How to Train Your Child to Get Used to Cleanup Routines


From a no-more-tears shampoo to disposable diapers, products abound to make bathing, diapering, and shampooing as palatable as possible to preschoolers and their parents. It’s expected and even predicted (as these manufacturers know) that preschoolers will find cleanup routines distasteful, so don’t feel alone as you persevere with rinsing and soaking. Try to make the cleanup tasks less tedious by diverting your child’s attention (sing songs, tell stories) and praising any cooperation (even handing you the soap).

Note: Distinguish between products that irritate your child physically (burns her eyes) as opposed to mentally (all soaps are undesirable) by carefully evaluating her protests. Most parents can tell the difference between distress cries and those that are motivated by anger, frustration, or the desire for attention. Distress cries don’t change in tone or duration when parents or other distractions intrude. Other cries generally occur in short bursts interrupted by pauses during which the child listens for a reaction from parents or other caretakers. If necessary, switch from products that irritate your child physically to those that are professionally recommended.

Preventing the Problem

Compromise on cleanup times and places.

Try to make compromises with your child about issues like where you diaper her (on the couch, standing up) or when you wash her hair. Be flexible so your child will not miss a favorite activity just to get her hair washed or miss an episode of a parent-approved television program just to have her diaper changed.

Involve your child in the process.

Help your child play a part in the cleanup or diapering routine. Ask her to bring you things she can carry (according to her age, skill level, and ability to follow directions). Let her pick a favorite toy or towel, for example, to give her a feeling of control over the bathtime routine.

Prepare your child for the cleanup event.

Give your child some warning before a bath, for example, to make the transition from playtime to bathtime less abrupt. Say, “When the timer rings, it will be time for the tub,” or, “In a few minutes, we will change your diaper,” or, “When we finish this book, it will be time for your bath.”

Gather materials before starting.

If your child is too young to help you prepare, make sure you get things ready before beginning the cleanup. This helps avoid unnecessary delays and minimizes frustrations on both ends.

Develop a positive attitude.

Your child will pick up on the dread in your voice if you announce bathtime like it’s a prison sentence. If you sound worried or anxious, you’re telling her it must be as horrible as she thought. Your attitude is contagious, so make it one that you want imitated.

Solving the Problem

What to Do

Remain calm and ignore the noise.

A calm mood is contagious when dealing with your upset child. If you don’t pay attention to the noise, she’ll learn that noise has no power over you, which is what she wants when she’s resisting your cleaning her up. Say to yourself, “I know my child needs to be diapered. If I don’t pay attention to her noise, I’ll get this done faster and more effectively.”

Have fun in the process.

Distract your child by talking, playing, reciting nursery rhymes, or singing. Say, “Let’s sing ‘Old MacDonald,'” or, “I’ll bet you can’t catch this ^at and make it dive into the water” Make it a monologue if your child is too young to participate verbally.

Encourage your child to help and shower her with praise.

Ask your child to wash her own tummy, rub on the soap, or open the diaper (if time permits) to give her a feeling of controlling and participating in her personal hygiene. Even the slightest sign of cooperation is a signal for praise. Lather on the words of encouragement. The more your child gets attention for acting as you’d prefer, the more she’ll repeat the action to get your strokes. Say, “I really like how you put that shampoo on your hair,” or, “That’s great the way you’re sitting up in the tub,” or, “Thanks for lying down so nicely while I diaper you.”

Exercise Grandma’s Rule.

Let your child know that when she’s done something you want her to do (take a bath), she can do something she wants to do (read a story)- Say, “When your bath is over, then we’ll have a story,” or, “When we’re finished, then you can play”

Persist in the task at hand.

Despite the kicking, screaming, and yelling, be determined to finish the cleanup process. The more your child sees that yelling isn’t going to prevent you from washing away the dirt, the more she’ll understand that you’ll get the job done faster if she takes the path of least resistance.

Compliment your child when you’re done.

Tell your child how delightful she looks and smells. Ask her to go look in the mirror. This will remind her why she needs to have a bath or her diaper changed. Learning to take pride in her appearance will help her make cleanliness a priority.

What Not to Do

Don’t demand cooperation.

Just because you demand that your child gets diapered doesn’t mean she’s going to lie still while you do it. Acting rough and tough only teaches her to be rough and tough, too.

Don’t make cleanup painful.

Try to make cleanup as comfortable as possible for your child. Provide towels she can use to wipe her eyes, make the bath water temperature just right, wrap her in a robe after you’re done, and so on.

Don’t avoid cleanup.

Just because your child resists doesn’t mean you should back down-Resistance to cleanup can be overcome by persistence, practice, and patience.

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About the Author: Roberta Southworth is a psychiatrist by profession. She likes to help out people by writing informative tips on how people can to solve their family and relationship issues. She is currently staying in Ireland. She has 5 years of couple counseling experience.

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