How I Get My Kids to Clean Their Room

How I get my kids to clean their room.  One mom's battle to get her kids to keep their room clean, and the 8 strategies that have worked for her.I haven’t talked about it much but for the past year or so an epic struggle has been waging in the Soukup household.  It is Mommy versus Kids in the War of the Tidy Room, and while there are still small battles being fought now and then, I can finally say with confidence that I am winning.

I am not exaggerating when I tell you it has been a long and arduous and, at times, downright painful campaign.  It has involved tears, threats, bribes, rewards, games, countless trips to the naughty stool, and more reorganizing, reevaluating, relabeling, and retraining than I would care to admit.  At one point it even meant taking all their stuff away.  There were so many times I wanted to give up, so many times I was ready to wave the white flag of surrender.

I lost track of how many times Husband–our own personal UN Peacekeeper–questioned whether it was really worth all the heartache, all the frustration, all the hassle.  They’re just kids, he would say, they’re only 3 and 6Don’t you think you’re expecting too much from them?

But I persisted.  3 and 6 is old enough to put things away! I’d snap back.  If I don’t have high expectations of them, who will?  Someday they’ll get it.  Someday it will be worth it!

He would just look at me then, a mixture of pity and fear on his face, clearly torn between his cute-but-messy Daddy’s girls and his headstrong wife.  He chose neutrality.   I can’t say I blame him.

For months and months the battle raged.  Some days I would literally spend hours getting them to follow through, and in the beginning cleaning their room would frequently consume our entire morning.  But now, finally, after nearly a year of working at it every single day, I can actually say “go clean your room” and have it look like this a short time later:

The blood, sweat, & tears might not be visible in that picture, but I can tell you that they are most certainly there.  This is not a struggle for the faint of heart.   There are, however, a few battle strategies I have picked up along the way:

Set an Example

I couldn’t very well expect my kids to keep a tidy room if I wasn’t willing, able, and downright determined to keep a tidy house myself.  No, my house is not perfect at all times, but I do spend a lot of time cleaning and organizing and sorting and folding.  The girls see me speed cleaning almost every single day.  Many times they even help with the process.  We make a point to start our day with everything in order so that we be more productive.   By evening we’ve usually messed it up again with projects and crafts and books and cooking and everything else that goes on in our day, but there is usually at least a few moments every morning where things are tidy.

Be Consistent

We start our day by cleaning.   Even when we don’t feel like it.  Even when we have a lot of other stuff to do.  Even when pretty much everything in the world seems more important or more interesting or more fun.  For better or for worse, it has become part of our daily routine.  Hopefully someday they will do it without even thinking.  We’re not there yet.  But forcing it to be a habit now will hopefully stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Even more importantly, WE start our day by cleaning.  Them AND me.  This is key.  I don’t do it for them.  It would be far, far easier for me just to quickly clean the house and pick up their room myself while they played or watched TV.   I truly don’t relish the daily battle of getting them to clean their room.  Even now, after so many months of working on it, we still struggle with follow through.  But the more they do it and the more often they do it, the better they become.

Be Firm

I simply don’t take no for an answer.  I don’t plead or waver or back down.  My kids are learning–because I reinforce the message every day–that their number one job as kids is to obey.  My expectation is that if I tell them to do something, they do it the first time, without arguing, whining, or complaining, even if they don’t want to.  There is no negotiation.  Our home is not a democracy.

Get Rid of Excess Stuff

When I took away their toys last summer I realized how much happier they were with less, as well as how much easier it was for them to keep things tidy.    But kids are like little stuff magnets, always bringing in a constant trail of toys and papers and clothes and shoes and who knows what else, and if I’m not careful, their room will fill up quickly.

I have to be vigilant–and slightly ruthless–about keeping excess stuff to a minimum.  Clothes & shoes that are out of season or no longer fit get put in storage or brought to Goodwill.  Toys are still kept to a minimum.  Papers & junky party favors or prizes are usually tossed immediately (when the kids aren’t looking!)  We also try to abide by a “one thing at a time” rule, where we don’t take out a new activity before cleaning up the last one.

Make it Easy to Put Stuff Away

My girls both know where things go because everything in their room has a home.  Their clothing is hung low so they can reach it, and they both know how to hang things up.  They’ve learned how to tell if something is clean, and they know where the dirty laundry goes.  Likewise, toys and games each have their own shelf or bin.

Make it Fun

I will readily admit that I don’t always make it fun, but the days that I do are definitely far less painful then the days I don’t.  Sometimes we will race to see if I can clean up the rest of the house before they can get their room clean.  Often we will turn on music so they can dance while they clean or set the timer and try to beat it.  Other days we simply just clean the whole house side by side–they help me and I help them.

Offer Instruction

If they are to learn how to do it on their own, I have to be willing to show them exactly what needs to be done.  I’ve shown them the proper way to hang up their clothes, how to place their pants & PJs in the appropriate baskets, and how to look & smell things over to determine whether they are dirty.  I’ve shown them how to scan the room to check for things on the floor, and how to crawl under the bed to retrieve any lost items.  I’ve shown them where to bring garbage and dirty dishes and things that don’t belong in their room.   They still struggle with making the bed, so every day I still show them how to pull the sheets tight and tuck them in, then fluff the pillows and put them in place.

I’ve found that I have to teach the same things over and over again before they finally get it, and I’ve also found that showing them something then making them do it themselves is what seems to sink in the most.  Kids don’t have a natural ability to spot a mess, to see the things that are out of place.  It has to be taught.

Show Grace

As harsh as all of this may seem, I truly don’t expect perfection from my kids.  I expect them to listen and obey and to do their best, but I also offer them much love and praise and encouragement.  I try hard to notice even the smallest achievements, and I am always quick to reward them for a job well done.

I have been pondering this post for a long time, wondering if I should actually share my experience, knowing the sort of backlash I will probably receive.  I am frankly terrified to press the “publish” button.  Even as I read over the first draft to Husband this morning he told me I sounded like a psycho drill sergeant running a sterile mental ward.  I don’t quite see myself that way.  My house is not always perfect.  We make lots of messes.  We really don’t spend all our time cleaning up.

Even so, I know that in today’s indulge-the-child society, I am an anomaly.  I simply don’t believe that pampering my children will bring them happiness; instead, I want them to learn to live productive, orderly, disciplined, contented lives filled with JOY.  I want them to grow up understanding to their core the things it has taken me 35 years to learn, the things I am still learning.

Yes, at times I am a strict, no-nonsense mom with extremely high expectations of my kids.  I expect them to use their manners, to work hard, to be helpful and kind and considerate, and to keep their room clean.   I am with them all day, every day.  If I don’t teach them those things, I am the one who will suffer the most.  I am also the one who benefits the most.  Our days together are fun and interesting, filled with laughter and learning and love.  The girls get plenty of time to play and just be kids and we genuinely enjoy each other’s company, not despite my expectations, but because of them.

So while this battle may not be worth the effort–or even feasible–for everyone, I can say without hesitation that it was most definitely worth it for us, not simply for the clean room, but for the character it is instilling in them….and in me.

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Do you make your kids keep their room clean?  Why or why not? What strategies work for your family?
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{ 119 comments… add one }

  • Natalie February 22,

    I love your honesty. I’ve often wished that my kids would be better about cleaning their room but I see now that I wasn’t putting nearly enough effort into it. Thank you for being brave enough to share your struggle!

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup February 23,

      It definitely takes SO much effort! I really do think it is worth it, though!

      Reply
  • Jane February 22,

    My kids are older now so we can laugh about all our room cleaning battles but I can still remember what a struggle it was sometimes. My daughter who is in college and living with roommates tells me how glad she is to know how to clean because so many of her friends don’t have a clue. Keep up the good work. They will thank you for it someday!

    Reply
  • Momsee February 22,

    I make my kids clean once a week, usually on sat or sun. With 2 fulltime working parents and 2 in school 1 in daycare, we can’t do the everyday clean. By the weekend i just want to rest, so i dont fight with them to clean, but it’s also hard when you have 3 kids in 1 room. While yes I agree with your husband’s surmise, it sounds a little much for a 3 and 6 yr old. I feel they do need to learn but you have to remember they are KIDS and kids will be kids, so maybe not as much of a drill seargent mom would benefit them more. My 4 yr old knows how to put things away but I don’t drill sargent him into doing it either. they are just going to make another mess. And my kids love me no matter what cleaning I make them do. they appreciate a clean room no matter how long it takes them.

    Reply
  • Aimilee February 22,

    I will admit that I usually end up cleaning my kids’ room while they are at school because it is so much easier then forcing them to do it. I feel like our time together should be spent doing homework and fun stuff, not fighting about chores. There is more to life than a clean room!

    Reply
    • Lisa February 22,

      I think her point was that this wouldn’t work for everyone but also that it is not just about a clean room, it is about character.

      Reply
      • Amy February 22,

        I agree, but you also need to let kids be kids. It may build character but based on that you also need to let them be kids. It’s good to teach them but give them some slack as well, they are young and homeschooled, so they don’t experience as much as other kids do at schools, let them learn as they go. That as well builds character. Learning to clean is a great thing to know and help build them but so does being kids and not being ‘babied’ or ‘smothered’ or drill sargeanted into doing things. Note: NOT saying she does this, just speaking in general.

        Reply
        • Allenia Allen June 3,

          Amy I wouldn’t go so far as to say that because they are young and homeschooled that they don’t experience as much as other kids do at schools. I am a homeschooling Mom of 2 boys and I will tell you that having them at home all day can be chaotic at best if they aren’t taught how to be an active member of the family. When I say that I mean that Mommy can’t do it all. My day is rammed full of things that need to be done from schooling to cleaning to cooking and feeding them to playing. My boys get plenty of time to be outside playing and getting dirty and just being kids, however, there has to be a sense of order and that means that everyone takes part in keeping the house and the things in the home tidy and in order. Many hands make light work. We all do our part to take care of our home and we have fun and play too. My boys have learned and experienced a lot more than most kids that go to school. I have looked around at the generation that are now teens and I wonder what was being taught in the home or expected out of them. From what I can see they expect everything to be handed to them and done for them. Children will rise to the occasion if we let them. They are born with a desire to serve and please. I think it wise to nurture that desire and allow them to grow into people who can not only take care of themselves but also think of others. That includes the context of a functioning home. Praying that my boys will grow to be men like my husband who is often found tidying the house, doing laundry, dishes or the like because he wishes to serve me and show me love in one of many ways. To me that is far more romantic and thoughtful than flowers. Well done to this mom for teaching her children and growing their character..in a loving and faithful way.

          Reply
          • Missy June 7,

            I couldn’t have said it better… you are BOTH great moms, and role models for those of us struggling with the same things.I will think of this post daily, and my 3 messy boys will be better for it, as will I. Thanks!

            Reply
          • Anonymous January 14,

            AMEN!

            Reply
    • Ruth Soukup February 23,

      Aimilee, my husband feels the exact same way so I totally get it. He only gets a few hours with them each evening and he does not want to spend it fighting about their room. At first his unwillingness to help bothered me, but eventually I was able to accept it and even appreciate his different style. Ultimately you have to find what works for your own family!

      Reply
  • Beth February 22,

    I couldn’t have said it better myself! Bravo!

    Reply
  • J February 22,

    You should listen to your husband, he is right! I feel sorry for your poor kids who will probably need years of therapy to deal with such an overbearing psycho of a mother.

    Reply
    • Amanda February 22,

      That is a little harsh don’t you think? Raising her kids to be productive members of society doesn’t really seem like a bad thing to me….

      Reply
      • D February 22,

        yes it’s a little harsh but it’s also somewhat true. i have 3 kids but i dont make them do non stop hitler type cleaning. i’m honestly surprised that her husband allows it, mine sure woudln’t. raising them to be productive members does not need to consist of overbearing them either.

        Reply
        • Char May 23,

          I have 4 children under thage of 9, the youngest is 3 and I must say I agree with the author on this. If you teach them when they are young then it frees you. I didn’t always teach them this. My older 2 didn’t start doing regular chores until they were about the age of 6 and 7. Now, my children go to public school and my 3 year old is home with me daily. Each morning my kids are expected to complete certain chores before heading off to school. If they didn’t do this I would be left with a house that looked like a tornado hit it. They have been late and even missed days of school because they refuse to do their chores, but my children love school so this is a valid consequence for them.

          I will be the first to admit that I am one of the least organized people I know, but my children understand the concept of work and know that it is non negotiable. What the author is saying is that she is teaching her children to respect themselves, those around them and their property and the property of others. This is a HUGE lesson that is best learned young. Ruth you are doing a good job. Blogs can only convey a small amount of one’s life and you are so brave to be so honest about something that every mother struggles with. So from one “overbearing” mom to another, keep up with the routine. It really does help now and in the future.

          Reply
        • Michelle April 16,

          D- Does you giving your kids daily baths make you a Hitler type bather? Nah – just like a daily bath doesn’t make a life alteration, a daily routine of cleaning for the kids doesn’t either. This way they don’t have to spend hours one day a week trying to get it done and being overwhelmed, a little everyday is less stressful overall :-)

          Reply
    • Kristi February 22,

      If teaching a child to respect their parents/adults, mind their manners, and clean up after themselves makes one “an overbearing psycho of a mother”, then personally, I think the world needs more overbearing psycho mothers, indeed! Ruth, you’re a devoted mother to 2 beautiful girls – don’t let ignorant comments made by someone who can’t even have the courage to sign their entire first name bother you! You’re a great mom and your raising 2 great kids who are being taught life skills that will serve them well in their futures! Take care and always, always focus on the positive!

      Reply
      • Jessica February 22,

        I am 100% with you on this one!

        Reply
    • Ruth Soukup February 23,

      J, I appreciate the feedback but I think we can agree to disagree on this one. My husband doesn’t disagree with what I am trying to teach them, he just doesn’t want to participate in the process and be the “bad guy.” I get a lot more time with my kids then he does, so while I do occasionally put on the “drill sergeant” hat, the majority of our time is spent doing homeschool, learning to cook, reading together, playing games and doing puzzles, riding bikes, etc. I guess what I am saying is that I am only an overbearing psycho part of the time. :-)

      Reply
    • Joan August 15,

      I only just found this Blog … Ruth is NO Psycho … the only mistake she made was post what her husband said … and was more than likely thinking what those who CAN live in a mess would think and say… Im sure thats not what he thinks (that she is a psycho) How can anyone think being tidy and clean is psycho … tidy house/work space… tidy anywhere is a tidy organized mind … I cant work in a mess she is absolutely on the money correct!!! POOR KIDS !!! you are kidding !!! they are taught with love … there is a time and place for everything … at some point in our lives we all have to learn to work … where is the BEST place to learn??? from someone who loves you!!! If you dont teach your children the world certainly will and not always to your face … behind your back … Who calls another mother psycho ???? Some can work in a pig sty and others need order … each to their own. Im shocked at the way some youth speak to their parents and teachers .. I believe it starts at home. Parents need to be parents as one of the other ladies commented – I find that some youth constantly feel they need to be entertained and if that does not happen then they play up (and thats putting it mildly) I absolutely love your Blog … You are a wonderful example …..
      I am copying another ladies comment because I 100000% agree with her.
      TRACEY said….
      “Almost every time we go into a store or restaurant, I see the results of parents NOT teaching their kids obedience, manners, and the value of hard work. In general (notice I said in general, not in every single case), there is an attitude of “I’m just putting in my time” & “I’m doing you a favor by giving you the food you ordered”. Have heard so many complaints from managers about lack of reliability, lack of respect for authority, etc.
      Hmmm.
      Maybe we do our kids a disservice by allowing them (& us) to be so busy that we don’t allow them the privilege (yes, that’s privilege) of learning the world doesn’t revolve around them and that they are valued and essential members of our family.”
      I could go on for ever…. Well done Ruth Well Done !!! Im sure your husband and children love the home you have created for them and with them … I was shocked that someone could make a statement like “J” did without knowing you … kids need therapy – what ROT – overbearing psycho of a mother !!!!????? how arrogant… it made me mad ….
      I love your blog dont stop inspiring others … I have no children at home anymore – but how much of a better parent could I have been if I had done some things differently … and my parents and their parents …. Parents that teach their kids to work be responsible for their actions and accountable will sit back one day with pride having done all they can…..
      And some do all they can to no avail …. but you have done ALL YOU CAN …your children will be happiest if they work with you … nothing more fun than washing dishes on a Sunday with everyone being happy to do their share … thats not work thats building memories…. I wonder what my name would be – My children tease me now … Mom is not happy until the edges are done :)
      Blessed Husband and Blessed Children – Im sure they appreciate all your hard work love and dedication to your family.

      Reply
  • Denise February 22,

    I love this post, especially this line: “our home is not a democracy.” I watch so many parents try to be their kids BFF. They do everything for them and give them everything they want and the kids are just AWFUL to be around. Parents need to be parents. Good for you! Don’t let the haters get you down. :-)

    Reply
    • Tracey February 26,

      I find it interesting that a mom is perceived as a drill sergeant or “Hitler” by simply teaching her kids to obey & take care of their things.
      Not so many years ago, it was the norm for kids to be expected to help in the family. I’m not talking about 24 hr/day slave labor, but routines like helping milk the cows, set the table, make their own bed, wash dishes, etc. The family worked together & everyone’s contribution was important.
      Not only did the kids (usually from the age of 3 or 4) learn important life skills, they learned that their contribution was essential for the family’s well-being. What a great way to achieve self-esteem as opposed to empty compliments!
      Almost every time we go into a store or restaurant, I see the results of parents NOT teaching their kids obedience, manners, and the value of hard work. In general (notice I said in general, not in every single case), there is an attitude of “I’m just putting in my time” & “I’m doing you a favor by giving you the food you ordered”. Have heard so many complaints from managers about lack of reliability, lack of respect for authority, etc.
      Hmmm.
      Maybe we do our kids a disservice by allowing them (& us) to be so busy that we don’t allow them the privilege (yes, that’s privilege) of learning the world doesn’t revolve around them and that they are valued and essential members of our family.
      Yes, it is work, & some days are better than others, but the results are worth it, as I’m seeing in my nearly-grown kids.

      Reply
      • Deb May 23,

        Wonderfully said!

        Reply
      • erica July 26,

        I totally agree with you Tracey !!!!

        Reply
        • Anonymous January 25,

          Agreed!

          Reply
  • Momo'3 February 22,

    I appreciate the blog. I believe children need to be raised to clean. It helps the house run smoother if everyone can pitch in. I have 3 kids 2 girls and a boy( ages 10, 7, and 3) I run a business from home and my husband is a truck-driver and gone a week at a time. I teach my kids that cleaning is simply doing their part…and each person has their own part. Without everyone doing something all of the load falls on one. I have seen the adult version of children that were not made to keep things tidy and it is sometimes not pleasant. A friend of mine was raised by her mom who did EVERYTHING for her and now she is 30 yrs. old and still lives with her mom who still does EVERYTHING for her.

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup February 23,

      I’ve seen it too and that is exactly what I am trying to avoid! :-)

      Reply
  • Taylor February 22,

    I am not yet a mother, but I appreciate what you are instilling in your daughters. My mother had to work outside of the home most of my life, and so from a very young age, we (the children) were expected/required to help around the house. I can honestly say that I never remember my parents cleaning up our rooms for us. Additionally, I remember folding the laundry for my mom from the time I was 5 years old. As we grew older, the chores increased. Did my parents expect everything to be perfect? No. But they knew we were capable of effort. Did we hate doing chores? Yes. But we also grew into responsible citizens who knew how to work hard. I think that it is never too early to start training children.

    Also, as a teacher, I am thankful that you are instilling responsibility and character in your children. I am completely amazed by the entitlement that my students feel they deserve, and I know that part/most of it stems from what happens at home.

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup February 23,

      Thank you Taylor! :-)

      Reply
  • Jada February 22,

    Thank you for sharing. I definitely understand your struggle but am not as far along in being successful. I often tell my two oldest boys, who are 5 and 3, that (in alot of cases) if they were able to get it out then they can help put it back. I refuse to let them just tear things apart only to watch me come along and pick everything up after them, they need to be a part of the process. They can be very tough sometimes though, and one son will often refuse and try to put himself in time out. It is also a much more pleasant experience when I try to make it fun, but don’t always remember. But I know it will get easier eventually and help our family run more smoothly.

    Reply
  • Jess February 22,

    Well, well, well, I’m sooo glad I’m not alone in the Hitler department LOL…see, when I had my oldest, I was a college student and then I got a job, so between taking care of her, doing homework (first mine, then helping her with hers) I was too busy to have the time. Now, I’m a stay-at-home Mom of a 13yr old AND a 3yr old so the only way to keep me kinda sane is to keep the house tidy and use my dictator skills to keep everybody on the right path. Having a teenager (she is a Princess, always awesome, kind and respectful) and a toddler (this one we nickname Monster and is truly deserved) makes it hard because the main rules are the same but they are at different ages so expectations and rewards are not the same. But somehow, we managed. We have survived. And I know that my ruthlessness and the way we have established that Mom and Dad are superior in the food chain LOL is doing the trick. So, don’t feel guilty, they WILL thank you…I know I thank my mother for everything she taught me, including etiquette, good grammar, protocol and of course, kindness and selflessness.

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup February 23,

      Thanks for the encouragement Jess, it means a lot! :-)

      Reply
  • Kat February 22,

    I can definitely appreciate that process! :) The thing that’s made the biggest difference for our family is taking a serious look at what toys they truly love and how much of those toys they really need. We downsized our playroom drastically at the beginning of this year and I think it’s one of the best decisions I could have made for them. They play much nicer and they don’t feel as overwhelmed when it comes to putting the toys away.

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup February 23,

      I couldn’t agree more Kat! I notice that as soon as the toys start to creep back into our life my girls are more easily distracted, less content, fight more and have a harder time cleaning up.

      Reply
  • Angie February 22,

    I really enjoyed your post. Not enough parents stick to their guns and just give up. What does that teach our kids? That you are the boss, not your parents. In the end, that is not helping them at all. I have teenagers and little kids, and I can tell you that showing them who is in control when they are little will help a lot when they are bigger than you and they have the capacity to really challenge their parents.

    Reply
  • Anonymous February 22,

    I LOVE this post. It’s so nice to see that I’m not the only parent out there who expects a lot from her kids!!! If only more parents thought and did like us!! :)

    Reply
  • Dawn February 22,

    I totally enjoyed hearing your struggles with the kiddos room cleaning. I feel that it is important to teach values and what it takes to run a household, ( example, spending money, saving money,doing chores, and being respectful) I watch kids out of my home daily, while my two kids 11 and 8 are at school, and I have more time to clean than anyone else in the home.. but I still ask my kids to make their beds and clean up their rooms before school. I do major cleaning on the weekends with them helping me but during the week, it’s just a quick clean up. I do think it is important to teach them to clean because I am married to a man whose mother worked so much and never asked them to help clean the house and it was a total mess and he is still a slob. LOL :)

    Reply
  • Deborah February 22,

    As a mother of grown children whose biggest regret was doing too many things for them because it was easier or I didn’t want them to be “burdened”, I respect your putting in the time as painful as it probably is at times. You’ll never regret putting time and hard work to their precious characters. For those who are placing judgement, she mentions several times in her post that there is lots of time for fun.

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup February 23,

      Thank you for your sweet comment Deborah, it is always so encouraging to hear from people who have already made it past this stage!

      Reply
  • Dina February 23,

    I try to get the kids involved as much as possible in cleaning up there rooms and to clean up after themselves. As they get older it does get better. There are some really great tips in this article and I will put them to good use. I use to feel bad making them help out, but now it has become normal to clean together and to have them clean up on there own and make it fun.

    Reply
  • Jess February 23,

    One thing that sounds kind of wrong to me is the saying ” kids will be kids”. I mean, I understand the concept or the idea, but the truth is, kids are kids, but they will definitely NOT be kids forever…they will be adults and those little creatures that we love so much need to see that love, not by doing things for them, but by teaching them how to do them themselves. We all hope to be there as long as possible to share our lives with our kids, but, that depends on the Great Plan! Sooo, I say, in the meantime, let’s mix it all together, the hugs, timeouts, kisses, bootcamp training, fun, chores and praise for a job well done (this last one without the squeeky/cartoon voices, please!!! LOL), so that when we are no longer around (yes, I said when, not if) they will be totally independent, functional and responsible for their own well being!

    Reply
  • Maritza February 26,

    I love this post Ruth! You rock!

    I pretty much agree with you on all points, I also expect my kids to listen and follow through on the expectations I set for them, all within reason and according to age. It definitely is a trying task to do day in an out, so I applaud your commitment and convictions. Reading this post has further fueled my intentions to keep at my kids, to develop and instill the life long habits and traits that will in the end serve them well as productive members of society. It can be difficult, but is now made easier to see that there are so many others out there with the same intentions and goals.

    Peace,
    Maritza

    Reply
  • Anonymous February 28,

    The rest of the blog pots is here. www. livingwellspendingless.com/2013/02/22/how-i-get-my-kids-to-clean-their-room/

    I am torn because while I dream of my children just doing what I ask them to do the first time, I don’t agree AT ALL, that my children’s number one job should be to obey. I also don’t really care of they whine or argue–I WANT my kids to question things. I don’t want them to grow up to think that authority is unquestionable and that they should just do as they’re told (a la the Nazis who insisted they were just “following orders”–extreme example but you get my point).

    Plus, there have been times when my husband or I have been WRONG in what we have told one of our kids to do, due to a lack of communication or misunderstanding, and if my son hadn’t explained “No, I’m out of bed because Dada told me to go wash my hands” then I would have never been given the opportunity to apologize for snapping at him for not being in bed and he would have just gone off feeling bad.

    I don’t really want my kids to be obedient or to not question authority. I want them to understand that adults are not always right and that it’s fine to say if you are not okay with something (like a girl in my high school who refused to dissect animals), it’s fine to tell someone if something an adult is doing is wrong (like my 5th grade teacher who threw a kid against a chalkboard) and it’s fine to do what you know you need to do regardless of what anyone else thinks (like how I was told by my parents that if a teacher told me I couldn’t go to the bathroom and I couldn’t hold it anymore I should go anyway rather than pee my pants).

    The first thing that came to mind, honestly, when you mentioned that your kids’ job is to obey, was instances of abuse that kids sometimes suffer at the hands of a trusted adult. Could we prevent some of these cases from happening if we didn’t expect our kids to do anything a grown-up tells them to do? I would want my kids to know to say NO to anything like that and to tell someone immediately, without fear that adults will automatically side with other adults because they have been taught that the opinion of children doesn’t matter.

    I guess I would rather have to explain why I am asking my kids to do certain things, I would rather deal with their complaints and sometimes their outright defiance, than raise children who are not critical thinkers.

    I would like to raise revolutionaries.

    Reply
    • Sea May 22,

      Hear, hear. I want my kids to have their heads on their shoulders, to be able to make decisions about the world on their own. My mom wouldn’t even give me advice on which clothes to choose when I was a kid, and I’m better off for it; with my own personality and strengths that could not have developed had an adult tried to force their own opinions about how things should be onto me.

      Reply
    • Anonymous August 25,

      sounds like you have the “problem child” and you probably were the “problem child”. I’m sorry, but being a parent means raising a child who can function well in society, and by making them question authority constantly will land them in trouble more often than not. Defiance is not something you should teach your children, and i don’t know why you think that is OK.

      Reply
      • Hillary August 27,

        I’m so glad someone else had issue with that line! So many adults forget that children are people too, with much more capability for reason and understanding than they are given credit for. Teaching children to be mindlessly obedient creates mindlessly obedient adolescents and adults who may not ever get in trouble, but accept whatever is expected of them. In his book “Unconditional Parenting” Alfie Kohn talks about how preaching obedience first leads some teenagers to “rebel” because the teen has simply found a new master to obey- peer pressure. The teen is still the mindlessly obedient child, but now with commands the parents’ don’t agree with.

        I’m more concerned with my child thinking rationally than being “in trouble”. In fact, I’d be glad for my child to be in trouble over something that wasn’t right. Being a “problem child” might mean being the only person standing up for something right. Being in trouble is nothing. Being good is everything.

        I don’t think Ruth teaching her children to clean will make them into non-thinking robots, but focusing parenting entirely on obedience and not on becoming thoughtful, self-aware, and well-adjusted certainly will.

        Whoever the original comment-er here is, thanks for posting that. You said it much better than I could! Viva la revolution!

        Reply
        • Clancy March 19,

          I really think children that are taught to obey loving parents, clean their rooms, and be responsible for helping with the normal family activities will not mindlessly follow just anybody. The public schools are full of defiant disrespectful children. When your child is 16, driving the car and gets pulled over by law enforcement what will defiance get them? I’ll bet children being lovingly taught and given a good example will be well aware of discerning injustice and bad decisions. I’m pretty sure they will also be taught that life isn’t always fair and it’s best to rise above it, because whining about it doesn’t do much good.

          Reply
  • carrie February 28,

    I love it! Thanks Ruth. At this age I think it’s important (read: SAFE!) for children to listen to parents. Do we really want a 3 year old questioning whether mom is “right” to tell her not to run into traffic?

    Reply
  • Rhonda March 2,

    I really enjoyed your post! I know how to clean, organize and label. I toss, purge and re-organize the kids rooms trying to make it easier. I read all of the other How To’s and they don’t seem to work. Or so I thought.
    Your example of diligence and (at times may not have seem so) patience and trusting the process shows me I am not trying nearly as hard as I thought I was. I really haven’t given my KIDS the tools they need to be successful at this process.
    You have described tools and the frustrations that I may (and do!) encounter but also show how it will work. You helped me to improve my outlook and expectations. My attitude has changed – THANK YOU!!!

    Reply
  • Liz March 2,

    Love this! Thank you for your honesty!

    Reply
  • Lisa March 2,

    Thank you for your post. As a single person it always interests me to observe how parents raise their children. I have a friend who expects here children to obey. They are allowed to question (politely) but ultimately when mom tells you her decision you do it and you do not argue. If you don’t there will be consequences. Let me tell you that makes for an easier time babysitting, further her children are much more polite then other children. They are also much more well behaved in public.

    When it comes to cleaning, kids do not know how to do this from birth. So, parents need to teach it and continuously reinforce the teaching. Kids learn from repetition. When we work along side them, or with them, it teaches them the concept of team work. Further, we will see things they don’t and can take that moment as a teaching moment. It is also good bonding time. I have 11 nieces and nephews and have many times assisted in cleaning a bed room or the living room.

    Keep up the good job, Mom!

    Reply
  • Danielle March 7,

    Great post! My kids pick up every evening and at times I feel like it is not worth the effort! Great tips! I do need to teach them the right way more. Thanks!

    Reply
  • Alison March 15,

    I have three daughters; 9,5,3 1/2. The oldest is one of those OCD/perfectionists that can get them into trouble. If she lets her room get messy…especially after a play date or sleepover… she gets totally overwhelmed because she wants it to be perfect and can only zero her eye on a one foot space. It’s like the way some people on the Hoarders show are. If they can’t do it perfect, they can’t do it at all. If I say, “just look around the room and pick up your clothes first,” she freaks because it’s like she can’t see just one category but instead the entire mess. The other two girls do a great job picking up so that has been a nice balance for me. I work with my oldest constantly on her “issue” and many times avoid going into her room for days at a time because it becomes overwhelming for me as well. It will be a life-long process for her and the whole family is aware of it. I probably give her too much leeway but everyone is so different you can’t always go against the grain. We all learn lessons and having a child with this kind of OCD is very challenging!

    Reply
  • Ruth April 3,

    I am the same way, Ruth. My kids are grown now but when they were little we went through this in our home. It is a struggle and you need to show them a proper example and it works. I can relate to your reluctance about posting this because there may be backlash. This is a child indulgent society and we are doing our children a disservice. I think this needs to be said and you should be proud for speaking the truth.
    Blessings,
    Ruth

    Reply
  • Katie April 25,

    I think it sounds great! It seems exactly the way I was raised. My mothers house was always very clean, with 6 kids! I just wish I could do the same with my 8yr old boy. He has ADHD and we don’t have the storage we need for all his toys. I see all the great posts on pinterest and the labels of chalkboard ect. Little by little I’ll get there. Like you said it takes every day.

    Reply
  • SJ May 16,

    It’s always interesting reading over the comments on a blog post or article because it makes it so abundantly clear that people so often see what they want to see. I was amazed by people who criticized you and compared you to a drill sergeant like you just walk around the house barking out orders. Did they completely miss the part about “setting an example” “giving instruction” and “showing grace?” Sometimes when the house is in total disarray after a busy day I glance in my daughter’s room and brashly demand that she clean up immediately only to find myself staring at a kitchen counter full of papers and sink full of dishes that are my responsibility! To me the part that resonates the most is setting an example. If they are cleaning, so am I. This shows them that we are all responsible for keeping our home in order. Also I love how you remind us that providing instruction is so important. I was reading a book recently that pointed out that so often as parents we want our kids to do things they don’t know how to do, but we don’t want to take the time to teach them. While I’m guilty of this as well, it makes so much more sense to teach them (even when it takes a few… or twenty tries). I thought this was a wonderful post and I’ll definitely be putting a couple tips into action!

    Reply
  • Courtney May 18,

    My parents didn’t make me clean my room (my mom did it for me) but I regret it! Now that I love my own I have a hard time staying tidy – wish I had learned those habits as a kid! Good job.

    Reply
  • Trish May 20,

    Say…awesome job on teaching your kids the responsibility of cleaning up after themselves! Life will be much easier for them and you!! I have 5 children and wish I could say I was good about this….lately I feel just burnt out on trying to get everyone to do their part and just do it all myself….but this brings more burnout from doing it all!! After reading this and the comments, I have renewed ambition in making a go at this again for the sake of my kids and myself! I had ten siblings and we all did our part w/no dishwasher too!!:) so for the most part 5 kids doesn’t feel all that much after living in a family of 11…As long as everyone does their share! I always wish I would have done more for my parents now that I am one and am thankful for what they taught so I can raise mine!!:)

    Reply
  • Sea May 22,

    What bothers me about this attitude is that you give your children no voice. You talk about training your kids, as if they were dogs. You talk about wanting them to obey you, taking away their things. They are humans, capable of cognition just as much as you, and they deserve more respect. Sure, they have clean rooms at the beginning of the day, but at what cost? At prioritizing cleaning above all else. Because having tidiness somehow is going to bring joy to them? No. I couldn’t tell you about a single time when I cleaned my room as a child. That isn’t where you make memories. That isn’t where childhood happens. Your kids would have learned on their own eventually, would have seen that it is easier to do fun things in your own space if it’s clean. Instead of that they get “trained” to care about the things you care about at your age, instead of being allowed their own priorities, which would have made them more independent and self-assured.

    Reply
    • eunice May 25,

      It’s not like the kids have to clean every single minute of the day. This is just one aspect of their lives; it does not rule it. You say that kids will eventually learn to clean. When? when they are 20? living on their own? What if they don’t? As parents, it is our responsibility to ensure that our kids learn basic hygiene, respect for themselves and others, good moral values. If we do not teach them/discipline them, who will be the ones to teach them? Let’s not pass our responsibilities to other people. Do we expect teachers, schools to teach our kids to clean up after themselves? Even if they are taught in school, if the same is not instilled in the home, there will be no consistency and the child eventually will not learn to do things for himself and be self-sufficient. There are a lot of opportunities to create memories with them even while doing chores. Also, when they are done cleaning up (does it take hours to clean their room? Maybe 30 mins max), they have a lot of time left to enjoy their childhood. There’s a time to play, a time to learn/study, a time to be silly, a time to be quiet, a time to be loud. I don’t think there is anything wrong with “training” our kids to do things on their own, be independent, clean their mess because in the long run, they will thank you for it.

      Reply
      • Anonymous June 9,

        I agree it is our responsibility to teach work hard, play hard. I work and have responsibilites. My kids need to learn that is how it works in the real world. When will they learn if we don’t teach them? And at what age??? It isn’t just a bunch of playtime!!!! Thank you for this article. I needed some helpful hints to create more sanity for me!!!

        Reply
  • Anonymous May 22,

    I am the oldest of six children. We grew up in the Philippines with maids. My mother grew up with maids. But my nana showed me how to clean and step back and appreciate the work we did together when I was four. My mother needless to say didn’t know how to clean (or cook really or anything lol…poor thing). When we came to America it was such a struggle! Now that I am older something in that time with my Nana would come home to me when I clean my place. I love having a clean place. Now my siblings all whined that they weren’t taught. They think I’m the luckiest one. And yet, I still struggle to clean everyday. I tell my husband all the time when we have kids we need to get them involved with the house and teach them so that it will not be hard on them when they get older. I think you’re doing a wonderful job. Love your comment about there’s no democracy in your home. Lol. Well, they’ll thank you someday!

    Reply
  • Amy May 29,

    thank you, thank you, thank you…. for making me feel like i’m not a “psycho hitler mom” because i want (and struggle with) my children to maintain their rooms. My husband and I adopted three boys three and a half years ago (ages 5, 7 and 8) and after four years of foster care in a home with no structure or discipline, it has been a major uphill battle to instill in them even the simplest of house rules. We’re getting there! But, i have to say, that there are days when i feel alone in my expectations. I’ve never been a neat freak, but i can’t be that mom that shuts the bedroom door and doesn’t worry about it unless there’s an infestation. I’ve tried… but i didn’t last very long. My husband and I both work and we’ve explained to them that maintaining their rooms is doing their part in taking care of our home…as a family. My problem is that none of my “inner circle” seem to share in my horror over the daily chaos that i face when i enter their rooms. I’m now to the point that i don’t even want to go upstairs to their bedrooms because i don’t want to get upset over what i know that i’ll see. So, i’ve sometimes worried that maybe “I” was the one that was doing something wrong. i really needed this post to give me renewed strength and insight. So, again, i thank you… and some day i KNOW that my children will thank me too!!

    Reply
  • Kristyn May 30,

    Ruth,
    Good for you! Kudos for keeping family values a priority! And you are right, it will pay off in the future. Their future husbands and even their children, your grandchildren, will appreciate your hard work. Saying a prayer for you.

    Reply
  • amys June 7,

    Thank you Ruth! I just found your blog/post through Pintrest. My girls are 9 and 2. I learned my lesson the hard way by doing too much for my oldest and chores are still an ongoing stuggle with her. We are trying to teach my youngest to be more independent/responsible as she grows…hang up coats/hats and pick up toys, etc. I appreciate your honesty and it looks like you have found a healthy balance for your family. I look forward to incorporating some of your strategies to help balance my role/day with my girls :)

    Reply
    • Anonymous June 9,

      I have made the same mistake with my 9 year old and here we are with struggles and constant battles over cleaning the room and picking up the house!!! It is so frustrating! Working harder on my 7 and 4 year olds!!! It just helps keep my sanity to have some help!

      Reply
  • Tamara Bennett June 7,

    I am glad you “hit the publish button”. LOL. As I was reading this post, I couldn’t help but think it sounded like something I could have written. I do the same things with my kids. I definitely need to work on being more consistent and persistent with my children. Making the bed is still a challenge for my 6 year old, but we are working on it. I do need to purge a lot of their toys. I am currently debating on moving them into the same room and making the extra room a playroom. My boys are 2 and 6 and they play with the same toys so there is no reason to have “his” and “his” toys. I feel like it would be easier to keep organized if they were all in the same room. I appreciate all of your advice!

    Reply
  • Kristy L June 8,

    We were having “make sure your dirty clothes make it into the hamper” battles and then I had my husband install a laundry chute from the bathroom closet down to the laundry area. What a success! The boys love to send their dirty clothes down the chute! No more scattered clothes trails in my house. :-)

    Reply
    • Anonymous August 25,

      sounds like a fantastic idea!!

      Reply
  • Emily H June 8,

    I love this article. My husband is the one who brings the order to our home. Through him I have learned the value of keeping a tidy home and getting it all cleaned up in the mornings. He is in Afghanistan right now, but when he is home, the best part of cleaning time is when he chases the kids around the house, tickling and wrestling them and filling their “love tank” so to speak. Then he will call everyone into service mode with positive instruction and a “Let’s do it!” attitude. Which, by the way, seems to work WAY better for him than it does for me :) But, I keep going everyday with the chores and the expectancy that they will respect the home and belongings that we have been Blessed with.
    Great article! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  • Megan June 19,

    I have two kids, 8 and 5, with one on the way, so I am starting to feel the need to nest, declutter, and get organized for #3. Your article about taking away the toys really hit home because I recently did this to my oldest b/c I was so fed up with her room being a disaster and the fact that it didn’t seem to bother her in the least. So in frustration, I bagged up everything on the floor (two trash bags full) and took them away, with the intention of letting her gradually earn the toys back. She doesn’t seem to miss anything that was taken, though, so I think the items will go into the garage sale pile instead. And we are now working to clear out more items–maybe not all the toys, but definitely a lot of them. My goal is to get it to a manageable amount so that asking them to clean their rooms is not an insurmountable task. And I love the idea of making it part of the daily routine. If a little is done every day, it shouldn’t ever be a huge task for them. I know how much happier I am when the house is free of clutter, and even if they don’t act like it bothers them to have a messy room, I can’t help but think they will be better off mentally and emotionally if they aren’t surrounded by chaos. And to the person above who said kids will eventually learn to clean on their own….um no, they won’t. My mother-in-law is wonderful, but she raised my husband doing everything for him. He would leave dirty clothes all over his bedroom and magically they would all be cleaned and put away when he returned home from school. And what does he do now at 42 years old? Exactly what he was taught to do…leave stuff laying wherever it pleases him. Any part of the house that is totally his area, like the garage workbench and his side of the closet are a total disaster most of the time. It frustrates both of us, and that is exactly what I am trying to avoid by teaching my kids to be responsible, helpful members of our home.

    Reply
  • Colleen August 3,

    Sorry- I know this is an old post by now! I’ll just tell you that my mom never made me clean a thing and boy do I wish she did. Now I’m a married adult and still have my mom’s standards of cleanliness but no clue where to begin to keep my house like that. (Hence me stumbling onto blogs like yours). I’m trying to learn how to clean stuff and often end up calling my friends who’s moms gave them chores growing up to ask how the heck to clean a particular thing. But yeah- your daughters will thank you later :)

    Reply
  • Heidi of Operation Organization August 13,

    Fantastic tips! I coach many of my clients many of the same suggestions you offered especially, the ‘leading by example’.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences and successes that will serve to help others as well!
    Cheers! :)

    Reply
  • Jessica W. August 14,

    What a great post! We’ve had our own battles about cleaning rooms and putting away their things (sometimes I wonder if my 8yo will ever learn to put away her shoes without a reminder – her younger brothers can). I have to admit my children’s rooms rarely look as neat as the picture unless I have been involved for some finishing touches, but I’ve seen great improvement. For us the best time to clean their rooms is in the afternoon after quiet/room time. That’s when their rooms get the messiest and since they don’t spend much time in their rooms in the evenings, they stay fairly neat until the next afternoon. My kids have to have their rooms clean before they come out for a snack – which has been a great motivator to get it done. I did have to take all of my daughter’s things out of her room at one point, and I saw a big difference. She really was happier with less! She has a hart time managing her things. While she’s great at getting out only one thing at a time in our family room, she gets almost everything out during her room time. However, she had so much stuff in her room it was too overwhelming to pick it up. She now has a box of toys in the basement that she can rotate with items in her room. One other thing that has helped us is to set timers. They love to race the timer and it really helps my oldest to have that goal (15 minutes cleaning the room is so much better than 60 minutes). Thanks for sharing your tips!

    Reply
  • April Walton August 15,

    Hello Ruth:
    I was very happy to read this & to see that there are still
    some parents who are making their children do what they
    need to do. I was a single mother of 5 children 3 girls &
    2 boys. So I can say that I have taught both to clean.
    I also now have 6 grandchildren.
    I started to teach my children to do things when they were
    18 months ( my children were able to talk very well ) I
    talked to them all the time like they were little people
    not babies. That helps out a lot when they would get out of there
    beds in the morning I would make them turn around and make
    there beds. (it didn’t have to be perfect just that they had made
    it. ( I would fix it later they really didn’t notice)
    As they got older I would teach them many different things that
    they could do. If they could reach the controls in the washer and
    dryer (without standing on anything but their on feet.
    They could wash their own clothes I was always watching them
    until I knew that they were good at it. ( that was around 8yrs)
    Being constant is the key it takes work on your part but in the long
    run it will help you out. Reward are good but if you can do money
    so then they learn to manage that. They (with your help) will learn
    how to save for things that they really want, plus learn to give gifts
    when needed. (for family) birthdays, Christmas, Mothers & Fathers Day
    etc.
    So Ruth I take my hat of to you just one thing your girls are children
    not kids a baby goat is called a kid :)
    Wishing you good things to come !!!!

    Reply
  • Anonymous August 25,

    love this! question: in the “be firm” section, what is your method of “punishment” if they argue about things? Time out? confiscating important things to them? No playtime? just curious which works best!

    Reply
  • Jacqui August 25,

    My mother raised me just like this. She raised us to take responsibility for ourselves, and for our messes. She was strict and loving at the same time. And you know what? It worked! I am only 21 years old, have graduated from a great University, have an honorable career doing something i LOVE at an extremely established business, and am completely capable of taking care of myself, which is so much more than i can say for a number of my acquaintances. I truly believe that i am a successful young woman because of the way my mother raised me. She did not clean up after me, she did not follow me around making things right for me, i had to do that myself. That is the greatest thing a mother can do for her child, is to help them be able to take care of themselves. Keep being fabulous Ruth, you are parenting in the best way.

    Reply
  • Anonymous September 1,

    Teaching kids to be responsible for their space & belongings, to respect their home, and to develop basic life skills is a hard job. Bravo. Kids take pride in their accomplishments, and giving them simple chores is a great opportunity to build confidence & character. It’s hard! So hard! But important. Our approach is that every member of the family contributes via chores. We keep a chart for each little boy with their jobs: making bed, putting away clothes & toys, dusting or vacuuming, setting or clearing the table. They even know how to fold their clothes! Not easy, but I’m sticking to it for the sake of their confidence, and ability to leave the nest one day. Bravo to this post for minimizing, prioritizing and teaching.

    Reply
  • Shannon September 14,

    This is so well written! It is amazing how many people have ignorantly come down on you, choosing only to focus on a small portion of the article that they may disagree with. This seems to be the source of the “child indulgent society” you spoke of… How frustrating to see indulged children and see parents who have no problem with it! I, too raise my children like this, and they are 4,2 and 1 (though the one year old doesn’t do much! lol). I find my littles are much happier with an organized and limited selection of toys, and I am much happier when my living room or their bedroom isn’t solely my responsibility to clean up. I felt like I could have written this article… These are the same words I use when I explain myself to friends who don’t understand my “drill sergeant” parenting style. I may be strict now, between manners and cleaning habits, but I won’t have to be when I have kind, obedient, well-mannered and respectful children for the rest of their lives. We aren’t raising children, we’re raising adults. It’s our job as parents to assure our children contribute to their home and to their country. Our family doesn’t revolve solely around my children… They are a part of our family; a beautiful, miraculous, and irreplaceable part, but still an equal part. They are being raised to recognize that they are here to pull their weight and contribute, and that the world doesn’t revolve around them. You can still be treasured and loved and not be catered to.

    Excellent article. Thank you!

    Reply
  • Lynne September 16,

    What always amazes me about any blog post which shares an OPINION, is the preponderance of name-calling, finger pointers who spouts off about how WRONG the author is. An opinion is just that—an opinion—and cannot, by definition be WRONG. This courageous woman has chosen to share her parenting ideas—which are, in effect, her OPINION. Maybe you don’t LIKE it, but that doesn’t make what she is doing WRONG.

    This approach works for her family. And I think that’s awesome.

    I also disagree that expecting children to be tidy and mind their parents is unreasonable.

    Get over yourselves. Self-righteous much?

    Reply
    • Lynne September 16,

      Spout, not spouts.

      Reply
  • Saedi September 18,

    Wonderful post, beautifully written! I am twice as inspired to get my kids to keep things clean! Don’t mind the nay-sayers, they’re just proving how right you are!

    Reply
  • Rachel October 2,

    Loved your article! It brought back such memories and still rings loud and true. I’m the mother of 6 children, three of who are now adults and the “battles” do pay off, in exactly the way you are hoping that they will. It is so obvious from the tone of your article that you love your children and that they love you and your motives are pure and noble. The “teaching” continues throughout their lives, and I still have to coax room cleaning, even when my adult children are home, but they know how to “use their manners, to work hard, to be helpful and kind and considerate.” They are my pride and joy and even though they worked harder and more often than most of their childhood friends, they still love their mother! I thought you might be interested in an article called “Family Work” (http://magazine.byu.edu/?act=view&a=151) that helped shape my attitudes about family work as a young mother. It was originally printed in a private college magazine for BYU so it is definitely religious based. I am LDS, but think that any Christian would appreciate the ideas and research that are represented. Keep up the good work. One day your children, their roommates, their spouses, the community and even your husband (whose loving differences are another kind of stabilizing blessing =) will thank you. Keep fighting the GOOD fight. Keep loving that family of yours. It takes a strong, selfless mother to “cast your bread upon the water” and wait…and wait…and wait for the results. It is the more difficult and definitely more long term rewarding method. Chin up! =) Let the harsh critics wash away.

    Reply
  • Melissa R October 9,

    I absolutely LOVE this! I have been looking for help in getting my kids to clean up after themselves. My kids are (just turned) 4, 2, 1, and 7 months. I also babysit (regularly) an 11 month old. Obviously the 3 youngest can’t do much (although my 2 yr old does throw away her dirty diapers after I change her!!!), but I know the older 2 need to be helping out more. They cry CONSTANTLY about having to clean up their room! Some days it is more than I can handle and we go to bed with their room a MESS – like tonight!!! Thank you for the encouragement. Don’t stop posting!!!

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup October 10,

      Thanks, Melissa!

      Reply
  • Tonya October 22,

    My house was super clean with 3 children! Now with 8, it is one mess at a time… not to mention the girl’s floor closet problem! I am giving away, throwing away, and putting away again. We are blessed our boy’s are not as messy. My mom told me after our dishwasher broke down that I need 3 of me…. one to clean, one to care for the children and one to home school. I am working on chore charts, rotating chores, and organization now as well as down sizing. I am so blessed to be alive!

    Reply
  • Melisa W. November 10,

    I love your blog! I found it via pinterest this week and I have read a ton of your posts since. You are a mom after my own heart! I love your ideas and am very passionate about many of the same things you are! Being a stay at home mom is tuff and it takes so much work and dedication to keep a house and raise kids to be well mannered, respectful and responsible adults one day. I am have been going through my house bit by bit and getting rid of stuff and organizing as I go because it drives me crazy when things pile up and the kids toys are everywhere. There is just too much stuff! I hate clutter! Thank you for sharing your heart and being so tranparent!

    Reply
  • Abbie (M is for Mama) November 19,

    Hi Ruth! I’m late to this party, but I just wanted to say that I appreciate the practicality of your tips. I’m definitely not quite as hardcore as you are, partially because of the “showing part.” In other words, I am not as into decluttering/cleaning personally as you are, and therefore, I don’t require it of my kids quite as much, but they are required to clean their own rooms, the toy room, help pick up the living room, fold/put away clothes, unload the dishwasher, etc. (I have five, ages 7 down to 14-month-old twins), so I’m definitely working on getting all of us involved in the clean-up process.

    I think the thing that resonated the most with me was the idea of cutting down on the toys. We have too much, for sure…very little of it that we’ve actually bought for ourselves—most of them are gifts.

    And I would love to cut back (even more than I already have) on our toy stash. I have to admit that I’m not as good about being ruthless since my personality tends to say: “But what if we end up ‘needing’ that” about things in general. I definitely wish I were more of a natural organizer/declutterer. I’m working on retraining myself…to a point.

    ANYhoo, just wanted to say that I appreciate the fact that you’re hanging in there on hard things. There are all kind of battles, and I think the most important thing is to just keep plugging, by God’s grace.

    P.S. We met at Allume. I was the curly-haired chick that crashed y’alls trip to Anthropologie. :)

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  • jessica November 21,

    I think this is a very appropriate article that the bashers (and all the moms) ought to read… Keep on Ruth and all the other “mean moms!” we are doing the best for our kids! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/Mickey-goodman/are-we-raising-a-generati_b_1249706.html

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  • Angela @ Joy Focused Learning November 25,

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I love hearing that you have high expectations for your children. I have found that young children are capable of so much more than most people expect of them.

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  • Lynet Witty December 10,

    Yes, great advice! Easier written than done, but I bet you are one proud momma teaching those girls how to pick up after themselves! if ONLY some parents would follow these steps, the world would be so much cleaner and tidier…
    I do most of the things you mentioned here with my boys (5 &3) and I’m really lucky because they’re good kids, they listen to their headstrong mother and neutral father. haha!

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  • April December 10,

    I completely agree. I have 6 kids 6 and under, and we’ve been working on chores for years. This is not a hotel or a restaurant, and I am not the maid. Everyone contributes to the family. Daddy contributes by earning the money to pay for everything we have (he is also 100% hands on the moment he walks in the door, helping with kids or cleaning. He also makes us a hot breakfast every morning). I happily do the breakfast dishes he used to make breakfast and get busy with the morning clean up. They contribute by taking care of the things we provide for them and cleaning up after themselves. Throughout the whole history of humanity, children have helped the family as soon as they could walk because that was necessary for survival. My kids each have a zone of the house they pick up twice a day. They do their own laundry, clear their own dishes, and are responsible for their rooms. My expectations are set according to their ages. I don’t expect perfect laundry folding, but at 6 years old they can do better than wad it up. Their made bed doesn’t look like my made bed, and that is ok. All I ask is their best effort. Teaching them early is a gift to them. My mom grew up with a maid, and to this day when she sees a mess her first thought is, “Miss Jo ought to clean that up!” She was not the best at housekeeping. When she got married her MIL had to teach her everything. I’m trying to teach them habits and routine so that their lives are easier. My sister’s high school boyfriend was helpless. His mom did everything for him. My sister taught him how to put gas in the car when he got his license. He ended up coming to my college, and I taught him how to buy groceries (frozen dinners since he couldn’t even boil water) and how to sort and wash his clothes. It was so sad. Of course my kids play a ton too. Their chores should take no more than 30 minutes if they just do it when they are supposed to and keep up on it everyday. And when everyone helps, that frees up more of my time so I can do things with them too. I want to spend time with them instead of only picking up after them.

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  • Christie December 10,

    You have just inspired me to take action. I have a 7 year old boy who I have to beg and plead with to get him to clean his room. I blame myself for this. I’m going to start setting an example first and then push forward to get him to that stage. It will be a battle for me with a 10 month old but if I don’t hold myself to this standard I can’t expect him to do the same. Thanks for the motivation!

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  • Lonnilei December 10,

    I applaud you for taking the time to show your girls how to clean and for being an example for them! It certainly is NOT too early to teach them basic responsibilities! My little guy is 14 months, and I ask him to pick up his toys and put them away every time we’re finished with them (before meals, before naps, before errands, etc.). I started showing him how to put his toys back in the toybox when he was only 9 months old, and we did it together when he was 10 months. By 11 months, he was completely able to pick up each toy and walk it to the box. (Although we’d been practicing that skill for a month, it still shocked me to discover that this tiny little boy could clean up after himself!) He is now so much in the habit of “everything in its place” that it really bothers him when I’ve failed to hang my coat in the closet and have just left it over the back of a chair. He points to my coat then gestures toward the closet (which can’t be more than 12 feet away). How humbling to have a baby (who can’t say more than “Mama” and “Dada”) point out that you need to pick up after yourself! Having not been trained as a child to keep things consistently tidy, I struggle with this task as an adult. I desperately want my son to learn how to pick up after himself regularly instead of just when we’re expecting company (as was the case when I was growing up). Keep up the good work with your girls! They will appreciate your efforts, if not now, when they’re older. I know I wish I’d learned this lesson MUCH earlier in life!

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  • Anonymous December 22,

    poor children!

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  • Anonymous December 22,

    I think you got your priorities all wrong but each to their own!

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  • Anonymous December 28,

    OK seriously I needed this pep talk

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  • sara December 29,

    I love this! My children have been cleaning up since they were 2. They were expected to fold their PJs when they woke up, and clean up their own messes, especially in their own room! My daughter could zip up her own coat and put on her shoes. Some people think children are helpless. And I didn’t have to act like Hitler or a psycho as others have said. People don’t want to act like parents to their children now a days. My kids were actually happy doing it! It gives them a sense of pride. If you start young, it’s not such a shock to them.

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  • Jess January 1,

    This is wonderful. Being the anomaly is hard now, but when our kids actually know how to do things later in life, because they were taught how… all the work is worth it.

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  • Penny January 3,

    I am every-day-vigilant about meeting certain standards with my almost-4 year old. It’s not because I enjoy control, or want her to lose her sense of wonder and joy too young: it’s simply because it’s my job to be their Parent first and foremost. To be able to successfully navigate the world at large when she becomes an adult. Every day, my Little has to make her bed and get dressed before breakfast. She’s got to get ready for bed by following simple instructions, or she loses privileges. She’s got to bring her dishes to the sink after meals. We all pray before we eat. She has to put away her own clean clothes. It sounds sorta strict when you list it out, but it’s really more a matter of setting up good habits/foundations while it’s relatively easy to do. Now I only hope she’ll forgive me someday for being a “strict” parent, lol.

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  • NATASHA January 17,

    Kudos to you Mama!! I totally agree with you!! I could say so much here but so much has already been said:) God bless you!

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  • Anonymous January 21,

    I love this!! Thank you for posting, I have three girls and we go through this everyday. Your doing a GREAT job!!

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  • Melanie January 23,

    Hi Ruth, Thanks for a fantastic post, only found this today via pinterest. I totally agree with your sentiments, I feel it is vitally important to learn how to work as part of a team (they will need to know this when it comes time for school and the workforce), and it is about manners and courtesy not ridiculous “enforcement” like some people think. I have a 5, 4 & 3 year old who all know that before bedtime, we ALL clean up the house for the day. They put their dirty clothes by the laundry (even the 3 yr old!), pack up their toys while hubby and I are doing the dishes, (never realised till I read your blog about how this is actually setting a good example, made me feel good I can tell you!!), and then I help them with anything left over. Some days it is a breeze and I don’t even have to ask, sometimes we set the timer and the kids are giggling like crazy trying to beat it and sometimes I too become the drill sergeant. But overall I know I am teaching my kids responsibility. For all those Mum’s out there who don’t get this, I do not spend my day cleaning (it might happen once during the day, but always at night) and my kids are free to make as big a mess as they like during the day…BUT…if you make a mess, you clean it up!!! Good on you for being honest about this, I too struggled hitting the publish on “Why it sucks to be a good parent” http://pinterestmadnessandme.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/why-it-sucks-to-be-a-good-parent/on my own blog, but it is so worth it in the end, as I am sure you know. Good on you for setting an example for your kids. As you know you will reap what you are sowing and you will help grow responsible, considerate and caring people. Well done!!!

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  • Melanie January 27,

    I enjoy your blog and perspective when I pop in. I think it is a good thing to set expectations. It sucks being a drill sergeant, but sometimes it’s necessary to get things done. I don’t enjoy playing the drill sergeant, but I expect more of my kids. Just when I have a tough day with them, someone tells me how well behaved and kind they are. It’s nice to hear from the outside world that my kids can be seen and heard with appreciation for who they are.
    Our house could be cleaner, and we could be more regularly scheduled, but we aren’t. Expectations are a good thing. It’s a bit unnerving to see kids and teens these days, so self absorbed. It’s not a bad thing for them to be expected to be a productive person, and eventually make personal goals, and have real ambition.

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  • Regina E. Coley February 10,

    I too have a six and three year old and I’m just as adamant about them cleaning up. At first I took the easy route and just did it but now that I’m pregnant with baby #3 I really had to slow down and teach them to take responsibility. They of course didn’t take kindly to it but they do clean up. I made a chore chart with my six year old was very happy about but the three year old struggles to stay focused long enough to clean. We’re working on it but it’s most certainly a process in which the parent has to be consistent and stern.

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  • Nicole February 12,

    This is me to a T.. And currently my sister and I are at odds because she’s EXTREMELY lenient.. Like to the point her child is out of her control even.. Which resulted in several built up episodes that directly affected my children. I’m proud of my children though and it’s because of your same mentality. I don’t run a military but we have an orderly home (kids rooms included) and my kids are so well behaved and disciplined. Which means actually I rarely even have to discipline them! Not being self righteous at all. Just super proud of my kids and loved reading your article.. I sincerely hope you haven’t received any backlash for you just simply expecting your kids to have boundaries. I bookmarked your article to keep re-reading :-)

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  • Claire February 15,

    This blog hits the nail on the head. I teach and expect the students to clean their desks and anything they use throughout the day. It is obvious that some kids have parents that don’t set expectations at an early age. My students are 6, 7, and 8. They ARE capable and when given love and encouragement as well, moms are raising independent and successful children. Brave post, I love it!

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  • Catherine February 15,

    I hope you are able to brush off the negative comments. For some reason, miserable people like to make others miserable, too. So sad to see these comments that attack your parenting! If you wrote about being a vegetarian, people would tell you that it’s child abuse and you’re children are deprived of the meat-eating experience. If they eat meat, you’re harming them in that way….. I wish mothers all over we’re able to be more supportive and encouraging of differences, instead of trying to cut each other down. Thank you for writing this! Your children are well loved and are learning how to be responsible adults one day!

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    • Darla February 17,

      Thankyou for this encouraging post!

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  • Annie February 24,

    Thank you SO MUCH for this post!! I was not raised to clean my room or have as much hands-on parenting as you give your children. I want to be more hands on with my future kids (#1 is due in 6 weeks!) and your post definitely gives me some insight and some guidelines in my future endeavors to keep a tidy house & instill a positive work-ethic in my own children. Thank you so much for publishing this post!!

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  • Ange March 4,

    As an adult who struggles to keep a home clean and who didn’t have chores or much responsibility as a child, I agree completely that kids need to be taught to contribute to the family very early on. My daughter is two and helps set and clear the table, put away toys and laundry, and other small but helpful chores. She is more diligent than I am about putting her shoes away when we get home. She is part

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  • Ange March 4,

    Part

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  • Ange March 4,

    Part of the family and knows that we all help out. I’m hoping this will give her the strong sense of order and responsibility I didn’t develop and will help her be more successful in this area of her life. Habits of mind and all that.
    However, I do take issue with the view that children’s first in is to obey. Yes, they need to obey for their health and safety and education. But the older children get the more they need to think for themselves and maybe obey less. I expect my daughter to stop when I tell her to on the sidewalk because its safety related. I will warn her of the consequences if she stalls at bedtime (eg no more books tonight, it’s time for me to get ready for bed, etc). If its not going to matter in five years, I try to give her options when possible.

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  • Tam March 25,

    I definitely enjoyed your article. I have one correction. What you’re doing is called child nurturing. I didn’t see anything psychotic about it. I have a 6 year old and am needing to get these same things instilled in her. Your article encouraged me to keep trying. Thank you.

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  • Anonymous March 27,

    I think this is great! Don’t let anyone tell you your mean. I make my three year old clean het room every night after dinner and grandma thinks my expectations are to high.

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  • Tayfun March 30,

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  • Mini Clean April 8,

    This is a very child friendly article. Thanks for sharing this very informative and playful tips for kids. With this manner we would be able to decipline our child and expose then sense of responsibility. Great Tips!

    Reply
  • Cindy April 13,

    Your blog about teaching your kids to clean their own rooms is refreshing. The easy road is to do things yourself. Kids need to learn discipline and responsibility as early as possible. Unfortunately too many parents wait until their children are much older to start this and it doesn’t work. I have two adult children who are responsible, motivated, and very successful. Being a parent is a hard job but it definitely pays off. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  • Love Shak, Baby » A True Warrior’s Task: Getting Your Kids to Clean Their Rooms December 5,

    [...] (when they’re just going to mess it back up again) until they are much older. Fortunately, Ruth at Living Well, Spending Less has some tips to make the whole process a little easier [...]

  • Large family stress reduction: facing it! April 17,

    […] Don’t you want to breathe a sigh of relief when you view this photo? There is a place for everything, yet there is still room for more. Even the hangers are neatly spaced apart, and the clothes are hung according to length (you can learn more by visiting the blog this was taken from, Living Well Spending Less). […]

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