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The impact of lessons taught through stories is noteworthy, as children identify and emulate favorite characters they meet on the written page. The first ‘Good Value’ installment in the MazorBooks blog series Parenting and Children’s Books that Promote Good Values focuses on the concept of tidiness and orderliness, a lesson that can be learned from 16-year-old Ari Mazor’s adorable book, Clothes Have Feelings Too!
Messy rooms! The echoes of frustrated parents beseeching their kids to tidy up and whiny kids bawling about misplaced shoes or toys or books reverberate in many households. Our home was no different. Over the years I have implemented many a strategy in an effort to surmount the challenge of kid messiness – some worked for a while others failed to make an impact. However I decided early on to check any inclination or urge to nag or threaten as neither is constructive or rewarding. So what does work, you may ask? There is no one answer or unflawed solution. The efficacy of any tactic depends on the parent’s attitude as well as on the children’s state of maturity and general demeanor. Effective results are also determined by the specific family dynamics prevailing in the home.
Below are strategies that some parents swear by:
- Role Model (All ages): Kids growing up in organized and neat homes are more likely to internalize the behavior. Caution: Parents that are obsessed with tidiness may provoke in their children a counter-reaction.
- A Scheduled Activity (Age 4 and up): A once a week “Tidy Up Time” scheduled on a specific day, at a specific time, preferably on a day off. No more discussions, arguments, or negotiations but rather an enforcement of “No Activity” rule. No alternate activity permitted until things are put back where they belong; no games, no computer, no drawing, no TV, no friends.
- Responsibility (Ages 4/6 and up): Children are advised that though the mess in their room is upsetting the parents, mothers and/or fathers are done with urging or coaxing them to clean up. Children must be made aware that cleaning their room is their responsibility and be reminded of the possible consequences that may ensue should they opt to ignore the issue. Lost toys, lost homework, no clean clothes. Maturity levels of kids determine the time best for implementing this strategy.
- Work and Play (Ages 2 and up): Cleaning up as a fun activity. The whole family participates and works together. Excellent opportunity for connecting and bonding with children. Good for early childhood. Older kids may balk at the idea.
- Ground Privileges (Ages 3 to 8): ‘Grounding’ toys or games that are not put away for a period of one week. Children are informed that disrespected toys need ‘alone time’ and thus will not be available to play with for the preset period of time.
- Acknowledgement and Encouragement (All ages): When kids clean and tidy up, reinforcement of the behavior is constructive. Acknowledgement of their effort should be appropriate rather than disproportionate. Saying ‘Thank you’ or ‘good job’ is sufficient.
- The Talk (Ages 5 and up): Children’s mental and emotional predispositions determine the preferred approach. Talk should consist of rational or emotional (or both) explanations regarding the obligation to family. Values of consideration and respect for people and for things should be expounded upon.
Regardless of the strategy chosen constancy and resolve are critical. No negotiations and no capitulation, or the effort will fall flat.
A Reminder: A child’s messy room is no reflection on the parent! While a tidy room may be a priority for adults it is very low on children’s totem pole. Even kids who seek to please their parents may not understand the urgency and importance parents assign to orderliness.
A Thought: Perhaps the clutter in kids’ rooms reflects overindulgence. Many of today’s kids have way too many material possessions. Excessiveness leads to disregard.
Personal Experience: Though I most often employed the last four strategies, when my teenaged kids were younger, strategy number seven ‘The Talk’ was my favorite. I limited its usage, however, to spare myself of the inevitable roll of the eyes or that facial expression that decried “there she goes again!” I found strategy number one, the Role Model effect, of no consequence as my preference for a clean and tidy home stimulated neither action nor reaction.
To be sure I took my responsibility of instilling good values in my children very seriously, but I did employ levity and playfulness. This is evident from my son Ari’s book. In his introduction to his story about Charlie and his messy room he writes:
I bet many parents, like my mother, chide their children about the mess in their rooms. Parents attempt just about anything to persuade kids to be a bit more organized. One of my funniest memories is of my mother trying to convince me that clothes have feelings too!
Read Ari’s book Clothes Have Feelings Too! with your children. Your kids are bound to enjoy the funny yet educational story and may even be persuaded to clean up their room!
Purchase your copy of Clothes Have Feelings Too! by Ari Mazor
Now Available on AMAZON!