“Who cares if my room’s a mess?”

“You’re not going out until you clean your room!”

“I’m tired of telling you to straighten up.”

“Pick up your clothes and make your bed!”

Most parents and children argue about messy rooms because parents care about keeping things neat and kids don’t. Most don’t mind waking up, going to sleep, playing, and doing homework amid a jumble of clothes, toys, books, and papers. They’re unembarrassed for their friends to see a messy room, and they don’t think their parents should get upset.

A child may appreciate a clean room if someone else cleans it, but he won’t straighten it on his own because to him it’s an unpleasant and unimportant task: “I hate putting clothes away.” “All my friends have messy rooms.” “Why make my bed if I’m going to sleep in it again?”

Parents have little success getting their child to think as an adult does about this issue, although they may be able to persuade or force him to clean up, using a variety of strategies—paying him, bribing him, punishing him, or listing consequences: “If you don’t keep your room clean, you can’t have friends over.” None of these techniques is particularly successful. A child may straighten up once or twice and then not again. Or he may clean his room in a half-heated way, leaving much undone. Many kids are punished over and over and still don’t keep their rooms neat.

One of the most common parental threats—“If you don’t clean your room, I won’t do your laundry!” – often backfires. Parent and child stay mad, the room and laundry stay dirty, and the child picks up an I’ll-get-back-at-you attitude from his parents.

Most kids want to please, but they have trouble focusing on their rooms when their interests and energy are directed elsewhere. If parents continually attack their child for his messiness (“You’re a slob!”), he’ll internalize their criticism. He’ll feel upset and frustrated because he can’t live up to their expectations.

The most successful and realistic way to handle cleaning up is to compromise, even though it means lowering your standards. If your child isn’t keeping a neat room at this age, more punishment and harsh words won’t help. Use a calm tone. If you’re feeling tense after a frustrating day, wait a while before discussing clean-up.

Offer to help him with his room: “I’ll do this half of the floor while you work on the closet.” He’ll appreciate your assistance, since straightening up alone can seem overwhelming. Suggest a timed cleanup: “See how much you can get done in fifteen minutes.”

Don’t worry about being consistent. Some days you’ll care a lot about how his room looks and other days you’ll shut his door and walk away. You might decide to ignore the mess unless company is expected, or you might decide to wait until an every-other-week “family clean-up day.”

Recognize that this is a common problem. You probably kept a messy room yourself when you were young. One mother, thinking her daughter was more disorganized than most kids, was amazed to see the girls’ bunkhouse at sleepover camp. Possessions were strewn everywhere and all the campers seemed happily unaware of the chaos. “We just push the clothes to the bottom of the beds when we sleep.”

The years from ten to thirteen are filled with turmoil, and you and your child may face some difficult issues. As long as he generally does well in other areas of his life, try to put the problem of a messy room in perspective. As he grows older, he’ll eventually care more about neatness and order.

Picture Credit : Google