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Contact me at Mom25dogs@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Children's Rooms

Does your children's rooms look like this?

or this?

It's so easy for rooms to get into this condition! I understand how it happens. And even the best housekeeper will have rooms that might look like this every once in awhile. But it shouldn't be a constant thing.

If you have children, part of your job as a parent is to teach them how to become adults who can function in the real world. This includes teaching them how to clean the house, how to be organized, how to do basic housecleaning on their own. Maybe you are one of those adults who never really learned how to keep a clean, organized home. Maybe it's something you've always struggled with. Maybe you are even one of those extreme people who have become a hoarder. Then I know you want better for your children! You don't want them to grow up to be one of those people we are seeing on the TV show "Hoarders". You don't want them to have the stress of living in constant chaos. You don't want them to be handicapped as an adult, unable to have a pleasant home. If your living room constantly looks like this (again, even the best of us have days like this but if it's a continual, constant condition, you have a problem):

Then it's no wonder your children struggle with keeping their rooms cleaned. Do you want them to have a home they dread coming home to? Or a home that they enjoy coming home to?

The answer is, NO! You want them to have a pleasant home, a home that is sanitary, clean, organized so that they have less stress and more peace. But the way to learn is for you, as parents, to teach them! We don't come into the world knowing how to clean and organize, it's a learned action. There are those who have a personality that tends towards neatness and organization (I'm one of those) and there are those whose personality isn't naturally bent in that direction but anyone can learn how to run the washing machine, how to pick up their clothes, load the dishwasher.

Maybe you are one of those who is a perfectionist and keeps a very tight ship. But we can sometimes jump in and do everything ourselves because teaching our children takes too much time, is aggravating, and makes a simple job into a more complicated activity so we just do it ourselves. Some even want to do it so their children don't have to. Sort of a "let them have their childhood" kind of thing. Others just don't want to have to go through the arguing and hassle of getting their children involved in cleaning.

But let's be very clear here! Children won't learn unless we teach them. They aren't going to wake up one day and say, "I'm going to clean my room". If you do it for them, they will let you. And they won't learn to appreciate and respect what you do if they have never done it themselves. It is really for their best interest in the long run (and they won't understand that until they are adults and have their own home) that you teach them now how to run a household.

Of course there is balance in all things. It's not right for your 8 yr old child to have run the whole house while you work all day. They do need a childhood and they do need play time. As the adult you have to decide how much responsibility they can and should take on. It can't be an inappropriate amount. It's unrealistic to expect a 2 year old to be able to change their sheets or clean the bathroom. But it's necessary for an 8 yr old to be able to change their sheets and clean the bathroom. It's unrealistic for an 8 yr to know how to buy groceries, use coupons, make a menu and grocery list. But it's necessary for a 16 yr old to be able to do those things. You start with age appropriate tasks and build them up so when they are ready to go to college or get their own home, they know how to take care of themselves and are not handicapped or crippled by ignorance.

If your child was in an accident and lost both his hands, you would understand their handicap and you would do all you could to enable them to be independent as they reached adulthood. Well, sending your children out into the adult world without teaching them and giving them the tools to cope with their household or finances is handicapping them. We want them to be independent but they can't be if we don't teach them. It's never too late to start teaching them. It's going to take imagination, patience, consistency (and they will call that "nagging"), firmness. They will resist and you will have to use age appropriate tactics. Maybe a chore chart would work for a 7 yr old but it probably won't with a teenager. You use discipline in the right way and use positive reinforcement. I'm not a child behavioral expert or professional TV nanny so I can't give you expert advice but there are plenty of resources for you to research on how best to teach your children. Try not to lose your patience and get into shouting match. Here are some of my suggestions.

One thing, if your recalcitrant child won't clean up their room, you might think about how much stuff they have in their room. For instance, do they really need that many clothes? Maybe you are buying too many things for your child to handle. How many clothes can they actually wear? If they have 50 prs of blue jeans, they have too many. They can't possibly wear that many. And styles and fashions change so quickly why spend so much on 5 prs of currently stylish boots when next year they will be out of style. Why does your daughter need 10 Barbie dolls? Why does your son need 500 Lego blocks? How many stuffed animals can a child enjoy? Our materialistic society and the temptations brought about by modern marketing will drive us to spend way too much on junk we don't need. Children were perfectly happy getting a couple of well chosen toys at Christmas back in my day so why aren't they happy with a few good toys now? Why do parents feel like they have to spend $500 per child (or more) for Christmas presents? Our society and marketing have created too much of a demand and it's up to us to decide what is appropriate for our children. If they have too much stuff to take care of and keep picked up, then start taking stuff away and purging. And quit buying everything they demand. They need to learn some self-discipline and how to set priorities. If they get everything they want, they will never learn how to save for what they really want, set priorities and have a goal. You have to show some self-discipline by saying "No" sometimes, to set limits and stick to them.

If they have clothes laying all over the floor then they obviously don't appreciate them enough to take care of them. So start taking the clothes away from them until they can show that they can take care of them. Remove all but 2-3 outfits from the closet. Put them in plastic tubs and lock them in the trunk of your car or hide them in the attic. If they pitch too much of a fit take your child(ren) with you to take one of their outfits to charity so they can see what will happen. Make them show responsibility to earn back more clothes. Don't give them money to buy more clothes if they can't keep up with what they have. Being firm and consistent, it shouldn't take too long for them to decide to shape up or do without.

As long as your children have good hygiene, are clean and neat, you shouldn't worry about whether or not they have a new matching outfit for every day of the month. So if they are down to 2-3 outfits and you wash clothes every other day, then let them sweat it out! And if they earn their clothes back but fall into their old bad habits, take them away again. They have to see that you stand behind your threats. Don't make threats and not follow through. That's worse than saying nothing.

Same with toys. Start teaching your 2 yr old how to pick up toys and put them away. Use some bribes when they are that young. Maybe say, "If you help Mommy pick up toys you can have an ice cream." Two year olds will do a lot for a treat. When they are 8 yrs old have a chore chart and give them a prize or allowance for doing their chores without being told to. A few times without getting the prize or their allowance should straighten them up. You will find some children don't care if they get a prize or allowance and won't do their chores. So you have to use your imagination to find what will motivate them. Maybe it's taking away their cell phone or computer/gaming time, etc.

If having too many toys is the problem, ration them like you would the clothes. Remove all but a few of their favorites and make them earn toys back. If they get ugly about it, take them to Goodwill and give one of their toys away. They will know Mommy is serious. When they put their toys away without incident they can earn a toy back.

Something you can do to help solve the chaos and clutter is to regularly go through the toys and clothes and purge. Personally I purge twice a year at the change of the seasons. Any clothes that I didn't wear, aren't comfortable, no longer fit, have any defects are tossed or given away. If your children have outgrown clothes, have aged out of toys, have broken toys or torn up clothes, get rid of them. Why should you have to worry about taking care of 15 stuffed animals that your 10 yr old never plays with any more? Don't waste your limited space by taking it up with clothes and toys that are useless and no longer needed. The less space you have, the less you should be keeping. I had 2 Barbie dolls for my whole childhood - Barbie and Ken. I didn't have but those two and I took care of them because I would only get those two. Now if something uncontrollable had happened such as the house burning down, I'm sure my parents would have gotten me another Barbie and Ken. But short of that I knew I had to take care of them or I would do without. We had a few Barbie clothes, maybe 3 outfits and then we were reduced to making our own Barbie clothes out of scraps of cloth. We didn't have a Barbie house. We used little boxes, household stuff and even books to make furniture in a corner of our room for a Barbie house. We used the bathtub with water for a Barbie swimming pool. I got very few purchased books although I was, and still am, a heavy reader. Mom took us to the library to check out as many books as we could and we had to return them all so it meant keeping up with them. It was free! I never felt deprived or "poor" and we weren't. We had a wonderful childhood. Today children really have too many choices and too much stuff so they end up not appreciating what they have and treating it as so much garbage. You don't want to raise a spoiled, ungrateful child because they will be spoiled, ungrateful adults who can never be satisfied and who don't have respect for others. They end up with that entitlement attitude which is not only an unattractive trait but where does it stop? "I want that diamond ring, I deserve it, I will steal it." And then jail time and their life is ruined. Our parents should (if they are able) provide love, security, safety, training, and provide for our basic needs. This doesn't include giving them everything that comes down the pike or fulfilling their every whim. That is irresponsible. I have to think of all the money that is wasted on needless toys and clothes that are taken for granted and eventually donated or thrown away. Couldn't that money be saved for a college tuition? A downpayment on a first home? A tour of Europe after graduation? Are you wasting money by spoiling your children and teaching them irresponsibility in the process?

I'm not proposing that your children get an orange, a penny and a new pair of socks for Christmas. But I'm saying that a pickup truck of toys is too much. Spending more than you can afford without debt is too much. Buying so much stuff that you can't easily store it and keep up with it is too much. That money can be better spent.

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