Encouraging Kids to Clean Their Rooms

by Ann Douglas

Kids Cleaning Their RoomsKids wont keep their rooms clean? It's not like you ask that their rooms be sparkling. You just don't want to be tripping on toys when you check on them at night. What can you do to persuade them to keep on top of the clutter?

While we all have a friend with a child who positively delights in keeping his or her room clean and tidy, a child with an organizational bent like that tends to be the exception rather than the rule.

More typical are kids like yours and mine: Kids who will clean their rooms when the grandparents are arriving for a visit, the night before their birthday parties, and when they want to avoid being called on to participate in some even more loathsome task like cleaning the garbage pails in the garage. In other words, it's not their top priority from week to week.

I've discovered over the years that my kids are more inclined to do a good job with their rooms if they have company while they're working or if they feel that there's hope of keeping their room clean for more than five minutes after they finish all that work.

I've been able to use this knowledge to my advantage by either cleaning my own room while they're cleaning theirs so that I'm able to keep them company from around the country or pitching in with some of the room pickup, if a would-be room cleaner is particularly bogged down. All three of my boys have attention-deficit disorder; two of them have learning disabilities as well; and one of them has Aspergers syndrome, so expecting them to just tackle the task from start to finish without any help has proven to be ineffective and unrealistic.
I've also discovered that providing them with storage boxes, storage containers, or other bins and containers that allow them to sort their various collections, projects, and hobbies into piles that can be tucked away in a semi-manageable way has made a huge difference in taming the clutter at least some of the time.

My final advice: Tackle the room cleanup project in little chunks while listening to great music or fabulous podcasts. CBC Comedy Factory podcasts can almost make cleaning fun. Good luck!

As you're encouraging your kids to take greater responsibility for remembering to clean their rooms, you'll probably find that you use different approaches with different kids, depending on their ages, developmental stages, and temperaments.

Some kids are keenly motivated by activity incentives ("We'll play a game together once you finish organizing that pile of stuff on your bedroom floor") while others love charts and checklists (it generally works best if they design their own) and still others prefer to be given a "deadline" for the room cleaning assignment -- and then breathing room to figure out how to meet that deadline (these are the kids who hate being micromanaged).

The key is to use your knowledge of your child, rather than falling back on "the one-size-fits-all" nagging approach, which isn't particularly effective anyway. Good luck!

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site, having-a-baby.com.

Copyright © Ann Douglas. Permission to publish granted to Pregnancy.org.