How to get your child to clean their room

One of the most common battles between pre-teens and their parents centers around messy rooms. What may start as a simple request for hygiene can quickly spiral into a control issue. And the more you ask, plead or insist, the less likely your child is to clean his room.

Below are some tips from other parents on how to de-fuse the situation. Not all of these tips will result in a clean room, but they can help you call a truce in your home.

Your Pre-Teen’s Point of View

“A room is very important to a young adolescent. It is their cocoon, their greeting place to have friends over, and their world. Letting them control it is their right. Yet, it is your right as a parent to have the final say, as long as you keep your perspective reasonable given their age. Try to look at your pre-teen’s room not as Martha Stewart but as an anthropologist. The room and what’s in it is a key to understanding who your daughter is becoming. What is she collecting? It’s her private world, her private life. We can be invited in, but we can not to control it.”

Setting Some Ground Rules

“We have a few basic rules as far as keeping rooms clean here:

  • 1) It can’t be a fire hazard — there have to be clear paths through the room so that you can navigate across the room safely.
  • 2) It can’t be a “bug-attractor” — no food in the room, no food wrappers or anything that is yummy looking to a bug. As my exterminator will attest to, I hate bugs, and will let loose an entire can of Raid on a single ant if it’s inside my house.
  • 3) My daughter can keep her clothes where she’d like, but she can’t expect me to replace them if they are abused, iron them if they get wrinkled, or wash them if they’re not in the hamper on laundry day. (And when my daughter heard that scorpions and spiders love piles of clothing, her clothing got picked up pretty quickly and has been much better since then!)
  • 4) She pays for replacement of any property (hers, mine, school’s, or anyone’s) that gets damaged in her room due to misuse or abuse due to a messy room or neglect. My daughter’s room is not neat-as-a-pin, however, it is reasonable most of the time, so it works pretty well.”

A Compromise

“My husband wants our kids to have spotless rooms. I just try to shut the door. So we’ve compromised. They clean it thoroughly once a week and we keep the door shut the rest of the week.”

Controlling the Clutter

“Our daughter’s room is a big issue at our house. What helps a bit is doing a clean-out every three months and getting rid of stuff, whether it’s boxing it up and storing it in the basement or giving it away. Having a laundry basket in her room helps too.”

Knowing When to Give up the Fight

“I have come to realize that this is not an issue that I want to argue about with my daughter. I will continue to ask her to clean it if we are having company, but I think I will just leave it alone. I believe that even she would like it cleaned but now it is overwhelming her. When she realizes that she is embarrassed to invite someone over because of her room, I guess she will clean it. I feel better already.”

“After a few years of screaming, threats, tears, frustration, I just said ‘FORGET IT.’ It wasn’t worth my time anymore. It didn’t affect me as I didn’t have to sleep in it. And if she didn’t mind having her friends see her “pig sty” then why should I mind? It took a good few months before she realized that we weren’t hassling her anymore, and she started to keep it clean. Of course, it could’ve been her older brother’s best friend looking at it and saying, ‘That is disgusting!’ Oh well, whatever it takes.”