Editor’s note: For the Love of Parenting is a local parenting advice column coordinated by Krystal Arnot, director of the Little Learners Center in Eureka. When parents have questions, she’ll share strategies here.
Q: My 5-year-old seems so destructive with his toys and belongings. What are some ways to help him take care of his belongings and space?
A: “Children learn most from watching you and how you do things. Still, in the course of development there will be times when they are more and less capable of meeting your expectations and times when they are more or less motivated to do so. These developmental stages are normal, and you can help them navigate them with external supports.
One of the most powerful supports for taking care of toys, clothes … is having a place where each thing belongs and teaching children how to put them there when not in use. Shelves, drawers, baskets, hooks and other organizers are helpful. For little children, pictures can show them where each item belongs. For older children, let them help organize then take a picture of the room to remind them how it looks when it’s clean. Even later, have the expectation that at least once a week their room gets cleaned and check in on them.
People naturally can tolerate different levels of order and chaos in their environment. Your child might need more or less order than you. This is a struggle you get to choose how to navigate. My advice is to find a happy middle ground that you both can live with, but don’t push too hard to make your child conform to a picture in your mind of what responsible cleanliness means. Also, the younger the child the more you are responsible and they are just learning. Allowing children to take over chores, like putting away dishes, might mean letting go of the way you do it for a while. It takes time to learn and children learn better when you reward their effort.”
Have a parenting question? Send it to [email protected] with “Parenting” in the subject line.
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