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One of the most common complaints from parents is the State of the Child’s Bedroom. Sound trivial? Yeah, but a trivial thing that doesn’t change can drive us crazy.
When I was a girl I shared a bedroom with my sister. Because I didn’t want her messing with my things and vice versa we put everything away in our respective, designated drawer or shelf. By today’s standards our bedroom was a model of pristine neatness.
But it wasn’t only because we had to share a room it was that we had MUCH LESS STUFF. Of course we had books, but most of what we read came from the library. Nobody had a computer or TV or cell phone or record player. There was a phonograph in the living room for the whole family to use. I was in high school before my sister and I got a radio for our room.
I had two drawers, one for underwear and one for folded things like sweaters. I could count my clothes: two skirts, two sweaters, four blouses. Our shared closet was never full.
Today things are different and not necessarily better. All children to day have more stuff than they can deal with. Hence the MESSY ROOM problem.
Some kids are just naturally messy. Others are packrats and don’t throw away so much as a gum wrapper. Some are overwhelmed by the mess so they don’t even try to clean it up. Some fall apart or tantrum when they can’t find something they need. The children of America are suffering!
Parents: Help your kids and relieve their suffering.
• TEACH THEM HOW TO PUT THINGS AWAY. This is not an innate skill.
• Provide spaces/boxes/containers for their stuff.
• Show your children how to SORT THINGS that go together like game or puzzle parts and how to keep them together in plastic bags or boxes.
• Practice together the fine art of THROWING THINGS OUT. Start in your room or the kitchen. Moms: show how you dump everything out of your purse, organize what is organizable, and throw out the rest.
• Teach your children about LABELS. Use pictures for the little ones. Teach the older ones how to write or type labels.
• Use the bank concept. Decide with each child on a reasonable number of toys that can stay in the bedroom. Let the child pick out which ones stay. The others go to the bank. Bank rule: Can’t take out a toy unless you put one back.
• Explain the actual and esthetic dangers of rotting food. Consequences of the smell of rotting pizza? No eating in your room for a week. Second offense? No eating in your room until Christmas or Easter whichever comes last.
• By first grade every child should make the bed before leaving the room. Help by using quilts instead of blankets and bedspreads.
• Teach the rudiments of housekeeping. Mopping, dusting, vacuuming are all elementary chores not rocket science. By 4th grade at the latest when you say clean your room you mean it. No longer is emptying the wastebasket and making the bed the definition of a clean room.
• Do big cleaning jobs like the kitchen cupboards together. This too is an art: emptying everything out, washing the shelves, putting the stuff away in order. It will teach your kids a lot: advance planning (don’t do the kitchen an hour before a dinner party), organizing, making decisions about what gets recycled, what goes in the trash.
• When your child has mastered Bedroom Cleaning 101 and the art of washing dishes, go on to the living room, kitchen, and garage.
• Finally comes laundry. Teach careful use of the appliances, how to read clothing labels for washing instructions, how to sort clothes, and the art of folding and putting things away. By middle school each child should be able to do his or her laundry.
There are other chores like cooking and packing for camp or a trip which will show up in future ParenTips someday.
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