Updated: Jul 6, 2021
As parents, we hear this all the time, enough to make us want to scream!
“Why do I have to clean my room?”
“Where do the toys even go?”
“I don’t wanna do it!”
the questions and complaints go on and on and on...
All that whining while the cleaning isn’t getting done. What can we do to counteract all that noise? We can answer the questions once and for all. When your children start giving you a hard time about picking up after themselves, you can remind them about a few things.
First, teach responsibility and ownership. It is your child's responsibility because they own the toys. If they argue against this, take the toys away. Now you own them! Or put them in a sort of “toy jail” as a visual that may stick in your kids’ head. I keep a box in the living room for such toys that just can’t find their way to their home. They are stuck in the box until my child decides to put them away properly. Set a time limit. If the toy or item isn’t back in its home by the end of the day, it gets donated. Nothing motivates a child more than the fear of losing their favorite toy forever!
Now back to those nagging questions that we should answer (because ignoring a child doesn't work) without losing our temper. This is hard, especially after we have been picking up after our kids all day. The last thing we want to do is herd more dolls, cars, blocks, and toys together and find a place for them. After all, our children live here too. I've come up with a small list of the most annoying and constant questions that kids come up with when it's time to clean, and suggest how you can begin to answer them in a calm way.
Depending on the age and ability of your child, you will have to alter your responses. This is just to get you thinking of ways to have conversations with your child about their messes.
Question: "Why do I have to clean my room? I like it messy!"
What we want to say: "Because I said so! Because it's my house! Because you have to!"
What we should say: "You may like it messy, but wouldn't it be easier to play in your room if there was more space? Wouldn't it be cool to redesign your room so you can find the toys you want to play with?"
Let's start the conversation by asking questions instead of telling our kids what to do. Face it, we've already tried that (some of us, for years) without success. Let's flip the script, confuse them and it just might work!
In the beginning, you're going to have to show them how to do this. Being neat isn't something we are born with.
Question: "Where does everything go?"
When suddenly your child has no idea how the house works.
What we want to say: "It can all go in the trash! I don't care!"
What we should say: "Let's go check out your room and see if we can find a space for them. Do you see any other (insert like toys here) that we can put this one with? Want to go see if we can collect them all and put them in this box, on the shelf, etc.?"
They may get excited about the hunt for the toys and once you gather them all up will see how many they actually have. This would be a good time to suggest a purge of collections that have gotten too big for the space. Perhaps they didn't realize they had over 100 dolls! (Speaking from experience).
Complaint: "I don't wanna!"
This has to be the most said kid phrase in history. I didn't verify this, but I'm willing to take that gamble.
What we want to say: "I don't wanna either! You think I want to come home and clean this house!"
What we should say: "I know it doesn't sound fun, but it can be. Let's set a timer (kids and timers are sometimes the key) and see how much we can do. Then we can take a break!"
Having a set time allows your child to focus for small bursts of time without getting overwhelmed. I find with my child it becomes less overwhelming if I say ten minutes, instead of just "clean your room." Also, having a goal in mind helps.
I have my daughter clean up just one thing in those ten minutes. For example, all clothes off the floor and in the bin, or all stuffed animals back to their homes. I also find that if the timer goes off before she is finished, she will ask for a few more minutes to complete the task.
Also, you have to show them where to start or you will return ten minutes later with your child sitting in the middle of their mess playing.
This is in no way a comprehensive list of the questions and complaints from our children about cleaning, but it can help you decide how you want to approach them next time you hear "Why do I have to....?"
It's easy to get mad, it's easy to give up, it's easy just clean it up ourselves, however that won't get us anywhere in the long-run. Our job is to teach our children how to be responsible for their own space and possessions. The earlier they learn, the less nagging there will be on both ends. Well, that is the goal!
Please share some of your suggestions to dealing with this. I'd love to hear how your conversations went!