Can a CHILD really clean their own room w/out help?

Posted by Lizzy Armentrout on July 5, 2010 at 3:00 PM

Do you struggle and battle with your child getting them to clean their room and when they say it's clean you discover they only did one or two things? Unfortunately many parents just scream, "GO CLEAN YOUR ROOM!" and get even angrier when the child doesn't do it.  The child HAS to be taught HOW to clean their room before you can tell them to do it.  Here are a couple of suggestions that I've used over the years & have suggested many, many times to others with success.

FIRST--- I can't say it enough---START YOUNG! If you wait until your child is an older elementary child or a young teen, then your battle will be much worse than it could have been.  As soon as a child can walk and understand simple sentences, then he/she is capable of helping clean their room.  I can just hear the moms saying, "WHAT?! My child is only 2! There's no way he/she can do it by himself/herself!"  At the beginning of teaching them, I totally agree, but it's possible to teach them.  How?  Try these:

Step One-

     Clean your child's room once a week WITH your child helping you.  As you clean, say things like "Put all your toys in the toy bucket in the closet." and then demonstrate.  "Pick up your dirty clothes and put them in the hamper." "Put your books on the shelf."  "Put shoes in the closet."  Obviously, you will have to adjust the direction to where you expect the object to go.  Make sure they are helping you do it & make a HUGE deal out of it when they do it right.  Hugs, kisses, tickles, high fives, positive statements, etc. (You're such a BIG boy/girl---look at how you know how to clean!)  After your child is able to do the tasks by himself/herself when you are in the room, move to step two.

Step Two-

     You stand at the child's bedroom door and give 1 direction (and ONLY 1 direction).  I would start with the toys.  "Jimmy, put your toys away like I have showed you."  Again, many positive statements & touches when he does a few.  When he loses focus, go in and pick a toy up and say to him, "Let's finish & we can get an M&M (or something else small)."  Do NOT leave the room until all the toys are up.  Then take a break and play.  Go back to the room w/child & stand at the door & give a new direction that you've taught in step 1. (shoes or books or dirty clothes, etc.)  Keep doing this step until you have gotten all of the tasks for the room finished.  AGAIN, ONLY 1 step at a time.  Once your child is doing this step really well (this step should take months to master) then move to step 3.

Step Three-

    This step is where the child will start doing things independently.  Mom (Or dad) stays in another room & sends the child to their room with ONLY 1 DIRECTION given.  "Jimmy, go put all your toys away.  Come get mommy when you are finished."  Now, this step is going to involve some parental discipline.  Meaning, you are going to have to hold  your child responsible to do what you've taught him/her.  If they come & say they are finished, you then say, "Okay....mommy's going to go check & if she finds a toy not where it belongs then she gets to take it & put it away.  Are you sure they're all away?"  Give your child the opportunity to fix their room after you ask that.  Then go the room & any toys you find out of place TAKE & put up high where they can not get it & say, "Mommy said to put all your toys away & this one isn't.  You can get it back when Mommy says."  Then send the child to put all the dirty clothes in the hamper.  Work your way through one task at a time until the room is clean.  Eventually I would change from saying that you are going to take the toy to "Mommy's going to get a trash bag & any toys she finds out of place are going in the trash."   

As your child grows older (like the age of 6 or 7) you will start saying two directions, "Go put toys away & pick up dirty clothes."

After they can do the two directions well, move to  "Go clean your room." BUT then say each thing you want them to do. "Put toys away, put dirty clothes in hamper, put books up, put shoes away."

If you follow these steps starting at a young age of 2 or 3 then by the age of 8 or 9 you should be able to say, "Go clean your room." 

I used the above process with my daughter, and she's been cleaning her room without my help since mid-elementary.  There's only been ONE time that I had to throw toys away.  Once I followed through on that and actually threw some away because she said that the room was ready I never had another problem. 

The above steps can also work with an older child but with shorter times in between the steps.  An older elementary child? Then step 1 and step 2 should each be 1 month each.

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