Q: We’re struggling to get our children to be organized and keep their rooms clean. Do you have any tips that would help?
A: Every parent has his or her own method of handling such challenges. It’s fair to say that “discipline” isn’t usually the best way to deal with a situation like this. As a matter of fact, a hard-nosed approach could prove counter-productive. You could end up transforming thoughtless irresponsibility into premeditated rebellion.
We recommend you take full advantage of “natural consequences.” Use masking tape to mark off a boundary at the doors of your children’s’ rooms, between their personal “messyzone” and the rest of the house. Then say, “Inside the ‘messyzone’ you can do as you please. But if you want anything that’s been left on the floor outside the ‘messyzone,’ make sure you pick it up before bedtime. After that, it will be confiscated and placed in quarantine until you have enough money to buy it back. The going price is one dollar.” If nothing else, this is a good way to reduce clutter in the house. It can also provide you with a handy fund for a family pizza night. The mess inside their rooms will likely disappear when they get tired of it and when they realize you’re not going to hound them into doing the job.
If these strategies don’t work, consider whether there might be something more serious going on. Our counselling team notes that there can be physical or emotional causes, such as ADHD, for a child’s inability to follow through on simple tasks. In that case, you should see a family counsellor who is trained to diagnose and deal with such conditions.
More than likely, your children are just being kids. Best wishes as you help them take responsibility for keeping their rooms presentable!
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