Why Can’t Our Kids Keep Their Rooms Clean?

clean roomsIt’s clear. We, parents, want our kids to keep their rooms clean. Their laundry is spread across the floor. An empty glass, which was once filled with water, has been sitting on their dresser for three days now. And let’s not even talk about what’s in the closet or underneath the bed. They’ve promised us five times now that they would clean their room. Yet, every time we check, we are disappointed to find the same piles of clutter and disorganization.

Why is it so difficult to get our kids to clean their rooms? Let’s take a look at five different room-cleaning personality types that usually emerge when we ask our kids to tidy up their spaces.

The Procrastinating Room Cleaner

The Procrastinator may not have true intentions to clean their room. Yet, they may say things like, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Or, “Just give me five more minutes.” They know you will get distracted, forget, and eventually move on. They may even lure you into their rooms with interesting conversation. You are so excited that you had this quality time with them that you exit their rooms on a parenting high, completely forgetting
that their space still looks like a disaster.

What to do: You can help a Procrastinator by providing a specific time and a day that their room needs to be cleaned. You can even ask your child to provide you with their own room cleaning deadline. Watch out for sneaky maneuvers. My son likes to tell me that he will clean his room on specific days and times when he knows that he will
not be home.

The Fatigued Room Cleaner

The Fatigued may be exhausted due to a long day of school and extracurricular activities. They have little to no energy left to clean their rooms. You may see them in their rooms “doing nothing”. However, they are taking a much-needed break that their minds and bodies need.

What to do: Try to have empathy. We all need to take breaks to decompress. If you know your kiddos are really hard workers and lack time, then you may even think about hiring a cleaning service that can assist with their rooms.

The Easily Diverted Room Cleaner

It’s been an entire hour. You have heard your kiddo in their room hard at work. You go to check in on their progress and realize that the room looks exactly the same or even a bit messier than before. You find your child engrossed in a book or fixated on a toy or gadget they discovered while “cleaning.” Their attention may be locked in on a special interest making it difficult for them to transition from their desired activity to one that is less interesting… like picking their socks up from the floor.

What to do: Create a visual list for your children to use when cleaning their rooms. Set a timer and challenge them to complete everything on the list before the timer runs out.

The Negotiating Room Cleaner

The Negotiator is highly skilled in the art of persuasion. Be careful when interacting with a Negotiator as they may provide a compelling argument that convinces you that their messy room is actually beneficial for many reasons. Thus, it does not need to be addressed. Let’s just pick up one or two items and then call it a day, yes?

What to do: Be willing to be flexible. Have a conversation about your expectations for a clean room vs your child’s expectations. Then find a healthy balance that meets the needs of you both.

The Organized Room Cleaner

This child may naturally appreciate an organized space. You may rarely even have to remind them to clean their rooms.

What to do: Provide them with encouragement! Let them know that you are proud of their independent ability to keep their space neat and clean. Our kids who naturally take care of their responsibilities can sometimes feel neglected because most people just expect greatness from them. So don’t take their responsible nature for granted and give them recognition for their awesome habits and routines!

gifted kidsAbout the Author

Erica Whitfield is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has a Masters in Counseling Psychology and over 10 years of experience working with children and adolescents. She is the Founder of Positive Development, LLC, a counseling practice for youth located in Jacksonville, Florida. Erica combines expressive therapies using art, music, physical movement and writing, with evidenced-based therapeutic modalities such as CBT, solution-focused and positive psychology approaches to help children and adolescents process past trauma, transition during difficult life adjustments, form healthier relationships, perform better in school and work through self-harming behaviors. She specializes in providing strengths-based counseling and has helped hundreds of youth unleash their capabilities, transform obstacles into opportunities and find healthy ways to express their energy and creativity.


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