I have a reader who asked me a very serious question the other day. She has a grown daughter who at 24 years old lives in a messy, disorganized, smelly home. She has 2 young sons who are following in her footsteps. My reader wanted to know what I thought she could do about getting through to her daughter about the importance of keeping an organized home.
She also told me, as an intro to the above question, that when her daughter was a child and teenager living at home that my reader would go into her room while her daughter was at school and she would spend several hours in there cleaning it all out for her.
Well theres the problem. One of the best things you can do for your child is to teach and train them to be organized and tidy themselves. It is not a basic instinct to clean up after oneself. It is a learned behavior.
You may think that youre being mean by making your child clean up after themselves all the time. Perhaps you resented your own parents forcing you to clean out your closet or under your bed when you were perfectly happy with it the way it was. No matter what the reason is that you dont make your child clean up after themselves Im here to tell you that it is just a bad idea all the way around.
From the time your child is 2 years old you need to be making them clean up after themselves. Yes 2 years old. I used to sit on the floor in my boys messy rooms, or on the couch in the front room and I would point at just one item at a time and tell my kids to put it in the toy box, or on the lower shelf . One at a time each and every little toy got put away properly and by my children.
I even did this with my 2 year old niece when she and her mother came to live with us for 6 months. My sister-in-law was shocked by the fact I could get her daughter to clean up after herself so quickly and completely.
As your child grows you need to continue to have them clean up after themselves. Always. You might feel as if it is so much easier for everyone involved if you just pick up after them yourself. But in the long run is it really whats best for your child?
Teach your child that they must not only clean up after themselves every day but that they cant get a new project out to play with until they have put the old project and the related items or toys belonging to it away properly.
Also, you need to be sure that from about 7 or 8 years old on, once a month you come into their room with them, sit on the bed or floor and supervise a good deep down cleaning. By sitting there and having them clean out every little corner of their room, including their drawers, closet and under the bed, you are training them to know HOW to always do this when needed.
By having them do this once a month you are training them that this is normal behavior. Sure, when your child first moves out they may not do this. But after a year or two on their own, and when their home is dirty, dusty and a wreck, they know exactly how to tackle each room, systematically, and are able to clean up and organize in no time.
Thats where my reader went wrong. She never made her daughter clean up after herself. She never sat there and supervised her daughter doing a good deep cleaning out of her room. She just did the work for her. She admitted that she thought it was pretty self explanatory and that her daughter was busy enough.
Now she is perplexed as to why her daughter is a slob and why she is teaching her 2 sons to be slobs too. Probably because my reader taught her how to be that way by doing the work for her.
So, please remember that you are doing your child a great service by teaching and training them how to clean up after themselves. You are teaching them valuable and necessary skills to take into adulthood with them. How else will your child be expected to know how to clean out a room and how to keep it tidy and organized if you dont teach them to do it as a child?
So, what was my advice to my reader? Honestly, I didnt have a lot of good advice. In my eyes the damage is done. I told her I thought the best thing was to take her daughter out to lunch and tell her she felt she had done her a disservice by cleaning up after her all the time. I told her to point out to her daughter how messy her house is and that she feels like it is her fault. I told her to hand her a small stack of books on organization and books on quickly cleaning your home.
Will that work? I dont know. But I do know that if my reader had taught and trained her daughter to clean out her own room after school then this woman would more than likely be a lot tidier and she would know that she needed to teach her own boys to be the same.