Cleanliness, as the old saying goes, is often thought of as being next to godliness, and as a parent it can be frustrating to deal with children who live like crazy little pagans in an incorrigibly messy room. Catching your little ones’ tendency towards clutter before it turns into a lifelong habit can be a tough thing to do, but doing it correctly can make the 18 years (at least) that you spend living with your kids a little easier on you and your sanity. We’ll talk about a few ways that you can nip the dirty room problem in the bud, and instill an appreciation for orderliness in your children at an early age. This way, they’ll be motivated to keep their room cleans of their very own accord, and instead of acting like the clutter police day in and day out, you can spend more time hanging out with your kids and telling them what a great job they’re doing of keeping their rooms clean.
You can get your children to appreciate a nice, clean living space from an early age, and one of the best ways to do this is to rely more heavily on positive reinforcement than you do on punishment or negative consequences. Try to focus on making cleaning up and keeping tidy an activity that your child or children will enjoy.
Start this process by letting your children take a front seat in the creative organization and design of their living space. The best way to get a child to have pride for and take care of his or her living space is to establish a very genuine connection with it. Have your child help shape the living space, and give him or her the independence to put the room together the way he or she wants it. Every so often, work together to tweak the room’s layout or look based on your child’s growing and changing tendencies. The trick here is to allow your child to make decisions and feel the independence and responsibility of creating her own living space, while subtly directing things along the way, so you don’t wind up with a room layout that doesn’t make any sense. As you go, help your child establish specific places for all of his or her things — this way, you child decides where things get put away, and keeping the room organized feels more like something done to take care of a special creation, and less like a chore that was ordered to be done.
Once your children have established their living space as a place in which they have a genuine sense of pride, you can help them feel great about keeping things neat and tidy by popping by on occasion and giving them something as a reward or praise for their efforts. It’s best not to do this in a way that puts emphasis on the specific nature of the reward, but rather to simply associate good and pleasant feelings with maintaining a neat and tidy room.
Give your kids as much help as you can when you’re putting their room together. You can use common items around the house, like computer inventory stickers or envelope labels to help your kids understand and remember where everything goes. The easier and more fun it is, the more readily your children will keep their rooms clean without being asked or told.