Expert Parent Advice

Clean Bedrooms - Not Just in Your Dreams

We all know the scene from Mary Poppins:  a few carefully sung words by Mary Poppins herself, and the Banks’ children’s dolls march into the toy chest and the clothes fold themselves neatly into the closet.  

Parents and kids alike wish it were real.  But no amount of singing or snapping is going to make that nightmare of your kid’s bedroom clean itself.  And despite your best efforts, nagging isn’t working either.

I’m Amy McCready with Positive Parent Solutions, and I’m proud to partner with Kids ‘R’ Kids for the Expert Parenting Advice Series.  Today, we’re talking about what you can do to get your kids to clean their rooms!

While you might not have Mary Poppins’ super powers, you can employ strategies that will help your kids clear their clutter and rediscover that they do have a floor under that mess.

Try these “practical magic” tips that will get real results:

1.  Give the mess a rest. What’s the worst thing that would happen if your kids never cleaned their rooms? Toys would get lost or broken, clothes would stay stained—and that’s no fun. Those are the natural consequences of not cleaning your room.

To let these natural consequences do the dirty work for you, first warn your kids that you aren’t going to nag or remind them anymore about cleaning their rooms.  Let them know that they are old enough to handle that job on their own and they are old enough to experience the consequences of a messy room.  Assure them that you have complete confidence in their ability to keep things tidy on their own.

Then, say nothing when nature runs its course. If things go downhill, resist the urge to jump in with reminders.  Refuse to rescue your kids by searching in the closet for a missing shoe, replacing a toy that mysteriously went missing or running an emergency load of laundry because her swim suit and towel is balled up in the corner of the room – and soon enough, she’ll learn that she can avoid a lot of anguish by keeping the room clean in the first place.

Experiencing the natural consequences of a messy room is the best teacher, but some parents just don’t have the stomach for it.  If you aren’t willing to let natural consequences play out, there are a few other strategies you can use:

2.  Use a WHEN-THEN. Let them know that “When your room is clean, then you may go play with your friends.  When your room is clean, then you can enjoy your TV time or video game.” 

The “sugar” in your sentence can be any regularly occurring privilege from enjoying TV time to eating dinner—but avoid offering rewards or bribes, as you’ll continually have to up the ante.

Also allow plenty of time for a thorough cleaning to take place.  Depending on the size of the mess, you may need to say your When-Then statement at least 20 minutes before the favorite show or before it’s time to leave for dance.

Those are not the only strategies to get kids to clean their rooms.  For another one of my favorite strategies to teach kids that it’s their job to clean their rooms check out the interactive that goes along with this video.

And for ongoing solutions to your parenting challenges, visit us often at Kids 'R' Kids Learning Academies.

I’m Amy McCready for Kids ‘R’ Kids, and I’ll see you next time.