How to teach children to take care of the things in their home

Written by beverley gee
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How to teach children to take care of the things in their home
After playtime, teach him to put his blocks away. (BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Teaching your child to be responsible at home is the first step towards him becoming accountable for his own actions throughout life. It's important that this starts as soon as he can pull toys from his toy box. If he's old enough to grab a toy, he's old enough to put it away. Teach him to look after his things, how to respect his home and how to treat other people's belongings, and you'll create the beginnings of a responsible adult.

Modelling behaviour

Start by monitoring your own behaviour. Do you carelessly throw a magazine on to the coffee table when you have finished with it? Do you leave your belongings strewn around? Clothes on the bedroom floor? It is difficult, when looking after a young child, to spend those extra minutes clearing away, but what you demonstrate to your child is important – after all, you are his role model. Begin by taking care of those seemingly unimportant things, and talk about why you are doing it. Say, “I'm putting this mug away, it's my favourite and I don't want it to get broken.” In this way, you are showing responsible behaviour and, at the same time, explaining the reasoning for it. Your child will learn by example.

Small steps

It's a good thing to ask and expect your child to pick up after himself. However, telling him to, “go and pick up all those toys,” is way too daunting for a toddler. Instead, say, “would you pick up that teddy, please?” This is much more do-able. Making a game of “you-pick-one-up, I'll-pick-one-up,” shows the child that it's not all hard work. As you and your child move through your day, ask him to put away after himself, and you do the same. A good rule is that your toddler doesn't take out a second toy until the first has been put away.

Taking care in the home

Looking after items in the home is important, after all that sofa probably cost a fair bit of your hard-earned money. When your child's jumping on furniture, say, “no jumping on the sofa,” firmly. If the child continues, pick him up and give him a time-out immediately. There are no second chances. If your child thinks he can continue the misbehaviour for even a few more minutes, he'll think he's getting a pay-off. In other words, it makes sense to him to ignore your threat for the fun of extra jumping. Explain to him that mummy doesn't jump on the furniture and neither should he. Never, ever scold or discipline for accidents, like tipping a cup of juice. Reassure the child and clean up cheerfully. If you can get him to help, then all the better.

Respecting other people's things

Teaching your child to be careful with your belongings and household objects will naturally extend to other children's and adult's property. However, if your child doesn't respect his surroundings when in someone else's home, then don't make excuses or plead with your child to behave. Instead, carry out the discipline as you would at home, but make sure you remain with your child. Being left alone in an unfamiliar house is scary. If the child ignores you and the time-out, then pick him up and leave immediately. This goes for anywhere you visit. Use “No,” firmly... and mean it.

Teach your child to be accountable for his belongings

As your child grows older, you should begin to delegate more responsibility to him. He must understand that there are consequences to not taking care of things. If he loses or breaks a toy, do not replace it; he will have to manage without it. Of course you want to help your child and make life easy and straightforward for him, but this can be misplaced caring. You will be doing your child a disservice unless you teach him he is responsible for certain aspects of his life, and the best place to begin is with his own possessions.

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