My daughter has started just leaving things where she stands - things like food wrappers and orange peels. I have pretty much treated it as I would remembering to the flush the toilet.

I started by explaining why this is a problem.

I've consistently and patiently reminded her - and don't clean it up for her.

I've asked her for ideas she felt would help her remember (she didn't offer up anything other than, "I just need to remember, Mommy - I'll try harder."

Obviously, I set a better example then that and clean up after myself.

In the past, things like this (toilet flushing, hand washing, turning off lights, etc. have come and gone and this method works and by the time a few weeks to a month has passed she has either outgrown the "forgetfulness" or learned what she needed to and we've moved on. For some reason, this particular habit has had a staying power the others have not.

I Do NOT WANT ideas for PUNISHMENTS please - no suggestions of spanking or smacking . . .


Okay. She finally grew through it. Seriously, I didn't change a thing and all of a sudden, not a problem for the last two days. She even dropped a bag of flour that burst open in the kitchen tonight and when her dad started sweeping (because I was stir frying) she said, "Daddy, I should be responsible for that. I spilled it." and helped him sweep it up. She also gathered up her stuff at the theater quite nicely Sat. night AND hasn't left any sort of wrapper or food sitting anywhere it shouldn't be all weekend. She even cleared her DAD's dinner dishes tonight (Monday) for him. Go figure!

2 Answers 2


I would just follow through more and not accept the "I'll remember next time" as an answer.

"Well, clearly that's not working. So let's try something new. What would help you remember?"

You could offer up some solutions, and let her pick one. Try it for a week. If it's not working, back to the drawing board.

And, when she's agreed to do something, like if she agrees to pick up her mess before bed or something, and she's not doing it, come to her at the time and say:

"Huh, what was our agreement?"

And, then just give 'the look'. You're a teacher, I'm sure you know the one I'm talking about.

"In this family we keep our word. I'm confident you will keep yours." and walk away.

Family meetings are GREAT for stuff like this!

  • This is pretty much what has happened. I guess the problem is both of us our out of ideas - although she's been better about it today - even offering to sweep up at the theater today and picking up other's trash. I made sure she knew I noticed. Nov 18, 2012 at 2:48
  • But the problem is that she's not picking up her stuff strewn around the house? Put it into the daily routine, set an alarm on your cell, make a family chore power hour, put a reminder next to the tv, make it part of the pre-dinner prep, put more trashcans in the house, put it all on her bed by dinner if she hasn't cleaned it all up? :) No seriously, she has to eat at the table if she can't clean up after herself. No food in the car, family room, bedrooms, etc. Once she demonstrates success putting wrappers away at the table, expand the options a tiny bit. Rinse and repeat. Nov 18, 2012 at 2:55
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    Plus, a natural consequence, albeit exaggerated, could be that you're too tired from cleaning up after her to read an extra book, or play a favorite game with her? Nov 18, 2012 at 2:57
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    Yes, but if we can't tease and laugh at our own "vocabulary" then where's the fun? Nov 18, 2012 at 3:14
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    And, you know this already I am sure, but if you go with the option of last resort of removing her from the program(s), there needs to be a way for her to practice and demonstrate mastery of the lacking skill required for re-entry (ie throwing away trash). Maybe she could write/draw a letter of apology/acknowledgement to the appropriate person in charge? Again, the more she brainstorms this the better. Nov 18, 2012 at 3:35

With three very active kids this has been a problem for us on a few occasions over the past 10 years or so. When they really aren't remembering to tidy up, we just ask them to tidy up later on when there is something else they really want to do.

For example - a friend comes to the door to ask if they can come and play. My response - to my child and the friend - is that they can, as soon as they have picked up their mess!

This has the combined effect of taking 5 - 10 minutes away from them heading out to play, but also a little bit of pressure to try and not be seen as messy by their friends. (disclaimer - I don't yet have teenagers so the effectiveness of this may all change...)

  • laughing about the effectiveness changing once they are teens - I can relate to that! YES. This is a great idea, but I'm really wondering about just consistently taking stuff to the trash, it isn't really a "tidying up" it is seriously mostly about food, not clearing her plate, dropping trash on the ground . . . Nov 18, 2012 at 2:45

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