If your kid is resistant to putting away clothing, toys or other items, there is a good chance they just don’t feel like cleaning up. But if it has become a regular battle in which their opposition to the request seems disproportionate to the ask, there could be something deeper at play. They might actually be confused about which items go where.
That was the epiphany one parent on Reddit had recently when their daughter was not into the idea of putting her clothes away in her dresser. U/cahawkri3510 explains:
My typically sweet, dear 4.5-year old threw all her clothes on the floor because she was mad at me for putting too little Parmesan cheese on her spaghetti (if she puts it on, my god, half the jar gets dumped all over the floor—you all know what I’m talking about).
(Yes, we do.)
So I asked her to put them back in the drawers and she full blown, “I CANNNN’T. I NEED YOU TO HELP MEEEEEEEEE.” Yadda yadda, etc. etc. I kept my cool and asked if she needed a hug and she finally crawled on my lap to calm down.
An idea popped into my head of WHY she resists putting her clothes away so vehemently. I run to the computer and Google “coloring book shirt/pants/pjs” and printed simple pictures, some which she helped pick out, of clothes and she helped cut and tape them to the corresponding drawers.
After that? She picked up each item, one by one, and returned them to their rightful places. The task no longer seemed overwhelming because the underlying confusion and frustration had been addressed.
This tactic can be used in a variety of ways around your home. Label your little kid’s toy bins so they can more easily see which types of toys belong in various spots (vehicles here, dolls over there). Or maybe you’ve been trying to teach your big kid to empty the dishwasher but they’ve been really resistant—try labeling your cabinets so they can more easily see where the plates go versus where the coffee mugs reside.
If your kids can read, simple printed or handwritten words taped up on the front of cabinets, bins and drawers will do. For non-readers, you can get them involved in the labeling process—have them hand-draw some labels or print out simple pictures of each item that they can color in. (I took u/cahawkri3510's advice and searched “free coloring page” and “pajamas/shirt/socks” and found lots of cute options.)
Commenters on the Reddit post pointed out that this can be true not just of younger kids but also of teenagers (and, hell, adults). A mini-tantrum over a somewhat mundane task could be an indication that they need more information or direction.