This quick guide to raising tidy kids is part of our quick guide to life series. Short, sharp advice that tackles the pain points of parenting.
I reckon parenting would be 99% easier if I was raising tidy kids. Tidy kids would make everything so much better. Don’t you think?
It’s one thing to be at the beck and call of a baby and quite another to find yourself still picking up after the nine-year-old. I can follow my Lottie’s every move from the moment she wakes in the morning and leaves her bed unmade, until the moment she drops her dressing gown on the floor by her bed at night, narrowly missing the hook that is right by her bed hopelessly waiting to shine.
Is there a mother on the planet who doesn’t feel a little piece of herself get eaten every time she glances at her children’s bedrooms? Gnaw, gnaw, gnaw. If we don’t fix the problem, there will be nothing left of us. It’s one thing to do a huge family declutter every once and a while and quite another to raise tidy kids in general.
Read this too: A quick guide to organise family clutter
Here are a few things that definitely work at my place. Please share what works at yours.
1 x GAME-CHANGER
I’ve been trying to get my kids to be neater for the better part of a decade. The biggest revelation was introducing the Sunday Box (please excuse the mean mum in the video – I was clearly on edge):
Yep, the Sunday Box is my total game changer. Get that happening immediately.
Find out more here: The Sunday Box technique: The solution to messy kids
2 x THINGS THAT MATTER
1. Schedule a daily habit. Daily, daily, daily. Having a set time each day where the kids need to spend five minutes (because when it’s daily, that’s all the time it takes) makes all the difference.
Set a timer; we use a song of their choosing – they clean up after themselves for the duration of the song. Current song is Bruno Mars – Finesse. The song runs for three minutes and that’s long enough. The kids quickly catch on to the fact that little and often results in a tidy room and a happy mum all for minimal effort, so it’s a win-win-win for everyone.
2. Do daily inspections. When I make the time to check the kids’ bedrooms every night before dinner, they make the time to keep them tidier. As soon as I stop the daily inspections, the mess creeps back in during the night. No wonder my kids are all scared of the dark.
3 x IMPORTANT RULES
1. If the bedroom isn’t tidy, screen time is off
2. Never sleep in an untidy bedroom
3. Make your bed each day
4 x THINGS TO DO RIGHT NOW
1. Make the kids accountable. Like any good habit that we’re trying teach, reward is a powerful motivator. Now, you can choose to go the “consequences” route (the artist previously known as “punishment”), but I prefer to turn things around. So instead of saying, “If you don’t keep your room tidy all week, you don’t get any screen time on Friday”, I say, “If you keep your room tidy all week you get to have some screen time on Friday”. Or whatever your reward might be. Dinner seems like a good option some days…
2. Be clear about what ‘tidy’ means. Everyone’s tidy is different. Clarify exactly what you’re expecting the kids to do each day and show them what your tidy looks like.
3. Be consistent and follow through. You have to stay on top of the kids staying on top of the mess. See ‘Sunday Box’ and ‘daily inspections’ above. Make sure that any consequences you attach to accountability actually happen.
4. Give a kid a break. Give them an out on one thing they really don’t want to do. If they hate washing up, let them do something they would prefer, like setting the table or emptying the bins.
5 x RESOURCES
1. New York Times: It’s Not ‘Mess’. It’s Creativity
2. Planning With Kids: Tips on Keeping Kids’ Rooms Tidy
3. A Mother Far From Home: Routines to Keep a House Tidy with Little Kids
4. Inner Child Fun: 10 Awesome Ways to Make Cleaning Fun for Kids
5. Zen Habits: Mindful Simplicity (or the art of allowing crumbs to just be crumbs)
Are you a tidy person yourself?
Image by Debby Hudson