It’s amazing to watch the twenty one children in my son’s pre-school class clean up the room on command.
They get right to work, singing as they go.
I have not been able—try as I might— to re-create this at home.
I’ve tried singing. I’ve tried bribing. I’ve tried threatening. More often than not, I’m still left with a carpet of toys on the ground after my little guy has gone to bed.
That is, until recently.
A few weeks ago I accidently vacuumed up a toy he’d left on the ground.
My son watched in horror as the giant red vacuum ate up his toy.
The result? Tears. They were, as usual, immediate and intense. I felt horrible for my little guy.
Together, we pulled off the front of the vacuum, opened the bag inside, and dug through the debris until we found his little treasure: a small ball I didn’t know he had.
We washed it off, and talked about why it would have been better to put the ball away before we vacuumed.
As a result, my son has been cleaning up after himself like never before.
“We have to clean up our toys or the vacuum will eat them!” he says without prompting.
While I’ve loved the rapid learning curve, I’ve felt a little guilty that it’s worked so well.
Don’t feel guilty, says Amy Schroder, Manager of Parent Education at Hartford Hospital.
“Your intention was not to teach him a stark lesson in consequences. Life has teachable moments. And this was one of them.
“Think how many of us use guilt and threats getting our kids to clean up after themselves. Life did you this enormous favor by teaching him a lesson by example: he saw cause and effect in action.
>You didn’t orchestrate it, so go ahead and celebrate it.”
As a parenting technique, I must confess, it’s helped. The toys get put away pretty quickly when I start lugging that vacuum up the stairs.
It’s not quite as cute as the pre-school clean up song, but it works. And that’s music to my ears.
Has this happened to you? We want to hear from you! Share your experience with us! We know what you’re going through. We’re going through it, too.