Clean Your ROOM! (A Parent’s Cry for Help)


So, a good friend of mine who is a bestselling author, brilliant entrepreneur, and publishing/marketing genius named Aaron Patterson posted the following today on facebook:


I know asking advice on Facebook is asking for trouble but I am not sure what to do so maybe some of you have something to say that I can use. My problem is with my 7 year old daughter. She is a slob and almost a hoarder. She keeps everything and packs it away in her room. I have fought with her from birth it seems to keep her room clean, we did charts, rewards and so on. Nothing is working. I have even thrown away all her stuff so her room was a bed, nothing else just her bed and in a week it would look like a salvation army bomb went off. From making sure she cleaned it right when she got home from school, before bed and so on… it can go from clean to a pig pen in about half an hour. I am at the point that I want to make her sleep in the couch and take away her room but that only addresses the problem not changing her behavior.

What I would like to know is how can I get her to care? To want a clean room, to like her stuff enough to keep it in good order? It is not about her room being clean but how she views her things and herself. I have had the respect talk and like I said I have tried just about everything I can think of. At a loss…

Here was my reply:

There must be more than a few parents who feel your pain, bro. Hang in there.

A couple of thing my wife (kind of an expert with kids) shared with me that I found helpful:

1. At this age, especially if the child is very active, or interested in many things, it’s hard for them to see the need to be neat, tidy, and organized. They live for the moment, and why should they clean, unless Mom and Dad are going to get mad? If they aren’t getting mad,then it’s a lot more fun to do just about everything and anything else. It’s not right, it’s just the way a lot of kids are wired. They’ll learn, but for some kids, it will take longer.

2. It can be overwhelming for a kid to simply be told to clean up their messy room. So we can strategize all we want with them, but unless we help them, it will not happen on its own. So, I’ve been encouraged to just clean with my kids, side-by-side, showing them that it’s not such a big deal to do it. Also, that gives them confidence that this monster of a mess can be tamed. Daddy (or Mommy) is here and you know what? We can defeat this monster every time. At the end it like: “See? That was easy!”

It’s going to take some kids longer than others to adopt organization and cleanliness as a habit, even character. But we as parents have to lead by example, then by our very presence, and partnering with them (I know, it’s not fair, they should clean their own mess!), we will instill confidence that no matter how big a mess they’ve made, it can be handled, it can be conquered. We are the only tangible evidence they have of this truth.

So, one thing we can do is not to get stressed out about the big messes, or even the little ones. That transfers to the kids and soon they see that a mess=stress, and will avoid it as long as they can.

Just partner with them, show them exactly how to do it. Then be with them as they start to do it. After some years, it will become easier, and hopefully “not such a big deal” to them, nothing to fear, nothing to avoid. They’ll hopefully feel: “Daddy and I have defeated the Mess Monster thousands of times.” An added bonus is that this can be some additional bonding time to spend with your child, while showing them the importance of order and cleanliness. They’ll associate keeping clean as a positive thing. So will we.

That said, I’m not sure for a 7 year old, the state of her room is attached to how she sees herself. It is for us, as mature adults, and it will become so for any child in the future.

It might be, I don’t know the personal life specifics and/or history.

But in most cases, I think they just need us to remain calm (something I’m learning, because I have been stressed out big time by this too), and help them overcome this, not to associate this with fear, and possible disapproval by their parents.

Have you struggled with this issue before?  What has helped?  Please discuss in the comments below.

Joshua Graham is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, winner of the International Book Award and Forward National Literature Award. His thrillers include DARKROOM, LATENT IMAGE and BEYOND JUSTICE, and TERMINUS. Graham's works have been characterized as thought-provoking page-turners.

Legal Notice: All information on this website and blog are from Mr. Graham's personal experience and insight and should not be viewed in any way, directly or inferred, as qualified professional advice.

All creative writing on this website or Mr. Graham's books: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. (novels, short stories)


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