“My daughter refuses to clean her room” is a complaint I actually hear quite a lot, and not to be sexist or anything, I hear it more often referring to daughters’ bedrooms than I do those of sons. I don’t know if I can say girls seem to collect more stuff, but irrespective, here’s the question of one mom below, who’s trying to get her 7-year-old daughter to clean up after herself.
Hi Annie, My daughter refuses to clean her room. She’s seven and loves to collect everything, and her room is a bit of a cluttered mess. I’ve offered to help her clean, but she cries and screams that she wants everything left exactly as it is. I understand that she deserves a private place to keep her things, but I feel that having piles of artwork, bags of “special” rocks, and toys everywhere just isn’t acceptable. I want her to understand the importance of respecting her space and keeping it organized. Should I just let her keep her room messy?
That’s a tough question. On the one hand, everybody is entitled to a private space, and yet at the same time, you don’t want to be waking up over a moon surface of clothes, toys, and assorted rocks every time you go in her room. There are really two parts to your question, the first being how you can balance your needs for a clean room with hers for personal space, and the second being what do you do about the fact that your daughter refuses to clean her room?
Be reasonable and flexible but within boundaries
Ok, let’s look at those two. To answer your first one, I’d give her a space but not the whole space. So find her a large container where she is allowed to keep all her special rocks, etc. She can keep it as messy as she wants as long as no food makes its way in there. Explain that the more messy she keeps it, the less likely that any of her artwork will make it for the long-term. Other than that small lecture, let her find that out for herself.
Now that she has her special container kept the way she wants it, everything else is on a different playing field. I would explain that the rest of the world lives with certain standards and that you expect her to maintain those standards, and if she doesn’t, there will unfortunately be consequences. You would like to leave that to her, but you recognize that she is seven and that she will need perhaps a twice-weekly review.
My daughter refuses to clean her room: Be consistent
Warn her about review day once, but don’t keep reminding her. On the appointed day, take a big plastic bag and enter the room. Try to smile and be cheerful no matter what horrible scene you are presented with. Remove anything from the floor and place it in a big plastic bag. If she screams at you, ignore it, but regardless, remove the bag and keep it hidden away for a few days. Explain to her that she will have an opportunity to get it back on the next review day, should everything be tidy.
Stay positive despite the fuss
Rinse and repeat, but do it in a calm and relaxed way. This is about her and her decisions, not you. Show her through your expectations that you’re confident she’ll get it right the next time, and then move on. Don’t engage her in an “I want all the stuff from my room back” fight. Change the subject and smile.
Do this as often as necessary. I’d give her a couple of weeks, and she’ll get the picture, and one day you might even find the box tidy and the artwork neatly preserved. You can live in hope after all! For further parenting help, please visit my services page.
Best of luck,
Having trouble with a younger child? Here’s Annie talking about the power of choice and how it impacts behaviour on CTV.
In parenting, “Is happiness all there is?”