P.E.A.C.E. Blog
  • Neomi Fletcher

To Keep Or Not To Keep: Mess-Free Parenting

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

There are products available to parents, teachers and other child care personnel to engage in art projects using utensils and tools that do not leave behind a mess. And I get it. Some days, we do not want to spend the extra time cleaning up behind our little ones after they paint. Or we do not want to supervise our little ones during art time to make sure they do not start coloring on the walls, their clothes, etc. Not only do those of us engaged in guiding children to adolescence engage this mess-free model in art projects, we also engage it with regard to how children explore their home. And while there are limits to how large we should allow any mess to become, this attempt to eliminate messes concerns me. So I open our discussion this month to consider some of the positive benefits of mess-free parenting practices as well as some of the missed opportunities. As with any discussion with the P.E.A.C.E. Ground the points raised are just considerations. It’s up to you to make a decision about how to move forward in your household. I would love to continue the conversation on any of our social media platforms #messfreeparent.

Let’s dig in.

Positive Benefits

  1. Saves time - Whether using magic art supplies or eating every meal at the table every effort to reduce a potential mess ahead of time decreases the amount of time required to clean-up throughout the day.

  2. Requires less supervision - there are moments in each of our day where we need our little ones to spend time on their own. Finding those activities that minimize potential harm or possibilities of destruction suite this time very well.

  3. Allows furniture, clothes, etc to last longer. - Removing stains is a task. From choosing the right chemicals to cleaning it before the stain sets in, none of us want to live in spaces tatted with our children’s artwork.

  4. Engages the child in scientific thought: how does this clear marker turn green?

Missed Opportunities

  1. Imaginative Play - When left to explore how common household items may transform into play tools, a child’s mind is free to imagine endless possibilities and connect thier surroundings with the concepts formed in their minds. They also have an opportunity to develop new concepts. An open room with limited restrictions makes a good recipe for helping all the members of our household envision themselves living out their full potential.

  2. Boundary setting - It is nice when our children adhere to our words of caution. Even more beautiful is when they begin to establish for themselves their own set of limitations regarding what they believe are good practices. Now I know some of our little ones will push every boundary possible, but when the opportunity to see the other side of boundary setting is removed, it limits the mental and emotional processes involved in choosing to say no.

  3. Sharing household responsibilities - Any mess presents an opportunity for members of a household to work together to complete a task. Not only are these valuable times for working together and building a team aesthetic, they are also great opportunities to instill a natural inclination to care for our individual property.

  4. Minimizing “perfectionist” attitudes - Often times, our desire as adults to maintain a dazzling clean living environment adds emotional stress to our children’s existence. Not only do they begin to embody the necessity to keep everything clean, they limit their engagement with things around the house based on the adults response to various spills, accidents, mishaps, etc. An overemphasis on cleanliness, particularly for our children under 6, plays a major role in shaping the freedom with which our young ones explore new ideas, take risks and experiment with finding new ways to achieve their goals.

There are several ways to integrate both realities - having spaces where household members are free to explore and experiment and designating other spaces that remain intact throughout most of our day. However, to designate our homes as primarily mess-free places has consequences we may not be aware of. On the other side of the spectrum, to allow our homes to be spaces where minimal cleaning and organization is required as hinders our teams development. So where is the sweet middle ground for you and your family?

For us as household leaders, our ability to let our children imagine a world of possibilities is often connected to our desire or need to control our environment. So I invite you to consider, what activity can I engage with the members of my household that gives us time to just get messy? Even if you do not have children yet, there are moments in your relationship that can be permitted to just happen and doing so will create space for you and your partner to discover new ways of connecting.

Are you up for the challenge to get messy?

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