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Bedroom disaster zone
Stress importance of tidy spaces
Published Wednesday, November 21, 2012 8:17 am
by Wesley Carter D.M.

No matter what I try, I cannot get my children to clean their rooms. They seem to be perfectly comfortable living amongst the clutter. What can I do?

Wesley Carter D.M.

Most children are quite comfortable living in a messy bedroom. It is not an act of defiance. Instead, children have different priorities and little attention to detail. Before concluding that you are beat, look around you. Ensure that the rest of your home is neat and orderly.

Children will quickly recognize the hypocrisy of your demands if your own room is messy and unkempt.

As the head of your home, it is important that you hold your children accountable for caring for their belongings. Remember, many of the skills required to keep their bedrooms neat and organized are transferrable to school work. Developing organization skills is absolutely necessary to perform well in school.

Medically, a child’s frontal lobe, the part of the brain that is responsible for organizing, planning, problem solving, and paying attention, is not totally developed. An underdeveloped frontal lobe need not be a limitation. Instead, get more engaged in motivating and monitoring cleaning activities.

Schedule a family meeting and explain that your home is an asset and as such, worthy of care and maintenance. Discuss ways to prolong the life and add value to your family’s belongings. Invite the children to suggest ideas and volunteer efforts that will contribute to the attractiveness of your home. Put on some upbeat music and engage the entire family in a thorough housecleaning project.

Include minor repairs to improve the functionality of home. No need for expensive additions and purchases. Investigate local thrift stores and clearance items at your local hardware store.  Assign small projects to each child and get them involved in beautifying your home.

In some cases, children are simply unaware of what constitutes a clean room. Make a list of every activity that must be completed to clean each room. Your cleanliness standards will likely be very different than your children’s standards. Be sure to provide very descriptive words to ensure that your children comprehend the level of cleanliness that you require. You may want to schedule the initial cleanup on a Saturday morning to allow time for deep cleaning.

After the initial cleaning, you may want to establish a consistent time for housework and chores. Some parents require children to clean at a set time on a daily basis. Other parents confine cleaning to the weekends. Determine what will work best for your family and stick to the schedule.

Make room cleaning enjoyable by adding interesting twists to the experience. For example, some parents read to their children while they clean. Or you could establish a reward such as a lively evening of family appropriate games and movies.

If your children continue to resist your requests, impose penalties on allowances, privileges, and access to technology.  Remind your children that access to phones, music devices, driving, and toys are at risk as long as they resist. The children should not be able to able to attend events or talk on the phone with friends until their rooms are clean.

If your children do not clean their rooms as requested, remove everything from the floor of their bedroom and store it at your office or a neighbor’s house until they comply. Progressively increase the penalties until you get compliance. Offer to help on the initial clean and use the time to teach them how to clean. Rest assured that they will be thankful when they grow up and share living space with roommates or spouses.

WESLEY CARTER D.M., CEO and founder of Kids by Carter, provides guidance to parents. Submit questions to wesley@kidsbycarter.com Visit www.kidsbycarter.com and follow on Twitter @kidsbydrcarter.


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