Can't Get Your Kids to Clean Their Room? Try This...

Keeping the room clean is just like anything else. The primary goal is to teach the children to be responsible on their own without your reminding them. There is a Bible verse where God warns parents not to nag their children. I don’t think that God arranged for this to be in the Bible because He didn’t want children to have to clean their rooms or do their chores. Instead, I think He knew that the emphasis must be placed on teaching the children to be responsible on their own. That said, sometimes children need a little encouragement to be responsible on their own. These are some ideas we have tried.

Monthly, have a room competition, perhaps between the girls and the boys if they are pretty evenly divided. Check the rooms at approximately the same time each day. Tally which group has the best-kept room. Mark the results for an entire month and place the results on the refrigerator for all to see. (If you have a problem with the kids changing the results, you may want to store a back-up copy in your phone to refer to as needed.) Add up the results at the end of the month and determine a winner. If you happen to skip checking the rooms for a few days (or weeks) throughout the month, simply resume where you left off. The key is consistency, but none of us are perfect parents. At the end of the month, the winning team is awarded $50 to spend on any activity together they would like. The kids choose the activity to do with the money, such as going to see a movie and getting fast food or ice cream afterward. If you happen to be short on money for a month or two, skip the competition for that month and resume it for the next. However, try to set aside the $50 each month to encourage the kids to pick up after themselves (something they certainly need to know as an adult) and teach personal responsibility as well. None of the team members are too happy when one person doesn’t do their part and they lose the point for that night. By the same token, when one person’s area is especially clean, and they win the point for that night, the team is appreciative of that person’s work. This way, the kids are asking each other if they have cleaned their rooms instead of you having to be the warden.

 One other approach that works well with the room competition is a periodic house check. When the house has been left especially cluttered with the children’s clothes and toys for a period of time, tell them that soon you are going to “check rooms.” This means that you are going to go through the house just a few minutes after everyone’s bedtime and place all items left out in a large bag. If the children would like their items back, they must pay a dollar from their allowance or do three extra chores around the house (i.e., clean out a cabinet or sweep the garage). It is important that you pick up the items right after everyone’s bedtime. You don’t want the kids to be fearful someone is going to confiscate all of their toys while they have taken a break from playing with them during the day. You also want to give the kids fair warning that this is going to happen sometime over the next few days or weeks but not tell them exactly when to expect it. This is not a technique that I would use forever; however, it is effective to do nightly for several weeks or months if the children have gotten in a bad habit of leaving their things out. You want them to feel comfortable and at home, but you also want to teach them that it is important to have a home that is well-kept. This way, when they are parenting children of their own, they will know that it is not acceptable to have a filthy house. This is something that may not have been instilled in them by their biological family or previous foster families. These adults may have just picked up the children’s things for them or left the house a mess. If you do room checks, you must be fair and consistent with each child. Pick up everything that is left out by all children, both biological and foster. Do not single out a few children. Also, do not give the items back to them unless they pay a dollar or do three chores for each item they want. It does not matter how special or practical the item is. They can easily do three chores even if they are out of allowance money. Donate the remaining items to charity after about a week. However, you should warn the children that you are about to donate the items to charity before you do so, giving the kids a chance to pay for or do chores for the items, if they would like. Do not purchase new items to replace the items you donate. There must be a deadline, and this approach cannot be used for the kids to just get “new stuff.” Make sure the kids understand the process well before you do a room check. Keep in mind kids should be at least four years of age and able to understand the process before you use this approach.

It takes time to teach a child or even teenagers to value having a clean and orderly home. This is something they most likely did not grow up with, and you don't want them to resent having an orderly home. Instead, you want them to come to appreciate and expect it.

Posted on June 2, 2014 .