Recently, a couple of parents asked me what they could do to get their daughter to listen and clean up after herself.

Recently, a couple of parents asked me what they could do to get their daughter to listen and clean up after herself.

The problem

Described as kind, thoughtful and smart at school, at home she was unorganized and struggled to follow through.

For example, Mom said that when she asks her daughter to clean up her homework before dinner, her daughter agrees, leaves the room to do it, but gets easily distracted by a television program or conversation. Mom yells, her daughter apologizes, and both end up feeling bad. Mom said her daughter has left so many things around that she started to pick up and take away anything she finds.  

Problem solving

The topic of ADHD came up because this child doesn't seem to be able to carry a thought from one room of the house to the next. Her teacher reports that she is able to stay on task at school and there are no concerns at this time.

So what's the problem at home?

Perhaps it has become a learned behavior, with comfortable patterning. Mom says she hates yelling but finds herself frustrated. I suggested Mom and Dad put some physical supports into place that will help their daughter change her negative attention seeking behavior pattern. She needs to learn what it feels like to be successful at following directions and take care of her belongings.

Talk with a touch

Multisensory communication, which means touch as you talk, is significantly more effective than giving a verbal directive from across the room. Physical closeness with an occasional touch to underscore one word sends a message of importance to the brain.

I suggested Mom get up and go over to her daughter when she needs to tell her something of importance, and kindly tell her what she needs to do rather than ask her to do it.

Physical supports help children as they are learning new behaviors. Heart stick-it notes with the to-do item written on it were given to her daughter each time Mom sent her off to complete a task. Her daughter giggles and completes tasks successfully, with heart note in hand.

Rather than take away items that are left around teach your child to pick up after herself with a pick-up pail. Design a wash bucket and to be used each night before bed. Tour the house together to locate stray items and help your child learn to put items away.

Teach responsibility in a fun way, every day.

Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting coach who lives in Stark County, Ohio. She is author of "Parenting with a Purpose." Send your child-rearing questions to or The Repository, c/o Family Matters, 500 Market Ave. S, Canton, OH 44702. Find parenting resources at her website,