also, never undo or redo their best effort. No matter what you say, what they just heard is that they did it wrong. If their best effort truly isn’t good enough say something like “Good job! I can see that you’re trying so hard, let me show you an easier/faster/cleaner/better/etc. way.”
News flash. It will take your child longer to perform the task than if you did it yourself. Don’t be in a hurry. They will probably make a few messes while they’re “helping”. Laugh and help them clean it up.
Do everything you can to make helping fun and they will develop a love to help and serve others.
4. give kids responsibility and autonomy
“I do!” – Every 2-Year-Old Ever
Kids crave autonomy! They want to be big and allowed to do things for themselves. It can be so hard to let them when they’re only 2-years-old but you have to! Otherwise you’ll still be doing your 20-year-olds laundry.
Give you kids responsibility in the form of chores. Need some ideas, check out these 10 chores your toddler can (and should) be doing!
Once they understand what they’re expected to do, give them as much autonomy as possible to do it.
For example, one of Emi’s chores is to fee our dog Rego. She is totally capable of carrying the dog bowl to the bin of food, opening the lid, scooping out the food, and putting everything away. The only thing she sometimes needs help with is knowing how much to give her.
She has broken one dog bowl (they’re glass Corelle soup bowls) and spilled kibble all over the floor a few times. But who cares? She didn’t get hurt, we cleaned it up and moved on, and she learned to be more careful.
By letting her be in charge of her responsibilities and giving minimal supervision she will internalize values of hard work, diligence, and self-direction.
That internalization is key if we want to raise kids that are tidy and helpful when we’re around AND when we’re not.
5. Praise (not reward)
Shower your kids with healthy praise and affection when they succeed at being tidy and helpful. When they’re especially little, say “YAY!” and clap your hands. Say “thank you” when they are helpful.
Everyone appreciates feeling appreciated, even little kids and it will help them want to continue being helpful and tidy.
Try to avoid bribing your kids or giving them big rewards for helping out around the house, this includes an allowance. You don’t want them to go through life expecting a prize for doing things that are their responsibility.
never give up
As with most things in parenting there are good days and bad days. Sometimes Emi puts her toys away when she’s done playing with them and I have one of those awe struck moments, and some days she wants to fight me on everything.
Some days she’ll even tell me she’s “too little” despite the fact that any other time she adamantly maintains that she’s a big girl.
Don’t give up mama. It’s the little things over time that will help her be tidy and helpful, just like with everything else in her life.
Jump over here to find 10 chores your toddler can do for some inspiration to get started.