Updated: Feb 3
When you visit people’s homes who have young kids, you’ll quickly notice three distinct categories:
1. The chaotic home with clutter, drawings on walls and/or furniture and an overall mess.
2. The relatively well-kept home that will of course have some of the above but is acceptable.
3. The impeccable house by which you question to what extent the children have any freedom.
Without going into great scrutiny of the above, it’s safe to assume that number ‘2’ is the acceptable mean by which children are raised happily in an environment that is homely for them but also in which there are standards that will have a sensible impact on their upbringing.
A tenant of mine recently tried to excuse the despicable state of our recently refurbished little house being due to having a young child. He in fact stated that it isn’t possible to control his son from drawing all over the walls. However, in this case, I am not particularly concerned about a tenant's child drawing on the walls. That is something easily rectified and children will be children. But to what extent is that last statement acceptable in terms of parenting?
The truth of the matter and what bothers me most as an adult, an indivdual with reasonable standards and as a parent, is that the damages and poorly kept condition of the house, (which as a tenant is unacceptable), is in fact an example of his own lack of cleanliness, hygiene, and respect towards the property. Among other things, any parent is in essence also a homemaker. The standards of a home environment is formed by a leading role by example of how to be and live; one of morals, standards and of habits. This mentality is often and therefore, likely to be passed on to a child.
His son, an only child, is a little older than my eldest (my daughter approaching six). I in fact have two children eleven months apart and neither of them do so in my home even despite living in different environments when with me and when with their mother. There is no such thing as not being able to teach or control your child. There is, not having the stomach for it, the patience, or the personal standard. I am not strict with my children but always make a point to do the following:
1. When they become a little mischievous and may in fact draw on a wall or furniture, I immediately approach them with kindness, pointing out that that is not correct behaviour. I will then proceed to take a sponge or any necessary cleaning products and clean it in front of them. Whilst doing so, I'll explain the importance of respecting our home, furniture and belongings (toys for instance that might be thrown about and break). That we must look after these and not create damages. Finally, I’ll get them some paper or give them drawing pads and remind them to only use these for drawing.
2. After they play with something, I ask them to tidy up before starting a new game and, in the very least, to do so at the end of the day before returning to their mother’s or before dinner bed and bath, when they stay over. Even if at times they are reluctant to do so, I will do it anyway so that they see me upholding this standard and hopefully lead by example. I even go as far to have all their different games organised on specific play tables, drawers and a toy cupboard in their bedroom so that they further learn to be organised as well as tidy. This way their father’s space is one always kept tidy and in good order, hoping that it will habitually rub off on them and benefit them in the future.
3. If food falls on the floor or something is spilled, under no circumstance does it remain. I encourage them to (a) never do so on purpose and (b) to remain calm and unworried when it happens accidentally and instead simply tell me so that I can clean it up. Whilst doing so I ask them to help me. They now eagerly try to even clean up by themselves, which is quite sweet to see. Similarly with rubbish. As toddlers, they would happily just throw things on the floor and now, they’ll take things to the bin on their own accord and even take their plate or cup to the sink.
So in conclusion, educate your children by explaining and being persistent in the development of good habits without becoming angry or frazzled with them. Finally, set your standards and lead by example. This way, your kids will develop these behavioural skills that will benefit them as they are coming of age and in their adulthood. Very much like washing their hands and brushing their teeth.