Seems like we’ve all been there…you walk past your child’s room only to see clothes all over the floor. Dirty dishes on their dresser. Blankets falling off their bed. School papers and books piled, scattered.
So what do we do?
“Go clean up your room!”
Oh yeah, those words we’ve spoken so many times. Some kids will actually spend some time and clean it up. But I’m guessing for most of us, that isn’t really how it happens. Maybe they spend a few minutes picking up, then get distracted. Maybe they say they’ll do it later, but ‘forget.’ Maybe you’ll hear the list of why they can’t clean it up….it’s too hard, they’re gonna play with those things later, they’re tired. Or maybe you’ll simply get a flat-out no, and then the arguing begins.
So what do we do now?
Having my kids pick up their rooms had always been an on-going thing. It became such a battle with one of my daughters, I was at the end of my rope. I literally went up to her room one day and dumped every dresser drawer out onto her floor! Not one of my prouder moments. Yep, ‘Mother of the Year Award’ for me! But now that she’s all grown up, we do look back at that and laugh.
In the end, did doing something extreme have any influence on how she keeps her room? Nope!
I also have a son who loves to grow things…farming is kind of his thing. His room has been messy, well, seems like forever. And in there, it’s not just about messy. It’s actually dirty! I mean, there were times there was dirt on the table and the carpet because he was planting vegetables in his room! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told him to clean his room. And even when he did, it was still not up to my standards. I found it frustrating, to say the least.
Guess what? He’s now a freshman in college. And his dorm room? He keeps it picked up! He even tells me he has to say something to his roommate about keeping his things picked up!! Who woulda thought??
So what’s the point here? Mamas, I hear you when you say you’re frustrated.
There has to be a middle ground. If we demand it to be clean, or kept a certain way, we are looking at years….YEARS…of telling them the same thing over and over. It will continue to be a source of stress.
There are certainly ways to work on this…bribery, allowance, demands, consequences. For me, it just became not worth the fight anymore. And I WISH I had realized this sooner. Because now I look back and see that in the bigger picture, it really wasn’t worth it.
Now don’t think I’m saying just let it all go and have no boundaries. Clearly there are some rules…like dirty dishes, or laundry. But let’s make this easier, simpler, and stress-free. Next time you feel the urge to tell (or yell!) “Go clean your room!” stop and take a breath.
- Give your child a heads-up. Tell them that at a given time (say after dinner, perhaps) that the two of you are going to clean up the toys. Yep, your child made the mess, not you. I get it. But what is the end goal here? Getting the room picked up? Check. Teaching them to be responsible? Check.
- Help them pick up their clothes when you need to do the laundry. Again, bring a basket in to their room, and help them put the clothes in there. Or sit on the bed and have a nice conversation while they put the clothes in the basket.
- Don’t look for perfection. Enough said on that one. This took me way too many years to figure out…
- Make a routine out of the absolutes. Dirty dishes simply cannot stay in a bedroom. So, help your child establish a routine to take care of them, or anything else you must make a priority. Maybe right before dinner, or during their bedtime routine, or when they come down in the morning for breakfast. Just give a reminder, and follow up to make sure it was done.
- A little at a time. If the room is truly a disaster and no one can find anything, work on the important things only, and do them no more than 15 minutes at a time. Work together.
- The older they get, the less important it is. You will have enough battles ahead. This doesn’t need to be one of them. You want your teen home more rather than always going to someone else’s house? Then home needs to be a safe, comfortable place without the stress.
- Let the rest go. If it bothers you to look at, shut the door.
Here’s what I know…my kids are all teenagers and young adults. And some of them are neat, and some not so much. I’ve seen one of my sons, whose room used to be a disaster, head back to college with it looking pretty neat and picked up. And I didn’t have to tell him to do it. Another one left and his room, well…it ‘needs some work’ would be an understatement. But honestly, who cares? I love when he’s home on break, and I don’t want him to feel like it’s an issue with us. So I let it go. (Okay, now I have you singing that song in your head, right?)
I know some of you will disagree. And that’s okay. But if you want joy and peace and contentment, rather than stress, I believe this is the way to go. If you keep a pretty clean and picked up house, your children are watching you. Lead by example. And if your house is a bit of a mess, telling them to do differently than what you do…well, what they see will have more of an impact than what they hear. And I know you want your children to have better, and be better, than us moms are. We all want that. As you make small changes in eliminating stress in your life and your home, your children will see that too.
Let’s not make this a big deal. Let’s just do the best we can…positive and helpful and encouraging. And let it go.
(Your singing in your head again, huh?)