Today’s post is from a recent comment:
I have a 3 year old girl who refuses to clean up her messes and because I don’t like to punish her too hard, I do it for her, but lately my house is so cluttered with dirty laundry, her toys, and most of my husbands clean jeans, that I feel like I’m going to scream because of the mess. Then he comes home and ends up mad at me for not cleaning while he’s at work or not having dinner made by the time he gets home, I want to scream.
Home-Ec 101 is generally not a site where I’m willing to give out parenting or marital advice. I’m not a licensed counselor or therapist and just trust me when I tell you are there are plenty of bumps on the road I travel.
However, I have four kids, including my stepdaughter, so I can tell you a little bit about preschoolers and three-year-olds in particular.
People like to complain about the terrible twos, but the threes were always much more difficult for me. However, you must remember your three-year-old is not being difficult on purpose. Does this make it easier to deal with? No, but you just have to walk away when you’re frustrated, because she isn’t purposely trying to make you upset, it’s just a developmental stage.
Does this mean you let her do what she wants, willy-nilly all day long? Heck no.
You have to set the boundaries, and this is true whether you are into structured play or not.
As a three-year-old she is going to progress from one activity to another abandoning the first (and its mess) and moving onto the second and third, without a care in the world. It’s your job to help her begin to learn that when we move from unshelving the books in the living room, to removing the couch cushions, to unloading the dog’s bowl in the kitchen, that we have to undo the damage we caused before wreaking more havoc.
Remember this little diddy from Barney?
Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere. Clean up clean up everybody do your share.
Yes, it’s obnoxious and perky, but some kids dig that. If you can’t get into a Barney song for clean up time, put on whatever music floats your boat. My 4yo knows every word to Sell Out.
Use a timer if YOU need reminding, because -and listen carefully, because I mean this- it is not her job to remember at this stage of her life. Yes, I know you have 8 million things going on. I am totally guilty of forgetting, too. I work from home, we homeschool, I know how easy it is to get distracted and in my distraction is when the mess occurs.
You’ll set that timer based on her attention span between activities, some pre-schoolers can play quietly for 15 minutes, some for longer, some for less. You may want to only do a quick clean up every hour or so. It’s up to you. What you’ll find is regularly putting away the toys and clutter takes the overwhelming, end of day tornado ripped through here, down to a quick pick up.
Additionally, getting out of the house helps keep the house from getting destroyed and can do wonders to improve your mood. A daily walk, trip to the park or library can help keep the mess down.
Getting the house under control -see that post-it note up there? Click it- will go a long way toward reducing the tension everyone feels in your home. (If you’re reading via email or RSS, here’s the weekly chore schedule.)
As far as having dinner prepared at a reasonable time (notice I didn’t say FOR your husband) I highly suggest giving menu planning a try. I have a series of posts on menu planning that you may find helpful. Give them a read.
Hang in there.
Do you have advice? Feel free to share in the comments, but be aware of the Home-Ec 101 comment policy as parenting is a particularly sensitive subject.
Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.