EVER GET FED-UP WHEN YOUR KID REFUSES TO CLEAN THEIR ROOM? I DO!
This article was birthed out of personal frustration in dealing with our child who’s known as being a “lounger.” If you have a child too who would rather stare at the wall than tackle his/her room, hopefully this list of ideas will bring you hope & inspiration. And please post in the comments section your most effective strategy so that when none of these tactics work, other readers & I can try what's worked for you!
1. DON’T GET IN THE HABIT OF CLEANING FOR YOUR CHILD
Sometimes it seems easiest to just pick-up their toys for them. But if you'll refrain from cleaning for your child, your future daughter-in-law or son-in-law will thank you. Instilling a hard work ethic is a training process & kids will notice & take advantage of you if you give-up on that process. Our goal isn't only to develop responsibility, but we're teaching our kids to value others as much as themselves. It takes sacrificial love to maintain a happy home. Whether you're a child living with your parents, a college student in the dorm, or a newlywed returning from your honeymoon, picking up after yourself is a basic skill & sign of respect.
2. WATCH YOUR OWN ATTITUDE
Start the process with a positive attitude & a big smile. If you assume you’re going to get resistance, your child will sense it & deliver accordingly. We have to model cheerfulness & hopefulness. They need to see that we believe they can & will accomplish the tasks at hand.
3. SAY “IT’S TIME…” (vs. “I need you to…” or “Will you please…?”)
“It’s time” is non-confrontational, non-emotional & prevents you from pleading & begging, which would undermine your authority. Avoid creating conflict.
4. DESCRIBE WHAT YOU SEE (vs. making unnecessary commands)
“Your backpack is in the middle of the hallway.” vs. “Go put away your back-pack.” The first statement leaves no room for debate & allows the child to come to the conclusion on their own about what that they need to do to fix the problem. The second statement is an open door for an argument & a power struggle.
5. EXPRESS SPECIFIC, REASONABLE & ACHIEVABLE EXPECTATIONS
“Your bedroom floor needs to be clean this morning before lunch.” Encourage your child with hopeful statements such as, “I bet you can make that happen within 15 minutes or less. What are you going to tackle first?” With younger children or those that get overwhelmed easily, help them break-down the job into smaller tasks.
6. CATCH THEM WHEN THEY’RE MOTIVATED
Have your children clean when they’re naturally motivated. For example, if they’re excited to go play outside, then let them know they're free to go play as soon as they spend 10 minutes cleaning. Don’t exasperate them by placing a demand that completely prevents them from being able to do what they want, but maximize the opportunity. Utilize their energy by having them work when they’re eager.
7. VALIDATE FEELINGS
Empathize with your child’s sense of feeling overwhelmed. Validate their feelings by saying, “This job seems impossible to you! You don’t know how you’re going to get it all done.” If you don’t blatantly validate your child’s feelings, he/she is less likely to receive any encouragements you try to offer.
8. CLEAN WITH THEM
Put on some fast dance music & clean with your child. He/she will feel less overwhelmed if you’re working together. But, let them know you’re not willing to work harder than them. Be ready to say, “I’m happy to help you clean your room, but I don’t like working harder on your job than you are.” And then if necessary add, “Would you rather clean your room by yourself or with my help?” Remember that you’re helping them versus them helping you. Be careful not to imply the opposite by saying, “I need your help.” It’s important to train our children at an early age that they’re responsible for taking care of their room & belongings.
9. WHAT’S NEXT?
Give your child a small task to complete & train them to come back & ask, “What’s next?” For example, “After you put away your jump rope, jacket & shoes, come back & ask, ‘What’s next?’ When they return say, “Great! Now go put all your dirty clothes in the dirty clothes bin & then come back & ask, ‘What’s next?’”
10. RANDOM NUMBERS
“How many things do you want to pick-up first? Twelve? Ok, go pick-up 12 things off your bedroom floor. Then come back & I’ll give you a new number.” When your child returns, give them 12 high-fives & another doable task, such as, “Now go pick-up 8 things off your bathroom floor.” When they return, give them 8 hugs & a new number & task.
11. COUNTING BACKWARDS
“Pick a number between 10 & 20…O.K., 15 it is. We’re going to count backwards. Let’s see how fast you can pick up 15 Legos off your bedroom floor. When you’re done, come back & we’ll go to the next number.” When they return, keep up the momentum & quickly say, “O.K., now let’s see you pick-up 14 pieces of trash.” Then continue with 13, 12, 11, etc.
12. LET’S RACE
“I’ll be happy to help you clean your room. Wanna race? I’ll pick up the books & you pick up the cars. Let’s see who finishes first. On your mark, get set, go!”
13. SET THE STOP WATCH
While talking as fast as an auctioneer, say “Jenni, let’s see how fast you can pick-up the clothes off your floor. I’m gonna start the stop watch. Ready, set, go!”
14. RACE AGAINST THE CLOCK
“Let’s see how many items you can pick-up off your closet floor. I’m gonna set the timer for 2 minutes & you let me know how many things you were able to pick up.”
15. DISTRACT WITH CHOICES
When kids are being stubborn, help them get their minds off their emotions by asking questions like, “What do you want to work on first, the closet floor or the bathroom floor?” If they won't even get up, you can ask younger kids, "Do you want to hop or skip to your room?" With older kids you can be flexible by saying, "Do you want to clean your room now or after a snack?"
16. USE HUMOR
Think of silly things to say to lighten the mood & keep them going: “I can actually see the carpet!!” or “Wow, I forgot what your dresser looked like.” or “Have you always had that desk in here?" or "At this rate, you might be able to get a job as a custodian!"
17. WORST CASE SCENARIO
To be used sparingly on rare occasions when the resistance is extra strong & the child has not responded to other measures: “This room needs to be cleaned before dinner. Whatever is left on the floor or out of its proper place will be given away, thrown-away or stored for a long time.” Of course the kids hate this, but it’s a great way to get rid of a bunch of junk & teach a powerful lesson at the same time. The caveat is to make sure your expectations are reasonable & age-appropriate.
18. PRAISE THE SMALL ACCOMPLISHMENTS & CELEBRATE SUCCESS
Peek in & offer encouragement along the way by describing what you see. For example, “Wow, I don’t see any dirty clothes left on the floor!” When they actually complete all of their tasks, crank-up the music & show-off your best dance moves. Let them see a smile on your face & excitement in your voice. Seeing your positive reaction will become a memory that will help motivate them next time.
As adults, when we feel anxious & overwhelmed by a daunting task, it always helps when we can remember a time in the past when we overcame something difficult. If we can help our kids have enough victories of successfully cleaning their room, then they will eventually have enough memories that will empower them with confidence.
Declare over your children what you anticipate them becoming. "You are becoming a hard-worker!" is an encouraging statement that has the power to transform the way your child views him/herself. As we call-out in our children what we're hoping to see, they will be inspired to grow into those respectable people we expect them to be.
HERE'S TO TRAINING CHILDREN TO
WORK HARD & LOVE DEEPLY!
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WHAT MOTIVATIONAL STRATEGIES HAVE WORKED BEST FOR YOUR FAMILY?