Ask Maggie: How Do I Get My Kids To Pick Up Their Messes?

July 2, 2019

Dear Maggie,

I feel like I'm constantly cleaning up after the rest of the family. How can I get my kids to help around the house more this summer?

Dear Molly The Maid,

Please hold on while I kick this pair of Adidas I just tripped over out of the way, and pick up these earphones from the floor, oh -- and over there are two socks someone took off and just LEFT ... and they don’t even match! 

OK Molly. Now to your question.

Oh wait, let me grab this granola bar wrapper that someone felt it was okay to leave on the table last night during some feeding frenzy. 

OK. Sigh. Oh girl, I feel ya. Here’s what I know.

With most things regarding children, consistency is the key. Unfortunately, I don’t have this key on my personal set of parental key rings. My keys are keys that I lose daily. So I’m not much help in this area because if you haven’t put some strict rules into play by now, about everyone in the household helping out, then you’re up the creek without that paddle. Or key. Or whatever.  

BUT if you decide it’s time to turn your boat around and paddle back down the creek shouting "NO MA'AM! I will NOT pick up that granola wrapper, or the 20th shoe left near the front door or ..." well, you get the idea ... then go for it. After all, old habits can be broken and old dogs -- even if that old dog is only a preteen in this case -- can indeed learn new tricks.

My suggestion is to have a family meeting. Decide on tasks that are required (not paid!) of each team member. Then monitor and require that these items are done each day or week. Find that consistency KEY and hang it on the hook where it belongs so you don’t lose it two weeks later.  

One of the great phrases to learn and put on repeat: there is "a place for everything and everything in its place.”  It means pick up your crap. Put it where it belongs.      

I’ve also seen two things help when things become challenging:

  • Wi-fi passwords are not released until family tasks are done.  
  • Big. Garbage. Bags.

The mere sound of shaking out a contractor bag and getting it ready to fill with rando’ items left in places that they don’t belong brings kids running. Be ruthless. 

PADDLE hard! You can do it!

Now, where did I put my keys?