It's so much easier to run around at the end of the day and pick up all of the toys that make your house appear more like a daycare center than a home. Motivating toddlers and preschoolers to actually put the toys away instead of playing with them is exhausting, especially when you still have to clean up dinner, get them ready for bed and then tackle all the work you couldn't complete during the day. While giving your kids a free pass once in a while isn't a big deal, taking the easy route too often will cost you — and them — later.
Jenn Berman, Ph.D., author of Superbaby: 12 Ways to Give your Child a Head Start in the First 3 Years, suggests that if your child is capable of doing something on her own, you guide her to do it instead of doing it for her.
Sounds simple, right? And it's probably even common sense. But stop and think about how often we just grab the plate off the table and put it in the sink because it takes so much less time. Instead, tell your toddler how much it helps Mommy when he puts his dirty dish in the sink (or on the counter — whatever he can reach). Not only is he learning to clean up after himself, he'll also feel good about helping.
If your toddler or preschooler is knee-deep in the "no" phase, asking, "Will you help Mommy put your toys away" probably isn't going to illicit an enthusiastic, "Yes!" Instead, Dr. Jenn suggests you offer a choice: "Do you want to put your stuffed animal back in your room or do you want to clean up your blocks?" She says that choices give children power, and it's important to give them as much power as possible.
Work on manners
Don't overlook the importance of manners. Dr. Jenn reminds parents that manners are a very strong form of accountability — one that children initially learn by mimicking your behavior.
As your little one gets older and life gets even busier, don't forget that instilling responsibility is your job throughout their childhood and their teen years. A good foundation will last a lifetime.
More on teaching responsibility
7 Tips for teaching your child responsibility
Teaching your kids about money and debt
Is your child ready to stay home without a babysitter?