Fast forward 13 years. Let’s say your daughter received special earrings for a celebration birthday. 2 weeks later she lost one. Fast forward 15 years. You bought her the new coat she pleaded for. A month later, it has spills, a rip and she has discarded it as a rag. Fast forward 18 years. You let her use your car for the weekend. She brings it back running on fumes and dirty inside and out
You told her when she lost the earing to be more careful. You told her that she should be taking better care of her new coat. You let her know how upset you were when she returned the car dirty and empty. Why didn’t she improve? Because her habits are no longer in your control. The time to act was when she was a preschooler. You have the greatest influence now while your daughter, or son, is still little. Let’s get started.
Her careful care of belongings in the future begins with how she is taught to care for her toys now. The child who strews toys about the house and then, when told to clean up, dumps dolls, blocks, books, cars and train sets in one hopeless jumble will not care for her belongings in her teens. The care of one’s belongings is something a parent needs to teach at home; the respectful upkeep of possessions.
Start by ensuring that each toy has its own ‘home.’ The train pieces go in the bin with the other train pieces. The Legos are in a different box. Big blocks are together. Dolls and doll clothes can be neatly put away in their own bin. Second, have a rule that only 1 toy comes out at a time, unless the toys go together such a freshly built city of blocks that then needs cars and people figures for it’s streets. Third, everyone cleans up their own stuff before they move onto a different activity. Most children follow these same rules at preschool, however it takes parental consistency to get this going at home. It is well worth the effort. Toys are kept clean, and mended when broken.
One of the first things children learn at school is how to hang their coat and backpack on their own hook. The sleeves are turned right side out ready to put on again, the backpack has been checked for homework and notes and rezipped. Replicate this at home. Teach your child what to do with their dirty clothes. Help them put away their clean clothes until they can do it on their own. Children learn whatever you teach.
Respect for the property of others begins at home too. When your child borrows your belongings, help her to ‘remember’ to bring it back or to put it away where it belongs. Model good borrowing behavior for her as well. For example, when joining in on her art project, ask if she will share her supplies. Treat her belongings carefully and return them in good order.
Through these actions you are teaching behavior concerning belongings and attitude towards possessions. These lessons last a lifetime.
Evelyn Satterlee, M.Ed