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No Need for Parent/Child Power Struggle Over Messy Rooms

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PHOTO: It's a common struggle in families, getting kids to clean their rooms. Some parents turn to bribes and others to discipline, but experts say both of those options do more harm than good and instead parents should offer help and guidance. CREDIT: Evelyn Giggles
PHOTO: It's a common struggle in families, getting kids to clean their rooms. Some parents turn to bribes and others to discipline, but experts say both of those options do more harm than good and instead parents should offer help and guidance. CREDIT: Evelyn Giggles
 By John MichaelsonContact
August 19, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - If getting your children to clean their rooms is a constant battle, take solace in knowing you are not alone. Parent educator Kelly Bartlett said it's a common struggle in families, and while parents should have expectations, they also need to realize kids' skills and priorities are much different.

"I do think it's something that parents can teach kids," Bartlett said. "So, yes it's worth it to try to work with kids and teach them good organization habits and cleanliness, but it's not worth having it become the center of a power struggle between parents and kids, because that's just going to drive your relationship apart and cause difficulties other places."

For young children especially, she added, an order to "clean your room" can be overwhelming. She suggested that showing them how to break it down into smaller tasks - like picking up dirty clothes or making the bed - can be very helpful.

Bartlett cautioned against offering rewards or bribes. She said parents should instead provide help and guidance, and teach kids the positives that come along with organization and cleanliness.

"That's more rewarding then just saying 'I'll pay you to do this' or 'you'll get a sticker' or 'you'll get some prize if you can keep your room clean,'" she explained, "because eventually that reward is not going to be there for them. No one is going to pay them or reward them in the future to keep their room clean."

While rewards are not suggested, Bartlett said threats of discipline aren't any better, "because then kids start to see keeping a clean house as really 'unfun' and unpleasant, and they associate it with being punished - and again, not getting that sense of satisfaction that we're going for."

More tips and techniques for working with your kids to keep their room clean can be found online at www.attachmentparenting.org.

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