What’s the ideal age for children to start cleaning? One mother who forced her 6-year-old child to tidy up a big mess — which the girl made herself — wonders if her punishment was too harsh.
The mother turned to Reddit‘s AITA forum for advice. “So my husband and I have a daughter, let’s call her Jenny,” she wrote in her post. “Jenny is 6 years old and loves to take things that do not belong to her. Recently, Jenny decided to take our cats litter box and dump it in her room.”
Although Jenny’s parents typically clean their daughter’s messes, this time mom had enough. “I scolded her for this and made her learn how to use a vacuum to clean it up,” she explained, however that upset Jenny’s father who claimed she is too young to bare the responsibility. “….My husband got mad at me and said I’m an a**hole for making her clean it up by herself since Jenny’s only 6 and she cried while she was cleaning it up,” wrote the mom. “I told him if she wanted to make big messes she could be a big girl and learn to clean them up as we can’t always clean after her. AITA?”
It’s a legit question — according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children can start helping out at home starting at age 2, for example, by cleaning up toys that are scattered around. While a study published by Paediatrics & Child Health, which examined effective discipline strategies, noted that having children clean their own messes instills responsibility.
Of course, Reddit responded, largely in agreement with the OP (original poster). “It’s vacuuming one area that your daughter made a mess of, not turning her into Cinderella for the whole house,” remarked a reader. “…She’s gonna be messy. But you are right she’s also old enough to learn that there are consequences for being messy and you have to clean up after yourself. Good on you for disciplining her early on and in a way that hurts no one!”
“When I was younger than that, I drew on the wall with crayons,” someone wrote. “My mom made me stand with a sponge and a bucket of soapy water to clean it off. Did me zero harm, and I never drew on the walls again.” While one added, “She made a mess, you had her clean it up. You even provided a tool that does like 99.9% of the work.”
“How does your husband expect her to learn?” wrote another.
And one person looked deeper. “By saying you scolded her, that sounds like punishment,” read the comment. “Punishment is not discipline. Discipline is about teaching. Sounds like you need to get to the root of why she thought dumping cat litter in her room was OK.”
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