Very frequently I ask R if she remembers the very first day she came home without expecting much of an answer. I wish she remembered the squeaky clean home. Alas! Not only she doesn’t remember, she doesn’t seem to care much about the messes she creates when she creates them.
I used to be very very organized (notice how I say “used to be”). My closets used to be color-coded, so if I wanted to wear green or black I would have to only look into green or black section of the hangers. Our home used to be neat and tidy at all times and the kitchen spotless after each meal. Well, not so much. The whole house pretty much looked like the picture above for better part of 2012. There’s never a dull moment in this house ever since R started being mobile.
From the very beginning, our parenting approach has been very simple – to train and guide in the right direction starting from infancy. This means a lot of time and effort to pay attention to our child proactively, and to spend a lot of time talking about how what she does may affect her and others around her. For example, at around 8 months, playfully R learned to hit us on the face like every other baby. Instead of saying just ‘no’, we took her hand and rub it on the face while repeatedly saying, “be gentle”. Within few days, she understood what being gentle meant and we can stop almost all hitting these days.
Along the same line, rather than turning the house upside down and move everything out of R’s reach, we chose to discipline her through teaching and modeling to clean up after herself. Off course, we baby proofed where absolutely necessary. Our hope is that this way she’ll know what she is supposed to touch and can play with versus what is a no no. For example, if daddy says it’s a decoration piece that means it is not a toy and she is not supposed to touch or play with it. If mommy says, those are daddy’s books and you need to clean up and find your books to read, she has to put the books back to the book shelf and get one of her own books. Off course, one of us will have to straighten up the bookshelf afterwards but at least the books will not be scattered all over the floor. Hey, that’s a good start!
Once R started being mobile, like every other parents, one of our major concerns were how to stop her from putting everything into her mouth. Therefore, we modeled and repeatedly told her where trash goes, definitely not in anyone’s mouth 🙂 . To our amazement, even before she turned one any crumb or foreign item she found on the floor she knew it was “ttttrrash” and would crawl towards the trash bin. While we have many other concerns, we seldom worry that she will put something potentially dangerous or simply stinky crumb from the kitchen floor in her mouth.
Even though she doesn’t know who Barney is(because she doesn’t know what a television is), she loves the “clean up” song with a thank you very much at the end.
“Clean up clean up everybody everywhere.
Clean up clean up everybody do your share.
Clean up clean up everybody everywhere.
Thank you very much.”
The song works every time like a charm. The blocks get in their designated space or other smaller toy items rest in their respective home. It also works in the kitchen when she finds her way to make a mess because she got hold of the ziplock bags and thought it is fun to take them out one by one and throw on the floor.
It’s amazing how toddlers learn when the effort is made. Just the other day, I was down with sore throat and fever. After her bath time, I left my dirty gown by the bathtub. To my amazement, she took it and tried putting it away with her dirty clothes because she knows where the dirty laundry goes. I am thrilled that the conversation we are having with her is actually working. I am hoping I can partly organize the house in 2013. However, who knows what the “terrible two” year ahead has in store for us ;).
It’s not that we really need R to help with the cleaning up. However, my hope is that she becomes an independent and confident person. I have seen too many 10 and 12 years old who wouldn’t pour a cup of water for themselves. That’s what I do not want to happen. While every parenting decision appears to be overwhelming, as parents, we only try to make the best decision possible. We chose to model, guide and teach everyday. I’m not a perfect mom by any means but a confident one and I hope one day R grows up to be a confident and organized woman through the guidance and training we provide her with love.
I know I will continue to ask countless times in the coming months about whether R remembers her homecoming and teach how to clean up after her. What conversation are you having currently with your kids? If your kids are older, when did you start the conversation about cleaning up after themselves? Are they paying attention?