Clean Your Room!
The morning is resplendent with the sounds of my children tidying up their room…for the third time this week. And it is only Tuesday, if you get my meaning. I don’t know why it is that my boys have such a hard time keeping their room tidy. They have plenty of storage and only a handful of actual toys – we go through periodically and cull what they don’t play with or have outgrown to keep their things manageable – the actual ‘toys’ that are left when we do that are few and far between. When PeaGreen’s birthday and ensuing prezzies of the toy variety happened, we’re back to having more than a few, it seems. Somehow, LittleBoyBlue’s ‘side’ of the room (they share) gets insanely messy up by his bed. He just… piles stuff there, I guess, instead of putting his books and toys on the shelves or in bins where they go.
I remember when I was little, my sister and I shared a room and we always had a crazy mess in there. I wonder if that’s a product of sharing a room with a sibling or if some kids are just naturally messy. A combination of those features, maybe? I can remember not wanting to clean ‘her’ stuff up, and I though I admit nothing, I am sure I left my stuff out and blamed it on her to avoid cleaning it up.
That may make me a mean mama in some eyes, but yes – I do make my kids clean their room if they plan on keeping their things. I have gone behind them at the designated deadline with a broom and trashcan and thrown whatever was left on the floor away. Like I said before, the number of things that they have, while generous, is not so much that a 7 and 8-year-old cannot keep it cleaned up. I am not asking something of them that is beyond their level of achievement. I also won’t tolerate spending hours and hours cleaning up when we have other tasks to accomplish, and if motivation comes in the form of a trash can, then so be it. I didn’t make that mess, and while I am not opposed to helping you organize things, I am just not going to clean up your room for you.
I get really frustrated with the debate on parenting forums about kids and chores. I honestly cannot fathom how, in some people’s minds, children doing basic household chores is a bad thing. I equate cleaning your room with something other than ‘household chores’, but the principle is the same. You make this mess, or contributed in some way to it therefore it is your responsibility as a productive member of this family to clean or help clean it up. No one in our family is exempt from that mandate.
Oh sure, I get that some people were probably made to do more than their fair share of household tasks and that experience probably put a sour taste about it in their mouths – for that matter, I was one of those people. But the fact that your parents may have taken advantage of the small people in their home does not devalue chores as a necessary evil.
Few would argue that our ultimate job as parents is to prepare our children to manage their lives; to run their household, to be part of a family, to be responsible adults, to be conscientious and respectful of the people around them. Cleaning up after yourself is a big part of that. Cleaning up after others is, unfortunately, a task that you sometimes also must do – and doing chores helps cement that concept in their young little minds. I don’t see how keeping your home tidy is any different from participating in a park clean up day or litter patrol or something like that – both are messes that you did not necessarily make, yet both must be done. Someone has to do it, and probably without any kind of compensation other than the satisfaction of a job well done.
Mom is not the maid. Everyone in our house contributes to the upkeep and cleanliness of our home. Even when we have company, they pretty much always help tidy up before they leave – that’s basic good manners. I’m not even talking about the messes that kids make – obviously, if you make a mess you should be (age appropriately) responsible for cleaning it up. I’m talking about children taking part in the everyday tasks like doing laundry, sweeping, mopping, changing the sheets – the thousand daily tasks that keep a home tidy that can be traced back to no individual person yet still must be done.
Since the children contribute to that untidiness, I see it as fair and right for them to help maintain the cleanliness of said areas. My kids eat, therefore they should help with the clean up of the dishes. My kids wear clothing, how am I damaging them by requiring them to fold or hang and put away their own laundry? I see more damage in raising them to expect that when their clothing is dirty, it magically appears in their drawer, clean and folded and ready for them to wear again.
I agree that making the children solely responsible for maintaining a home is… well, lazy. If the kids are slaving away while Mom is watching soaps – unless Mom did her chores already and is reaping the rewards of a job well done – then that’s wrong. But how else is a child going to learn how to cook, iron, disinfect a bathroom, rake or weed the garden if chores are not part of their lives? I’ve read about how enforcing chores is ‘coercion’ and how that’s a bad thing, but baby, that’s LIFE. If you don’t do what you’re supposed to do then there is a consequence. I’m not talking about punishment necessarily, but sometimes yeah – punishment is a consequence. If you don’t pay your taxes then maybe not today, but eventually you just might go to jail. That’s punishment. If you don’t get your chores done in a timely fashion, then today you might be made to finish while the other kids play but tomorrow, you might be grounded. I fail to see how that logical application of punishment is in any way damaging to my child, especially when the child has the choice to complete the task instead of dawdling.
Say what you want about my technique, but we’re even now closing in on the deadline for their room being done. We still have schoolwork for today, Fred will be here in another hour, a trip to the library planned and a playdate at noon. I can hear the boys winding down, so hopefully that means that they’re mostly done and we can move on to the rest of our day. It’ll be a good one!