The 10 stages of my children “cleaning” their room

IMG_8729I’ll be honest here. One of my weaknesses as a parent is doing things for my kids that they should do themselves. Not all the time, but I can be an impatient perfectionist and just do things for them because we are a busy on-the-go family that doesn’t have a lot of extra time.  Love and Logic has been our favorite parenting book and I’ve tried to let them make their own decisions and experience reward and consequence but haven’t taken a disciplined approach to certain chores and tasks like I should have.

Recently I’ve felt a bit convicted about how I do TOO MUCH for them and decided to really let them own the process of cleaning their room.  I set them up for success, assigning specific tasks to each of them so they wouldn’t be overwhelmed. I have read lots of articles on parenting insane energetic children and felt pretty good about myself. I got them water bottles, made sure they had a huge breakfast and sent them to it with the reward of getting to go swimming in the afternoon to motivate them. I felt good. Perhaps a bit smug even. “I got this parenting thing,” I probably thought to myself.

This is how my morning actually went…

Before they are actually in the room.


1. Denial. “Ha ha! Yeah right, I DON’T WANT to clean my room,” Sawyer laughed as he walked away from me shaking his head at my hilarity. Ummm no, this is FOR REALS. Imma gonna have stop you there champ and redirect you back to you room.

2. Manipulation. Screechy voiced complaints, complete with large tears- “BUT I DON’T WANT TO CLEAN MY ROOM, IT’S SO HARD AND I DONT KNOW WHERE ANYTHING GOES AND I NEED YOU TO HEEEEEEEELP ME!”

Then it switches to “cute face”. “You know you can’t resist my face when I do THIS!”  Oh but I CAN child. 

Once they are actually IN the room.


3. Confusion. “MOM- where do I put shirts?” Me: “in the pile of shirts that I told you to put the other shirts that aren’t in that pile. You know, the shirts that are scattered all over the room. The pile that is right by your feet, actually you are partially standing on that pile.  The one right there- LOOK DOWN DANGIT. <calmer> If it is a shirt, please put it there. If it is socks, put them in the sock pile. If it is underwear <boys snicker> put it in the underwear pile <they snicker again>.”

4. Focus. I can hear their conversation in the room- their attempt at a pep talk to encourage each other. “OK, I’ll get the jeans and you get the shirts!” “RIGHT! Team work!”- (This stage lasts approximately 30 seconds to 3 minutes).


5. Violence.  <hearing screams from the room> “SUMMIT slapped me with his sports coat!” “Sawyer punched my FAVORITE shirt!” “But I was just trying to straighten it out!” (<– how stupid does he think I am?)

<hearing screams from room AGAIN> “Sawyer threw a shirt at me!” “Well, HE showed his middle finger at me!” “But I hurt my finger… “<showing me his finger that has a microscopic scratch on it>. Me: “Sawyer, he did not MEAN to show his middle finger at you- (I mean, who knows at this point) but even if he did, that wasn’t an appropriate way to react. Summit, please try not to show your middle finger, it’s rude. (Cause it’s good not to make a huge deal out of things that kids don’t understand apparently.)”

6. Focus. (Second attempt) I can hear their conversation in the room- their attempt to get back in the game and accomplish SOMETHING so they can leave their room and get to go swimming later today.  “OK, I’ll get the clothes and you put the books on the shelf!” “RIGHT! Team work!”- (This stage lasts approximately 30 seconds to 3 minutes).

7. Insanity. They have completely given up at this point. The room actually looks worse than when they began but they are best friends now, joined against the evil parents who are trying to make them clean their room. They are giggling and playing under the covers of the bed I just made, destroying it.


8. Playing.  This is the point when the adrenaline of insanity has worn off and usually about a few hours in. This is when they play like the perfect children I always dreamed of having but rarely see. Where they are using their imagination, getting along, laughing exuberantly and sharing. *Never mind the fact* it’s in complete rebellion to the task as hand. I’ll take this step as it typically lasts around 45-90 minutes.

“Mom!” said in cheerful rebellion, “I am having SO MUCH fun playing! I think I’d rather play!” Me, matching the gleeful cheer: “Great, well you guys have fun playing!” (Note: No mention of cleaning the room at this point. This will allow the next step to be much more impactful as they look around to the crushing reality of their destroyed room.)IMG_8723

9. Reality. One of them finally snaps and realizes that I will win. That as much as fun playing happily together in rebellion is- that I’m calm and not micro-managing the cleaning process all of the sudden.

A guilty Sawyer crawls into my room. “Uhh. Mom. I forgot what I’m suppose to do.” Me, cheerfully: “Clean your room.” Sawyer, slowly: “oh yeahhhhhh.” then switches to his alter ego, Roary the bear, in an attempt to be cute: “Roary doesn’t want to clean his room!” < smiles adorably>. Me, smiling equally adorably: “Go back to your room and start with putting hangers on your clothes!”

Comes back 5 minutes later, all of the sudden the picture of extreme maturity: “Mom, we need you to guide us.”

Me, barely keeping it together: “Hangers. On. Clothes.

10. Resignation. (myself) 4-5 hours in their blood sugar finally needs replenishing.

They start fighting again, (see #5)  “OH! WHY DID YOU THROW THE HANGER AT ME SAWYER! HOW DARE YOU!”

OR they creep out of their room for extended “bathroom” breaks and end up with toothpaste in their water bottles because they wanted to see what “mint-flavored” water tastes like and I give up. (For now. I WILL WIN THE WAR!)

Me, sadly: “OK, just go eat lunch, we’ll try again after we eat.”




*** Update- 5+ hours from the beginning… I swear I only helped a little bit… 😉