It can be difficult and downright overwhelming for children to clean their room once it's a mess. So even though it may be frustrating to see the state of their room, even after you've asked them over and over again to clean it, you may have to take a step back and consider what they need in order to move forward.
Before I share some tips with you, it's important you assess your child's capability of completing the task based on their anxiety levels, distractibility, organizational skills and attention to detail. Something I learned from my friend Dr. Allison Rees and Dr. A. Miller at LifeSeminars is that their ability to do the task can be assessed at one of three levels:
Level 1 – Your child is unable to complete the task on their own. You know this because they've not been able to successfully complete the task more than a handful of times. So, take time to teach them. Help them identify the steps it takes to complete the task and work with them one on one to do so to help build their confidence and skill.
Level 2 - Your child is a level two if they have been able to successfully complete the task more than a few times but still need some support. At this stage it is your job to give feedback and provide guidance. My suggestion is to ask their permission (when possible) before providing feedback. For example: "Can I give you a tip about doing laundry?" or "Can I give you a tip about storing your toys?" etc. Otherwise frame it like a request: "Next time, could you please _______" which makes it sound less critical, just make sure you're also providing praise and appreciation for the effort they have put in.
Level 3 –Your child knows exactly what they need to do and how to do it. It has now become a 'Kid Issue' and it's no longer yours. It's time to let it go and let natural consequences take hold. A messy room means not finding what they need, not having clean clothes for school to wear, embarrassing to have friends over, etc. It is NOT a reflection of you. It is a reflection of them. Let it go. It's now on them to make a change and experiences the fall out/benefit of their own actions.
Now for the tips:
Tip #1: Have 3 laundry baskets/bins/boxes for clean up and a garbage bag.
Bin A: Laundry
Bin B: To Be Put Away
Bin C: Give Away
Tip #2: Create a linear timeline, of tasks for your child to do (in order). For example:
Step 1: Put all dirty clothes in the basket
Step 2: Sort everything else on the floor in to the proper basket/bag
Step 3: Clean off all surfaces and sort in to the proper basket/bag
Step 4: Vacuum Floor
Step 5: Wipe off all surfaces with cleaner and a wet cloth
Step 6: Sort through Bin B.
Tip #3: When listing tasks be VERY specific, "clean" is a very subjective term, their idea of 'wipe down' might be different than yours. So be sure to say or write something like: Spray your dresser top and front with Thieves Cleaner and wipe down with a warm wet cloth. In the beginning you'll need to be very specific of all details but once they are a level 2/3 you won't need to as much.
Tip #4: Be available for support. It is likely your child might get 'stuck' on something (for example they aren't sure where to put something or can't find the bins etc.) so be available for them to ask you questions if needed. If they hit a roadblock they are likely to 'give up' so you'll want to be there for added encouragement. Just be sure not to do it FOR them.
Tip #5: While they are cleaning pop your head in and provide a compliment or appreciation for their efforts. Something simple like "Wow this room looks way cleaner than it did before" or "Wow your space looks so warm and inviting already!" or "Thank you for getting started on cleaning your room, I can't wait to see how it looks when you're done!"
Tip #6: Upkeep. Develop a plan with your child on how they are going to avoid it getting so messy that it becomes overwhelming. Do they want to tidy up once a week? Do they want to add "10 minute tidy" to their bedtime routine every night? Once they create a plan, ask them how they would like you to support it. Would they like reminders and if so, how often and at what time? Would they like an alarm set on their phone or alexa or some other reminder system?
Note: If you decide to use the bin strategy make sure to allow them to be a part of the donation aspect. They may choose to sell some items and earn money or they may want to donate to a local charity. Allowing them to be a part of this processes builds a sense of gratitude and self-esteem and it's important we provide these opportunities to our children.
If you found these strategies helpful, please consider sharing them with your friends! If you have some additional tips you'd like to share I'd LOVE to hear about them over on my Facebook pages Mary Klovance Counselling & Parenting Support or Parenting Youth with ADHD: Vancouver Island or Parenting Youth With ADHD North America.
Thank you so much for reading! Remember, be good to yourself so you can be your best self for those you love!
To Download a FREE infographic for your teen to follow on how to clean their room click here.