Clean Your Room: Because I Said So. Part 1 of a 3 part series on parenting

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This is the first part of a 3 part parenting series. The issues were chosen from questions submitted to me at seminars.  They identify frequently identified parent-child problems.

Blog 1: Clean Your Room: Because I said so

Blog 2: My daughter will never apologize.

Blog 3: He is Doing It To Hurt Me: Misreading a Child’s Motives.

Clean Your Room: Because I Said So 

While cleaning a room is an easily accomplished task for most adults, the sheer confusion and size of the task can overwhelm some children.  One indicator that this is the case and the child is overwhelmed is to judge the results.  If an hour after making the request you find your child fiddling with a shoe on the floor of his still messy room it could be what I call, ‘overwhelmeditis’.

Even if he is a usually semi compliant child, even if he wants to please you and is not adverse to work he may not know how or where to start.  Once started he may not know what to do with all the treasures he finds, or how to keep focused once he locates the formerly lost action figure he love love loves.  Feeling overwhelmed he will procrastinate. 

Distractions will call to him from every corner and he will dilly dally.  This sense of being overwhelmed could literally paralyze him, shutting off his “get up and go button” turning him into a "I have no idea what I am doing” kid.  Do not assume because he has done it before that he has retained that skill set.

Rejoice.  There is a cure for ‘overwhelmeditis’.  He needs clarity around the task.  The project is just too big for him.  His organizational skills are not developed to the point he knows where to begin or how to keep going.

Providing a step by step sequenced task plan, one step at a time guides him.  An example could be, “clean out all the items from under your bed.  Sort them into those that go in the toy boxes, put the clothes in your hamper and throw out the trash.”  If that plan is too complicated start with “clean all the items out from under your bed and stack them here”.   Once that is done congratulate him specifically on what he actually did and guide him to the next step.  If he did it 50% of the way, praise what he did do, then encourage him to finish it by finishing the rest.  Name the tasks left undone, name and check them one at a time if that is what it takes. 

Sobbing pre teens and early teens young hearts break over the fact that when they did a task the parents only commented on what not done.  For example, having cleared the table of dishes, rinsed and stacked them in the dish washer and cleaned of the counters the parental response was one screeching that the child did not wipe all the water up off the counter. An alternative approach would be to commend the child for the tasks completed and saying “if you just get this water here it will be perfect”.

Back to the messy room, give him a time limit.  If he does not have in internal clock and does not know what 15 minutes is, give him a clock and tell him when it read 11:30 I want the “under the bed” space all cleared out and the items put away.  I do not recall who originally said it, but it has been oft repeated and has been found to be true even in adult circles, a task will take exactly as long as the time limit allows.  And conversely, no time limit, no task completion.  Once the task is complete brag on him, compliment him, add smiling stickers to his chore task if you have one.

You have nothing to lose by employing this method, on a weekly or even a daily basis and perhaps a tranquil home to gain. 

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