I am not the first parent to believe that it is difficult to get children to clean their room and perform other household chores. And neither am I going to be the last one. But we can’t really blame the kids if they refuse to do the chores– after all, kids are unlikely to pick up something as boring and mundane to do. Kids like doing interesting and exciting things which brings them satisfaction and learning.
I am quite finicky about cleanliness and get my head spinning every time I see my house in a mess, which is very often these days – After all, I have a four year old son, Tanav and a Six months old daughter, Sohana. Besides, and of course, I also have my wife! I am being mean to include her and not myself in the list of people who create the mess, for which she will hate me. But I will leave it at that for now.
I also have my sister’s children come over some times, and when all kids are together and having fun, the house appears like there had just been a Tsunami visit our place.
Well, kids are kids and I love each one of them to death. Having said so, I do want to instill in them, the habit of cleaning the place after they are done. I have failed at this for some time now. I have tried telling them things such as, “Put the toys back in the place where they belong.“, “Clean the stuff, please!” and so on and so forth. I even tried to trick them into doing the chores, but kids are smart -They know very well that it’s a trap and get around it easily. You just can’t trick kids into doing something they don’t want to do.
So that’s how it has been so far! I fetched Tanav from his school bus stop yesterday and on the way back, when he finished having his favorite snack – CRAX, he asked me, “Where should I throw the empty wrapper, Papa?”
I thought of this as an opportune moment and put the question back at him – “Where do you think is this empty wrapper’s Home?”
He thought for a while and said, “Is it the Trashcan?” to which I said, “Yes, and you know what, everything has a home and for those things that don’t have a home, there is a Home for Homeless.”
I asked him a few other questions about the homes of things such as shoes, toys, clothes, books, and he knew their Homes very well. I was finally able to strike a chord with him on this subject. It was still left to put this Gyan into action.
When we got home and after he was done with his lunch and TV time, I gave him a bundle of small red stickers and asked him to put a sticker on top of everything in his room that was not at its ‘Home’, the place where it belongs. These red sticker items were supposed to go back to their Home before Sleep Time, like we humans do.
He was taking the things to their Homes and loving putting the stickers on those that couldn’t be taken right away.
It was bizarre to see so many things slowly treading toward their Homes.
All the shoes, from under the bed, on the table, beside the almirah, were slowly moving to their Home, the Shoe Rack. Ditto for Books, they were slowly but steadily moving to the Bookshelf. Ditto for almost everything else.
Tanav and I planned to come at Ten o’ clock, (before sleep time), and count the stickers on the objects and penalize the owner with most red stickers for not being caring enough. Along side, Tanav was helping me remove the spider webs, place the mosquito repellants and rat medicine so all the worthy residents including us could be safe in their Homes. We were all set and things were working out. It was fun, learning and interesting.
I don’t know how long can I carry on with that game to keep Tanav motivated to clean the place and do the chores, but I do know one thing – When this doesn’t work, I got to do something new to make it interesting yet again… and again. I guess that’s what life is all about.
I had to now put Tanav to bed, and made up a story about how the rats, spiders and mosquitos had hated us for cleaning the place. Their Kings conspired to attack us to take revenge. We did our best to fight because we are strong and drink Complan Milk, but yet it was bad. Our enemy was attacking us from Land, Air and Water. Land – Rats, Air – Mosquitoes and Water – Spiders in their little Spider Ships. We fought with all valor but still were going to lose. Then something magical happened – All the Homeless who we had taken to their homes, the shoes, the toys, the books came to join us to fight our enemies. We won at the end. It was the victory of cleanliness over mess, and interesting over boring! Tanav super duper loved the story. I could see that through the tinkle in his eyes.
I am sure you have your own ways to make things interesting, sometimes it works and a lot of times it doesn’t. But don’t give up, keep working at it. It’s worth the effort. You can make the boring stuff interesting, if you choose to do so!