To Clean or Not to Clean (Your Child’s Room)
By: Rachel Paxton
Whether or not to help your child clean their room. It's an age old dilemma. I still clearly remember my dad patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) explaining and demonstrating to me how to fold the sheet corners on my bed. I just didn't understand how the way he learned to make his bed in the army had to do with me and how I made my bed. Why was he torturing me this way?
I never did figure out why having such a neatly made bed was so important to my dad, but he eventually gave up and found other ways to ensure I grew up with serviceable housekeeping skills. So how do you pass these skills along to your children without them hating you for it?
I've heard several theories on how parents should encourage their children to keep their rooms clean. Some parents just insist that the bedroom is kept clean, every minute of every day. That's fine if your child was born with a true desire to live in a home that is neat and organized at all times (like my husband). Personally I quickly tired of arguing with our 12-yr-old daughter about keeping her room clean.
When our daughter was younger, I never insisted her room be spotless. It always had a "lived in" look, but I encouraged her to pick up after herself. As she got older we noticed that she was not as organized as my husband and I hoped she would be. So we decided to come up with a better way to keep her belongings in good order.
It's mom's very nature to just go in her child's room once in awhile to clean things up just a bit. That was the approach my mom often took, and I won't deny that I haven't been guilty of it myself from time to time.
I decided to "help" our daughter clean her room, because her excuse was always that she didn't know where to put everything. Well, that's easy enough to fix. About once a month, we regularly went through all her clothes and toys, sorting out what she no longer needed or wanted, to give away to friends, charities, or to save for the annual yard sale. I have found that when space is an issue, (which it almost always is), it is absolutely essential to minimize the clutter.
When a child walks into a hopelessly messy bedroom, they don't even know where to start. Make it easier for them by getting rid of the unnecessaries. After doing this enough times, our daughter finally started bringing me her unwanted belongings on her own, without me constantly having to go through her things with her. Progress. That's good!
I still often help our daughter clean her room. My husband hates it. Yes, she is capable of cleaning her room by herself now, but I think we honestly both enjoy the time we spend together while doing it. I have to say, though, that minimizing the clutter has reduced our combined effort to 15 minutes or less. Most of the time is spent sorting through school papers she's stashed away in every corner of her room. I've also found that the less stuff our daughter has, the better she takes care of what she does have.
My husband and I have laid down some ground rules that I really think have helped our daughter think about keeping her room clean and organized on her own.
- No food in your bedroom. No exceptions.
- Clean the hamster cage once a week, or no hamster. (Luckily for the hamster she has a great deal of concern for his living conditions).
- Keep CD's put away or no new CD's.
- Keep dirty clothes in the hamper or they won't get washed. (We've made sure she only has a week's worth of most items of clothing so she runs out quickly if the clothes don't make it into the laundry).
The other day I caught our daughter sitting on her bedroom floor with her socks and underwear spread around her. She was painstakingly folding each pair and organizing them in the drawer. "I hate it when they're all mixed up and I can't find something!" she exclaimed. There's hope yet, I thought to myself. I couldn't help but laugh.
Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom who is the author of What's for Dinner?, an e-cookbook containing more than 250 quick easy dinner ideas. For more recipes, organizing tips, home decorating, crafts, holiday hints, and more, visit Creative Homemaking at http://www.creativehomemaking.com/.