Part 2 – The Process
In our last article, we talked about preparing your child’s room and your child for the task of room cleaning. We also talked about defining your expectations and being realistic by realizing the room is being cleaned by a child. Once those areas are taken care of, you can start finding ways to make cleaning the bedroom fun.
One thing to avoid is making your child’s task extra work for you. Many of the suggestions for making room cleaning fun involve taking your valuable time to set up the situation, monitor, or participate. There were two things I tried to remember when dealing with the challenges of raising children:
Therefore, I have tried to include methods that transfer the responsibility to your child and take very little of your time. What we are striving for is a child who cleans up on their own responsibly without assistance.
You want to vary your activities if your children get bored with one method. Eventually, they will outgrow the need for fun and games – possibly.
For your toddler
Toddlers love tools, even cleaning tools. A light-weight hand-held vacuum is perfect for them. Buy some child-size cleaning supplies. Toddlers love to “play” with water, so fill a small spray bottle with water for cleaning and give them a few paper towels. Water is safer than chemical cleaning supplies and if the bottle is small enough, they can’t get anything too soaked before they run out of water.
Challenge your child to pick up all the items that are one colour, and then move to a different colour. You should probably supervise this at first, but after some practice, your child may be able to just report to you when they have completed each colour.
For your preschooler
Use numbers and letters. Tell them to pick up five red items, or all the toys that start with the letter P. Play music for them while they tidy and you will find they stay with the task longer.
This is an excellent age for establishing a routine. One very successful and organized mother I knew checked rooms before dinner. Another had a twenty-minute clean-up time as part of the pre-bed routine. Your preschooler may do better with frequent, short, cleaning periods. Have your preschooler pick up before lunch, their afternoon nap, and dinner time.
For your school-aged child
Base your child’s cleaning on a favourite hero, heroine, or movie character. Pretend your child is Cinderella and has to have her room cleaned before going to the ball. After she is done, put make up on her and dress up clothes as a reward. Tell your son he can’t play in the super bowl until his room is clean. Then watch a sports program or recorded game with him when he is finished.
Create a checklist with directions next to each task. One benefit of this is transferring the responsibility for completion to the child. You can tell them your child that you will check the chart on a specified day each week. Initially, you may want to do a midweek check.
For your pre-teen or teenager
There is nothing worse than trying to teach your teenager responsible behaviour for room cleaning when they are never taken on that task before. However, it is never too late.
Communicate the need for their cooperation and your expectations clearly to your teen and then be firm in follow-through. The easiest way to get compliance is to tie this responsibility to privileges that come during the teen years – driving, dating, and computer/mobile phone/anything electronic use.
Also, cut back to once a day, bi-weekly, or once a week – whichever you can live with. And sometimes you may have to bite your tongue and ignore the condition of their room. Your pre-teen has those raging hormones that can turn them into a totally unrecognisable stranger. Your teen is dealing with many areas of increased responsibility – grades, dating, and sport’s and after-school activity participation.
My teens loved having their friends visit and I would not allow visits unless beds were clear and the trash was out of their room. I did a “smell test” also. Boy’s rooms can get pretty nasty if dirty socks and gym clothes are left lying around.
You may consider following your child to college. Don’t. I know a mother – actually more than one! – who has done so. They visit on weekends and clean their sons’ rooms. Also, they take home and return laundry. To me, that is going just a bit too far. If you haven’t succeeded in establishing a good cleaning routine that has become a natural part of your child’s life by the time they leave home, it is time give up and hope time, and their own attempts to get their children to clean, will take care of the situation.
Some children just never seem to get it totally together. That probably is our fault to a great extent. I was very relaxed in my requirements for a tidy room. First, I was a stay-at-home mum who did it all for them – big mistake. Then, when I went to work, I had one rule – I had to be able to see their floor. Bigger mistake! Every year when my children went to camp, I cleaned their room completely. Every nook and cranny was filled and their closet was packed. But their floors were always clear.
Now, when I visit my daughter, her floors are clean! She is working at building good cleaning habits in her children, so maybe the cycle will be broken.