Every tired, overworked, underappreciated parent knows that managing a household is a daunting task. With the demands of career juggled with the demands of soccer and band practice, parents wonder how they are going to find time for a shower in their day. Much less the time necessary to keep the rooms of the house neat, if not clean.
But the dust bunnies reproduce so quickly. While moms and dads struggle to keep the ‘public areas’ of the home – living room, kitchen, family room, etc. – from being lost under a massive glacier of backpacks, junk mail, and shoes, the upstairs rooms sometimes suffer from lack of exposure to houseguests.
What can parents do to encourage kids to participate in family chores by keeping their own rooms neat?
Cleaning Kids Rooms: Flies With Honey
Kids respond better to requests with smiles than demands with frowns. Have an ice cream treat or a trip to the playground ready ‘when your room’s clean.’ Even young children can help ‘clean’ their rooms by picking up books or toys or putting dirty laundry in their hampers. Reward them with something positive. You can even hang a ‘chore chart’ in kids’ rooms, so they get a gold star or dinosaur or princess sticker each time they pitch in by cleaning their room.
Cleaning Kids Rooms: …But Vinegar if Necessary
If the smiles and treats don’t work, it’s time to get down to business. Explain to Junior that mommy and daddy work hard and have to keep the rest of the house clean, so he is expected to do his part by keeping his room neat. If he doesn’t, privilege will be lost. Taking away a favorite TV show or – gasp – an iPod can be a pretty powerful motivation to get a room tidy.
Cleaning Kids Rooms: Working Together
Sometimes just being present with him is enough motivation for a child to clean his room. If you are in the room doing one specific task (folding and putting away laundry, for example), it often has a ‘monkey see, monkey do’ effect, and kids will want to participate in the activity you’re doing. Also, you can start a chore and then ask the child to finish it – if the blocks are all over the floor, demonstrate cleaning by putting the first few blocks into their container – the child will probably follow suit. Kids will also be less likely to stuff dirty socks under the bed if you’re in the room!
Cleaning Kids Rooms: Sort It Out
Kids will have much more success in cleaning their rooms if there is an obvious place to put everything away. Buy container organizers and label them “Cars and Trucks,” “Barbies,” “Legos” (with a photo of the item beside the label for pre-readers!), etc. so the kids know exactly where to put things when you ask them to be put away.
If everything has a place, it’s more likely to land there – even if you do end up with a few doll shoes mixed in with the plastic food!