How can you help people in your house put things where they’re supposed to go?

Okay, bear with me here. Remember how all the toys in Toy Story moved and talked when the kids were gone? Well, in my house, sometimes lots of objects talk! When I would leave cabinets open in the kitchen, David used to leave little sticky notes on the cabinet, from the perspective of the cabinet door, that said things like “Hi Kelly! I get kind of scared and lonely when I’m open like this! Can you close me when you’re finished? Love, the cabinet.” It was a cute, funny way to address my habit of leaving cabinets open.

If David left his flip-flops out, I’d write one that said “David, we’re feeling cold and sad outside the warm closet! Can you put us back? Love, the flip-flops.” And then, to reinforce a good habit, we’d write each other congratulatory notes, all from the perspective of the inanimate objects. We still write each other these notes now and again, and now we write them for our kids as well.

Children have a very active imagination. They practically live in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood of Make-Believe. You can leverage this to your advantage to make reminders to complete a task light and fluffy. You can make a toothbrush or a pair of pajamas talk.

I can already hear somebody saying “well people aren’t going to make these accommodations for them when they’re grownups at school or in professional life!” Okay, let me stop this one before it starts. Remember that kids learn by play! Their prefrontal cortices (the rational, executive-function part of the brain) won’t be developed until age 25 on average. Remember that a child’s world, and their way of perceiving the world, is orders of magnitude different from ours. They will outgrow the need for Mr. Bear to have a sticky note saying “thanks for putting me back in the play bin,” but they will never outgrow being your children. As you strive for compassionate engagement with your little ones, you will find peace and harmony in your home, I promise on a stack o’ Bibles.

Remember: you’ve got this!

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