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Clean Up Blues


My 4.5 year old son loves to build and create things, but he loathes deconstructing any of his treasured creations. Train tracks and Lincoln Logs can keep him occupied creatively for a long time, but when he is told to clean up after a few hours, he loses it, crying that "Real builders don't have to put their buildings away!!!" It's a combination of not wanting to undo his work AND that there is a lot to clean up. At this point the building toys are put away for a week, and he doesn't even ask for them. However, the behavior is not improving. Am I doing the right thing?


I'm thrilled to hear about your son's creative interest in constructing things, and this is a behavior that I suspect you would agree should be encouraged. That being said, the part of the process that involves putting things away is also very important. I strongly suspect that the fact that "there is a lot to clean up" has a lot more to do with the situation than him "not wanting to undo his work". I would suggest that you tell him before he starts a construction project that he has a specified amount of time to play with this project and then he will be required to put every thing away. Set a timer for the specified amount of time and when it alarms tell him that it is time to put things away (while standing upright in a position of authority and not bent over to get on his level as some suggest). At this point you should leave the room to avoid giving him an opportunity to complain or argue. If you return and find that he has not put his toys away then I would encourage you to use the ticket system as with other misbehaviors that were addressed in your previous question.

By the way, if you are genuinely concerned that he is bothered by deconstructing his treasured creations you might consider telling him when he begins a project that you will take pictures of the completed creation before he deconstructs it to put it away. I'm assuming, of course, that you have a phone or digital camera that will make this very easy to accomplish.

Good luck with your budding engineer,

Marcus Robinson CLPC arkpc@yahoo.com

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