At the end of a long day, you make
your way to your daughter to tuck her in and kiss her goodnight. But as you make your way to her room, you are suddenly seized with panic. Clearly, someone has broken into your home and ransacked
it in an attempt to harm your family. Heart pounding, you burst into the room, to find you daughter sitting peacefully in a lump of clothing and candy wrappers. You seem to remember purchasing a
bed and lovely sheets for it, but there is no sign of either.
The closet door is closed, and against your better judgment, you open it, moving back just in time to avoid being crushed by the avalanche of laundry and toys that spill out. You glance at your
daughter who returns your gaze innocently. "What?" she says, genuinely not understanding.
Keep your cool in the moment
If it's bedtime, this is not the time to get you both worked up, and it's certainly not the time to start cleaning. You can tell your child, as calmly as possible, "This is unacceptable. Tomorrow,
we will do something about this." Then end the discussion. No matter what your child says, have the conversation you want to have, namely, "Sleep well. See you in the morning. I love you." And walk
See how easy step one is? You can even reward yourself with a glass of wine after you've successfully completed it. And then you're ready to move on to the next step.
Plan your attack
On paper or on the computer, write down the steps involved in cleaning the room. You can adjust these based on your child's age and abilities, of course, but a basic breakdown might look like this:
1. Get a large trash bag and 2 laundry baskets and take them to your room.
2. Make your bed.
3. Check underneath the bed and get everything out from under it. Just get it where you can see and reach it.
4. Grab the trash bag and throw away all the trash you see.
5. Grab one laundry basket and load it with all the dirty laundry.
6. Find all the clean clothes and put them away properly.
7. Take the empty laundry basket and fill it with everything that doesn't belong in your room.
8. Put away anything still left out in the room.
When your child returns from school the next day, sit down for a brief snack and explain the process. Give your child the list and tell her you'll be there to supervise, but make it clear that she
is going to do the actual cleaning. Help her gather the necessary supplies, and get to it. You can put on music or set a timer to "beat the clock" or use whatever tricks motivate your child. As
surfaces reappear, you can step in with cleaning supplies and wipe them down. When the floor is clear, you can vacuum (or have your child do it). Do not allow the process to take more than 90
How to handle "No!"
If your child resists the kind approach, it's time to get strict. Don't speak. Just take several large trash bags and make your way to the room. Start bagging everything -- sheets, clothes, toys,
trash -- bag it all together. Stop when the room is bare. If your child wants something, she can have one bag at a time, and she has to deal with each item in it. The job will take longer this way,
and it's a pretty powerful lesson.
Once you and your child have gone through this process, neither of you will be eager to repeat it. So make a plan to spend five minutes daily doing maintenance. The same list you used for the big
clean can be repeated, but limit the time frame to a total of five minutes -- that's all it should take if it's done daily.
With a little effort and a lot of persistence, you can teach your kids to clean their rooms.