Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Clean Your Room

I have a new insight into this parental struggle. What if we're just wrong about a child's ability to clean a space? I know some children are quite capable of cleaning a space from quite a young age, but I think most of us do not live with such children. And probably most of us were not those sort either.

I have cleaned my children's rooms with them since they were able to crawl, and prior to that, they each rode in a carrier while I cleaned our space. I will admit to my occasional temper tantrums in the face of a recalcitrant child, but mostly, I have modeled just the behavior I wish them to learn. We work as a team, I assigned tasks very specifically according to age and ability, I have made a valiant effort to keep their things to a manageable amount, I have tried to provide a structure that they can use to help them clean, I've played music and games and we've had stories while we tidied. And still, not a one of them can clean a room.

I think even my 10-year-old is unable to apply some internal structure to his space. He does not see the paper on the floor or the heap of stuff on his desk or the sheet wadded up under the blanket on his bed. He will very willingly pick up his laundry or legos; he can arrange books on his shelf. But he still needs a guiding hand to do all the steps to tidy his room, and he just doesn't understand the necessity of dusting (that could be genetic).

My tidiest child thinks that if everything is on a shelf or if the things on the floor are not hers, it is tidy. She does not understand why I want to sweep her floor even when her socks are covered with dirt and wood debris from walking across her floor.

And the littlest is just not sure why I would disturb her play to tidy a space that she can only barely pass through.

I can see they are all learning, but I know I was expected to clean my room by the time I was as old as my littlest. I know many mothers wonder when their children will be able to achieve this task. And I know some will just disagree, but maybe "Clean your room" is not an age appropriate sentence before some time after the age of ten.

1 comment:

  1. My question for myself with Tate is often "Should I hold the line with him in this moment?" or "Should I come close to him and help him?" He is 4, almost 5. We ask him to put away his toys when he is moving to something new. I ask him to put his laundry in the hamper and put away his shoes by himself. I ask him to throw things away in the trash instead of handing them to me. Also to put his dishes in the sink when he is through eating. That is about all of our repertoire. I am sure there is more I could teach him about cleaning. Often his reply to me is that he wants me to come with him. Or help, or do it with him. That is when I feel torn. Mostly, I go with him for now.