Reviewed by Roy Benaroch on September 13, 2012

Sources

Anthony Levitas, PsyD, Child and Family Psychologist.

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Video Transcript

Christina Kroeppler: Kinda looks messy, huh? Okay, what should we start with?

Narrator: Getting children to clean up their messes can be a chore onto itself, but child-behavior experts say teaching kids to pick up after themselves doesn't necessarily have to make a mess of your nerves.

Christina Kroeppler: Uhm…let's see. What else, any other trash that needs to go in the trash can?...little pieces of paper?

Anthony Levitas, PsyD.: Keep directions simple, keep it brief and then have the child say back to you what it is that you'd like them to do.

Christina Kroeppler: No food or water in here?

Ava Kroeppler: Not really.

Christina Kroeppler: Alright! I think it looks good. High five! Thank you for your help.

Anthony Levitas, PsyD.: And I typically encourage parents to have really good eye contact with their kids and not be calling to them from across the room, but really get in their face.

Interviewer: What do you do when you clean your room?

Ava Kroeppler: I sing a song.

Narrator: Turning the task into something playful can help to motivate.

Christina Kroeppler: We've set timers before to see how quickly they can clean it up—if they can beat the timer…and that seems to be fun for them because it's a game and they want to do that. First going for food and wet towels and wet clothes all the time consistently and that's always going to be their focus first and then we focus on the toys --things that are on the floor after that. We've got some books here.

Anthony Levitas, PsyD.: I think the main thing is that parents are clear about what's expected from the kids. When that happens regularly when you go over the rules, when you go over the expectations, kids are more likely to follow through on what's expected of them.

Ava Kroeppler: Here's one more sock.

Narrator : Give your kids their own hamper for dirty clothes and towels. Enforce a— NO FOOD IN THE BEDROOM— policy and always lead by example.

Christina Kroeppler: I think that it starts pretty young…even when they're babies they see us cleaning up their mess.

Christina Kroeppler: And then at some point when they're capable of picking up the mess on their own, it's kind of our job as parents to help them organize the mess, so to speak.

: (KEYSTONE COP MUSIC)

Christina Kroeppler: And maybe—if we're lucky—they may even end up taking pride in their work.

Narrator: For WebMD, I'm Damon Meharg.