Working parents will recognise the age-old challenge of trying to get little Johnny or Jess to pick-up their laundry. At my place, to my horror, my kids’ laundry is usually strewn across several frontiers, from bedroom, to bathroom, to lounge room and beyond. As a parent, I would naturally prefer to channel my parental anxieties at far more important subjects. I’d prefer to be worried about their friendship circles, what they get up to when I am not there, whether they do their homework – rather than their poor laundry habits. As a psychologist, in a schematic sense, I know very well how to address this behaviour to get the outcomes I’d like to see (kids growing up with life skills). And also, what I need to do to manage my own tolerance levels. I have options in how I choose to respond, but they have consequences.
- Describe a beautiful world of responsible laundry self-management
- Explain the consequences of poor laundry self-management (our rooms will never be clean, clothes might be smelly, we won’t look nice, we could catch a cold by wearing wet clothes, people might worry that we aren’t coping…)
- Teach the skill – demonstrate what’s required and the stages, and be there supportively until the child masters the skill (don’t assume that people know how to do something just because you’ve done it so many times its now automatic for you)
- Use visual aids by creating signs or special prompts to guide the behaviour (put it in the calendar, make a sign for the clean clothes pile/dirty clothes pile).
- Recognise when skills are being positively developed and quality assure the performance (in whole or in part), be kind, reinforce with consistency and persistency.
- Let the child experience the consequences of not following through (let them wear dirty sports clothes, suffer from not wearing their favourite dress),
- And most importantly, when you see them completing a job well done – praise this and couple it with something positive – smiles, games, time together, some kind of reward system (making sure to taper off the rewards as the behaviour gains traction)