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How to Encourage Your Kids to Clean Their Rooms

If you've sent your kiddo off to clean his room, only to find him playing in a sea of mess hours later, it's time to dish up a healthy dose of encouragement to help your child get the job done. While chores are never at the top of anybody's list of fun things to do, you can teach your child the importance of a clean home and make him feel proud when he puts in the effort. Let her help you with your chores to make cleaning fun.

Start Early

It's never too late to show your child the importance of chores and responsibilities, but the earlier you start , the easier it will be for your child to internalize the message. Teach family responsibility from a young age. Your toddler might like to follow along behind you with a clean cloth while you dust, or help you deliver clean laundry to each bedroom. Always encourage him to help clean up his own toys by working together or creating a clean-up song that makes the job more fun. As he gets older, you can incorporate more responsibility, such as putting his dirty laundry in a hamper, helping clear away dishes or keeping the shoe rack tidy. Becoming familiar with responsibility during the early years makes the transition to being accountable for an entire room easier. There's also a good chance that if your youngster is used to cleaning up his own little messes, you won't have to worry about mountains of toys or piles of clothes building up on his bedroom floor in the first place.

Lead By Example

Show your child the importance of keeping things clean by modeling the behavior. "What a parent does in their own life speaks louder than words," emphasizes Joani Geltman, a clinical social worker in Natick, Massachusetts, and the author of "I Get It: Three Magic Words for Parents of Teens." Kids learn and internalize values and behaviors by watching the examples you set, she explains. "When kids see a contradiction [between words and actions], they often follow their parents' actions, not their words." If you leave the dirty dishes piling up in the sink or don't mind when the living-room floor becomes the family depository for magazines, newspapers, toys and clothing, it should come as no surprise when your kiddo devalues the importance of a clean environment. While it might be tempting to close your own bedroom door to hide a mess, remember that there's a good chance your child will be able to sneak a peek and catch your tidying faux pas. On the other hand, if you keep your areas of the home neat and tidy, it will seem consistent and reasonable for you to expect your child to do the same in her own area. Make sure everyone in the house has a way of contributing with regular chores and other jobs to lighten your load and show your child that a clean house should be a family endeavor.

Show and Tell

Before you send your youngster off to clean his room by himself, make sure he knows what he is supposed to be doing — or he'll probably still be sitting in the middle of a messy bedroom floor hours later. Asking a young child to clean his room is like asking him to fly off to outer space: It might be theoretically possible, but there is just no way he can accomplish it on his own. Kids need direction, so he will need you to be specific. Don't just tell him to get the room cleaned up, tell him what "cleaned up" entails. For example, "I'd like you to make your bed and pick up the toys on the floor, please." Try to keep the list in the same order so it becomes familiar or make a checklist the kids can refer to, according to Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. Furthermore, young children will likely need you to work with them until they become accustomed to the chore. Have your child work with you a few times to clean the room, talking about each chore and completing the tasks in the same order each time.

Praise Hard Work

Regardless of whether your child is cleaning her whole room or picking up a few toys off the living-room floor, praise her for her efforts, not just the result. "Focus on the process rather than the product," advises Irene Shere, director of the Early Childhood Consultation Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, and founder of the parenting site iblankie.com. The clean room is important, but you want to instill the value that it is your child's effort and contribution that is important, not just a spotless floor. For example, Shere advises, don't wait until the toy room is spotless before praising her for a job well done. Instead, focus on her success so far: "You're doing a good job picking up the toys, Isabella. I can see you are working hard." It also might make it less likely that you'll find toys stuffed under beds and clothing shoved to the back of closets; your child will know it isn't just the appearance of a clean room that you value, but rather what she does -- her effort to get the room clean.

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