After mastering tidying his bookshelf, we’ve moved on to STAGE TWO of teaching our toddler, G, to clean up after himself:
Cleaning Up Spills
Buckle up people. This was a tough one.
I’m talking a major case of parental rage.
We were feeling pretty darn smug after G took to tidying his bookshelf so easily. We thought, why not tackle his mealtime messes? This seemed like a logical step as he was already clearing his plates independently – why not give him the added responsibility of wiping up spills?
We decided the next time he had a spill, instead of jumping up to take care of it like we normally would, we’d show him how to do it himself.
Sure enough, the very next meal gave us our opportunity.
He was ‘stirring’ his milk when it spilled all over the table and down the front of his pants.
“Mommy, fix it! Mommy FIX IT!”
I got up as I normally would and got a cloth to clean the spill. This time, instead of doing it myself, I handed the cloth to G.
“Here you go bud. Want to wipe up the milk ALL BY YOURSELF?!”
He looked at me with confusion on his face and said, “Mommy do it,” pointing to the puddle of milk.
I continued on. “You know how daddy and I clean up our own spills? Well you can do that too! We’re all going to start cleaning up our own messes. Here – I’ll show you how…” I then placed my hand over his on the cloth and wiped up the milk.
He was still looking unsure. Definitely not enthused about the thought of cleaning his own spills.
We finished by walking over to the counter so I could show him where the dirty cloths went.
Teaching Session #1: Complete.
Next time he could do it himself.
“Next time” turned out to be a complete disaster…
I could tell things were going to get tricky when G threw me his little sideways look of, ‘Are you ready for this, mom?’
Before I knew it, he was pouring his entire glass of milk on the floor. All while looking me directly in the eyes, smiling that sweet smile of his.
(I can feel my blood pressure going up as I’m sitting here typing…)
Somehow I suppressed my impending spaz, gritted my teeth and pretended I wasn’t upset. I believe I said something like, “Oops! Looks like you have a mess to clean up!”
Super cheery and incredibly fake-sounding, I’m sure.
He started laughing.
I tell you – I was boiling inside. BOILING!
All my parenting wisdom went out the window. My brain was buzzing and all I could think about was how I was going to ‘make him’ clean up his mess. I marched over to the kitchen, grabbed a cloth and started forcing him to wipe up the milk by holding my hand over his. Of course he was fighting me, so instead of cleaning up we were just splashing milk everywhere.
G finally broke free and started JUMPING in the puddle of spilled milk. It was a really awesome moment.
By this point I was sitting on the floor, a ball of boiling rage, realizing that this disaster was all my own making. Once again, I had turned a teachable moment into a power struggle and like I’ve said before – there is nothing worse than losing to a two-year-old in a battle of ‘I’m gonna make you/You can’t make me’.
So what did I do?
I let my anger pass, cleaned up the milk and vowed to try again another day.
Stay tuned 😉
Image Credit: radarxlove