Getting a kid to clean their room (and keep it clean) can be a maddening process. Often, we moms will start out with the patience of a saint. But then we lose our minds because we don’t know how to implement a good way of holding our kids accountable to the task. Here are a few solid tips for getting your kids to clean their rooms without losing your marbles. (Or, at the very least, losing fewer of your own marbles).
Get Your Kids to Clean Their Room
Be an example.
When your kids are young, you will likely need to help them clean their room to show them where everything goes and how you expect the room to look when they are done. This may last for a while for some kids. After a while, though, you can start tapering the time you are in there helping them. Clean with them for the first 15 minutes, and then let them finish the rest. Lessen the time you help over the course of a few weeks until your kid can manage it by himself.
Define your expectations clearly.
Before you can expect a kid to clean his or her room, you must lay out very clearly what a clean room looks like. You can explain what you want them to do, but I highly suggest making a chart so they can visually keep track (see below). For you, a clean room may include making the bed, putting away toys, putting clothes in the hamper, and throwing away trash. Make those expectations very clear from the beginning, so your child knows what goals she’s working toward.
Give up control.
As much as you want things done a certain way, we can all agree that kids are not going to do what we ask them to do exactly how we would have done them. I am a perfectionist, and it makes me crazy how my daughter hangs her clothes. However, if I constantly take control of the task because it’s not done “right,” all I’m teaching her is (1) she’s not good enough and (2) do a half-ass job because mom will fix it later. As hard as it may be, let your child complete her task the best way she can and let it go. I promise the world will not end.
Give task-oriented consequences.
One way to make sure a task gets done is to put a privilege on hold if said task is not completed. For instance, if you want your daughter to clean her room and she wants to spend the afternoon watching a show on the iPad, remove the iPad from her possession until she has completed the task of tidying her room.
Create a swap system.
If your kids are anything like mine, they already have more toys than they know what to do with. Frankly, I’m tired of adding more crap to their treasure trove. This summer, I’m implementing a new rule that will require my kids to purge their overabundance of toys. For every new item they get, no matter how small, they have to donate one item they already own. I suspect this will not go over well, but that’s the fun of being a mom. I make the rules.
Assign age-appropriate chores.
Young children can’t be expected to do various housekeeping activities such as vacuuming. Personally, my four-year-old still runs screaming in fear that the vacuum will suck him up, so there’s that. But you can certainly expect your toddler to help make his bed. And to put away his toys and put laundry in his hamper. There are quite a few chores toddlers can do starting at 2-3 years old and more age-appropriate chores as they get older. The earlier they learn to pitch in around the house, the easier it will be to keep them accountable as they get older.
Make a chore chart.
Kids love to see their progress. Young kids lose their minds over stickers. One of the most effective ways to encourage kids to get their rooms clean is to make the process something they can earn rewards for. By creating a chore chart, you can award a sticker every time your child completes one of the tasks. When they complete a whole row of tasks, they can earn an even more special award. (Ice cream after dinner? A new book? An extra half-hour on their iPad?)
Even though these tips are manageable, you will inevitably run into toddlers and teens who rebel when it comes to cleaning their rooms. Don’t worry. You’re not failing! Like anything else in parenting, this will take time, consistency, and patience. So take a deep breath and keep going. Those rooms will be clean one day, I promise!