I turned my back for a few minutes and went downstairs. I returned to this. DinoBoy(3) tipped over a bin full of shredded paper and waded through it like a pile of leaves.
Me: “Woah buddy. I see a huge mess on the floor. How’d this happen?”
DB: “I tipped it over and made a mess!”
Me: “I see that. Did you have fun doing it?”
DB: “I walked through it. It was fun!”
Me: “I bet. Seeing all the little pieces of paper flutter everywhere was pretty neat. But now there’s a huge mess to clean up.”
DB: “Yeah. It needs cleaned up.”
Me: “Do you know what these are?”
DB: “No. What are they?”
Me: “They’re little bits of shredded paper. So people can’t get information we don’t want them to have in our trash. That’s why they’re so tiny. So. How do you think we should clean this up?”
DB: thinking, thinking, thinking “Ummmm. I don’t know daddy.”
Me: “Okay. I have an idea. I will help you, but you need to clean this up. Okay?”
DB: “Okay. What’s your idea?”
Me: “Take this paper and watch me.” I took a piece of paper and folded it to show him how to use it as a shovel to scoop up large quantities at a time and dispose of it back into the bin. “Next time you see something that could make a mess like this, ask me first and we can come with an idea, okay?”
DB: “Okay. I’ll ask next time.”
Me: “Excellent. Thank you buddy.”
He didn’t exactly know what the paper was for or why it was cut up into little bits. He saw a bin full of something cool, something new. I saw an experiment, not a mess (although it was a mess). To him, it was a new experience. He wasn’t intentionally making a mess or trying to upset me. There needs to be no punishment of any kind.
It took about half an hour to clean it up moving at a toddlers pace. I could have done it much quicker with a vacuum cleaner and then talked to him about it. But that wouldn’t of taught accountability. I always include him in the process of cleaning up. It’s a lesson learned.