I remember asking my kids a few years ago to go clean their bathrooms. After years of having a cleaning service do it for them, it was probably the first time they had to do it on their own. It didn’t take long for me to realize they had no idea what I was actually asking them to do. It dawned on me then that cleaning, like most things in life, was something they had to learn. Sure they had pushed a vacuum around the living room, and probably used a broom to sweep, but I had never taken the time to explain what it meant to clean a room.

how to get kids to clean their room

The more I thought about it, the more I recognized that the idea of cleaning a room entails a whole lot of things. First of all, do you mean “clean” or “pick-up”? Then, is it a quick surface clean or a deep down one? If the idea is complex for a “mature” adult like myself, imagine what goes through the mind of a 10-year old when asked, or told, to clean his/her room.

I wish I could say that I took all of that knowledge and used it to create some sort of cleaning system that worked flawlessly from then on. That’s not what happened. I’m sure I yelled at them for not doing what I expected, got frustrated and ended up doing it myself. But, in hindsight, I think there was a better way. I’m trying it out with my younger daughter; in bits and pieces, anyway.

So, here’s what I came up with:

  1. Teach the Basics
    What does it mean to dust?
  2. Stop Saying “Go Clean your Room”
    Try to be more specific. Try “Please put your clothes away.” Or, “Can you take off your sheets and put on a set of clean ones?”
  3. Keep it Simple
    Nobody likes spending hours cleaning. Least of all, your kids. Pick and choose what is most important and have them do one or two things each time you ask. Which leads to my next suggestion…
  4. Make a Checklist or Schedule
    It might be a list of simple steps to be completed every day, or a schedule of different things to do each day.
  5. Pick a Consistent Time of Day
    Every night before bedtime, or as soon as they get home from school. It doesn’t really matter when, just keep it the same for best results.
  6. Have the Supplies Ready
    Think in advance about what they are going to need. Bags for trash? Clean sheets? More hangers? The easier it is for them to do, the more likely they are to do it.
  7. Finally…Choose your Battles
    One of the best lessons I learned from my mother was that sometimes you just have to close the door and walk away. (Yes, this is how she dealt with my mess of a room when I was a teenager.) In the realm of things to worry about, does it really matter if your kid’s room isn’t clean.

As Terry Chappell from Immaculate Clean said, “this could be a million-dollar blog.” Of course, that is if it were actually fool-proof. It’s not. Kids will be kids, and they will always fuss about cleaning their rooms. Hopefully, these tips will give a few ways to decrease the likelihood of an all-out war.