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Child Behavior: How To Get Your Children to Tidy Their Rooms!

Mar 24, 2008
Almost every parent faces this problem. Some parents learn to ignore it, while others wreck their nerves over it. It leads to frustration, and countless fights and arguments. Neither is desirable. So, here are some tips to overcome it:

Typically, the child's room is overflowing with things, and there is not enough space in the cupboards and drawers. So, the first thing to do is to provide more space for their stuff, which may appear useless to you but is very precious for them. You might have to invest in additional shelves, boxes under the bed, or chests of drawers.

Always, make more room than is required today, because the stuff will go on increasing and the problem will remain unsolved if there is not sufficient space. Moreover, there should be enough space to let the child take out what he wants without having to empty the whole drawer.

Once you have done your part of the job, and provided enough storage space, explain your method of tidying the room, and ask for suggestions from your child. Every child is different. Some children are very neat and tidy by nature, but the majority of them are not. And, children have their own idea of tidiness, which may not coincide with yours. You can't expect them to keep their room spotless every single minute of every day. They have to play with their things, after all. Just set some rules about a reasonable standard of tidiness, and make sure you take their views on it. Also, decide how often that should be achieved.

Remember, your goal should be to teach your children how to responsibly look after their belongings. That their untidiness upsets you is your problem. You will have to allow them to fail at times and face the consequences of that. In other words, you may have to put up with their untidiness for a bit longer.

Reasonable expectations could be putting things away before bed and a thorough tidy-up once a week. Then it is time to make a contract.

Once you and your child agree on the general framework of the contract, the next thing is what to do if they do, or don't, achieve that?

Again, the focus should be on rewards not punishments. Give them earned privileges based on achieving the goal. You may want to combine them with a chart system connected to other chores.

In addition you can also use some punishments for failure, but the must be logical consequences. I.e, the punishment should fit the crime. One example of this is to use the "black bag" technique. Quite simply this states that anything still lying on the floor at 1pm on Saturday gets picked up (by parents) and put into a big black bag which is then thrown into the attic, basement or garage for a week. They can have it back if, next Saturday, the tidy goal is achieved. If not, then that week's black bag collection is also thrown into the basement. This continues until either they run out of toys or they do some tidying up!

The secret of success of this exercise is in remaining calm and firm. Avoid shouting or other punishments. Just go at the appointed time and collect the offending articles.

Do this a couple of times and most children will get the message and tidy up before you get there with the black bag!

Finally, if there is a special reason why you want the room tidied up at a non-contracted time - if, for example, you have visitors who will need to borrow your child's room for a night or two - then remember that this is extra to your original contract, so it would be only fair to offer an additional incentive for them to tidy up. It is, after all, for your benefit, not theirs!
About the Author
More expert advice on children's behavioral problems can be found on Dr. Noel Swanson's website, packed with tips and help on correcting Child Behavior Problems.
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