A question from reader Jess:
My husband and I are having a hard time getting our 7 year old to clean his room. His room gets so bad that I am afraid someone will kill themselves trying to walk through it. Yesterday we decided he needed to clean it but he just wouldn’t do. He kept sneaking out or he sat and played in it and didn’t clean. We resorted to yelling and then eventually to a spanking and yet he still didn’t clean his room. I also felt terrible after he got spanked and he sat in his room sobbing. But he needs to be able to clean his room on his own. What should we have done differently?
Sorry that you are having such a tough time with this issue. Here are a few ideas to help avoid this scenario in the future.
First, it sounds as though your son’s room would take a lot of time to clean if it was as bad as you described. That was probably too much for a 7 year old to handle. Not only was the thought of cleaning that room overwhelming to him he may not have the skills required yet. When my oldest son was exactly the same age he would also let his room get out of control if we let it go too long. When that happened I would go in and clean it with him, giving him jobs to do and showing him first hand how to get it clean. I didn’t worry one bit that he wouldn’t learn to clean it himself….how could he learn unless I repeatedly showed him how it was done?
Before bed each night I would also go in and do a quick once over for him…perhaps giving him one job to do…like taking his laundry downstairs or picking up his art supplies. Doing this little bit each night helped us keep it from getting too bad. Cleaning his room together allowed me to teach him how to clean and it allowed me to see what activities and art projects he was working on and discuss them with him. We both enjoyed this time spent together and now I am repeating this process with my daughter and youngest son who are 8 and 9.
For what it is worth my oldest is now 13 years old and keeps his room clean, entirely on his own. In general he is an excellent cleaner, even going so far as to wash windows and steam carpets. I truly believe that we have to model cleaning for them in THEIR environment. They may see us cleaning common areas of the household but that isn’t always sufficient. Cleaning with them and in areas useful to them (like their bedroom) is advantageous.
Next time your son’s room gets out of control get your hands dirty and clean it with him. I don’t think you are really afraid he won’t know how to clean a room as an adult if you help him as a child. So why worry about making him do it on his own? In fact, when my bedroom needs cleaned I often ask the kids to help me out or my husband and I do it together. I CAN clean it on my own but it goes much faster and it is more enjoyable if I have help. Just put yourself in your children’s shoes….if it was your room would you want to be stuck in there cleaning it all day by yourself? Probably not.
What do you think? How do you tackle this issue?
Friday, February 7th, 2014