How do you get your kids to clean up after themselves? My kids are 12, 10 and 7 and I feel like I’ve tried everything over the years. Chore charts, reward systems, scolding, drawing attention to the mess, calling them back to do it again when it’s not cleaned up properly. IT NEVER ENDS. As a naturally neat person I’m sincerely mystified by these little people who could not care less about being surrounded by a mess. I fantasize about buying 4 tiny houses so I don’t have to deal with it. I’m tired of the constant reminding and I feel like Mad Mom is the only thing that gets their attention.
Hates Being Mad Mom
Dear Mad Mom,
The other day, I deep-cleaned my bathroom. I wiped down each individual blind, dusted behind the toilet, and felt a delightful frisson of pleasure when I got the soap scum from the bottom of the shower door.
So I get your question with all the fibers on my Swiffer pads. Sometimes, the sheer mess my two daughters make is mind-boggling.
But it might surprise you to know I was a slob as a kid. An oppositional slob.
I hated cleaning. My mom and I constantly battled over chores, unloading the dishwasher, the mess in my room and bathroom, and my disdain for dusting.
If your kids are anything like I once was, there are two main reasons they’re messy.
- They actually do not see most of the mess. Disorganization, clutter, and grime do not bother them. My mom’s distress over piles and clutter really befuddled me as a kid.
- Being messy is a way to exert independence and power when you live with a tidy person. I didn’t think about it this directly as a kid, but resisting cleanliness helped me be my own person apart from my mom. (My husband’s mom, who was not so tidy, had her kids exerting independence by CLEANING).
And then, one day, post-college, I went downstairs in the house I shared with roommates and felt a shiver of discomfort. I saw dirt for the first time in my life: smudges on the windows, the dust bunnies in the corners, the crumbs on the sofa, the mess on the counter—
And I could NOT STAND IT. Why didn’t we clean, ever? What was wrong with us?
At the very same time, I felt horror. “Oh, no!” I thought. “I’ve turned into my mother!” (Sorry, Mom.)
It was not until standing in that (not even terribly filthy) room that I understood that there is beauty in order and cleanliness, and grace in taking care of a house. I had thought avoiding chores made me happy, but I was wrong.
If you’re thinking my early slob-hood gives me a pass on frustration with my own kids, you’d be wrong. HOW ARE THEY SO SLOVENLY?
I am also well-acquainted with Mean Mom, even though I try to shove her under the bed when guests arrive. And yes, four tiny houses sound completely reasonable.
I’m with you, Mad Mom. I’m really, really with you.
Given my untidy past, I have gone back and forth between trying to chill the heck out about chores (trying to avoid the power struggle) and demanding my daughters pick up their &^%$ rainbow loom projects. But in the middle of those wild mood swings, I have noticed a few things about me, cleanliness, and my kids.
I was over at The Mudroom this week, giving advice about cleaning. Come join in the fun!