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You know the scene…you’re busy cleaning when your young toddler comes over to “help.” Perhaps you’re sweeping the floor when your child finds a second broom and helps by pushing your pile back around the floor. You might be baking cookies when your youngster chooses to help you by adding extra ingredients.
When your time is limited, it’s difficult to be patient. But stopping your child from helping may discourage future attempts. So how do you encourage positive behaviors (like voluntarily helping with chores) without going crazy?
Here are some ideas:
Give Them Their Own Space – if you’re sweeping, why not give your child a small space they are responsible for. Later, you can go back over that area. If you’re cooking, give a few “ingredients” to your youngster and see what they can cook up. By giving your child their own space, they can do the same job as you without getting in your way.
Have Them Complete A Different Job – rather than hand the vacuum over to your three year (because they think they’re old enough to handle it) you could hand them a rag and ask them to dust. Sure, you’ll be dusting later, but for now, your child is busy while you focus on getting those carpets clean.
Purchase Toy Cleaning Objects – some toys, like brooms or mops will only create a bigger mess. But if you want your child to find joy in doing “chores”, a toy vacuum or lawn mower are great toys that won’t create a bigger mess. Forts and tree houses can also be a place for your child to learn responsibility caring for their “homes.”
Learn to Do Your Own Serious Cleaning When You’re Alone – if you don’t mind showing your child how to properly do chores then let them take part in what you’re doing. It’s a good learning experience and really you can do your own cleaning anytime. If it’s something that needs your complete attention, then choose a time when your children are occupied or sleeping.
Stop What You’re Doing – in some cases, toddlers are simply interested in what you’re doing. If they attempt to help, stop what you’re doing, praise them for their work, and then wait until they tire of the chore. If you’re no longer doing the chore, your child will soon wander on their way. Then, you can get back to what you were doing. Just be sure you praise your child for a job well done as they are working.
Give Them Some Pointers – we keep going back to this example, but…if your child grabs a broom to help you out, you don’t have to stop and teach them how to sweep. (They probably wouldn’t follow your lead anyway.) Show them the door and have them sweep their piles out of it. They may actually get some dirt outside and it gives them a direction in which to stay focused rather than pushing things everywhere.
Toddlers and very young children are so sweet. They want to be helpful, and you want to cultivate that desire. But sometimes patience grows thin, especially if you are trying to work on a schedule.