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Getting Kids to Clean Their Rooms

Cleaning is not an intuitive skill. Nobody is born knowing how to attack a messy room and turn it to serenity. Few of us can effectively wield a broom, dust pan, or dust rag without a lesson or two—and a lot of practice. Making beds takes time. Here are some suggestions for making clean bedrooms possible, and defusing the dust bombs.

  • Teach your child how to clean by incorporating him into your own cleaning.
  • Cleaning can be a lonely task, and for the social child, it may feel like a punishment instead of a way to contribute to the family. Become the clean team—make the jobs go faster by working together. Your child helps you clean your areas of responsibility, you help him with his room (you're excused for a cup of afternoon tea while he hides all the pictures of the Baywatch beauties—and worse).
  • Plan a special activity or adventure for the family to celebrate a successful day of cleaning. It's not really a bribe—it's a treat!
  • Be clear about what you mean by “a clean room.” Check out the clean room checklist, below.

Clean? What Do You Mean?

We all know what a truly clean room looks like, but how do you get from here to there? How much of it is your child's responsibility? “Go clean your room” could mean tossing things in the closet until company has gone. It could mean clearing the toys from the floor and sorting game pieces into their boxes, throwing the dirty clothes in the hamper and pulling up the bedspread. It could mean changing the bed, dusting, and vacuuming. It could mean polishing the windows and mirror until they sparkle. Here's your choice (you're balancing on a high crag in the wind, choose now, parent, choose now!): Define, or face the conflict!

Below, I've broken down the process of cleaning a filthy bedroom into small, manageable chunks. You can use these suggestions (and others!) to create an individualized bedroom chore list for each member of the family. If this is successful for you, consider making a chore list for other areas of your home.

Behave Yourself!

When it comes to clean bedrooms, keep your expectations very low. Few kids have clean rooms. They like them dirty, it's the only place where they have control over their environment, and for some kids, a dirty room is a point of honor! This may be an area where something needs to give, and that something may be you.

When you make chore lists for your child, always take your child's age and development into consideration. A five-year-old can get the books back on the shelf and the clothes in the hamper, but she won't be able to do much with the bed. A 12-year-old can do his own laundry with some supervision. Remember, your expectations will change as your child matures.

Using the list will help you define your expectations. It will help your child organize his time and remember his tasks. You'll have an easy, stress-reduced way to check if things have been done. Keep the list small. Better to have too few things on the list than too many (aim for success!)

Here are two quick hints: Separate the job into straightening and cleaning, and don't clean before you've straightened, you'll just make yourself frustrated; and, a filthy room is like an archaeological dig. You've gotta approach it in layers.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Well-Behaved Child © 1999 by Ericka Lutz. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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