Q: What's a good way to teach my 9-year-old to put dirty clothes in the hamper instead of just throwing them all over the floor?
A: "First, make sure that throwing dirty clothes in the hamper is a family rule that everyone must follow," advises Frederic Medway, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. "Then find ways to reinforce the habit." For example, buy your child an interesting hamper he can put in his room. "If he likes basketball, get him a laundry basket with a hoop so he can practice his shots as he puts dirty clothes away," says Dr. Medway.
"This is a relatively simple behavior to change, if you can find the right incentive," adds Dr. Medway. "Try to pick a small but meaningful reward for compliance, and a minor consequence for noncompliance." Most important, make sure to follow through. "The biggest mistake parents make is giving up too soon," he stresses. "If you remain consistent with rewards and consequences, even when your child complains, he will eventually start to cooperate."
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