The Parenting Coach: On Missing Shoes & Unmade Beds

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gilabrown110BY GILA BROWN

Wouldn’t it be nice if clothes and toys weren’t scattered across the floor, or if every shoe knew the whereabouts of its mate?

Having a clean and organized space gives us a sense of control. It’s, undoubtedly, a nice feeling. When things are in their place, everything is as it should be. We love this feeling and are willing to put up a fight with our kids in order to get it. If only, they were as enamored with the feeling as we are.

For better or for worse, the need for everything to be in its place is not really one that children share. Clothes on the floor, unmade beds and missing items are all part of their experience. So, we nag, we punish, we reward, we bribe and we yell. Sometimes, they conform; sometimes they rebel. Does the struggle ever end?

The more important question, however, is ‘What is the goal?’. While having a clean room is certainly a comfort to us, we also want to raise children who appreciate cleanliness and orderly lifestyles. We tend to think that, unless we demand it of them as children, they couldn’t possibly posses the skill as adults. But is that really true? How likely is it that, after years of being forced to maintain certain requirements for a clean room, they will become adults who suddenly love to clean?

There is a better way.

*Allow for the mess. Give your kids the space to make their own decisions. If they choose not to make their bed, let that be OK. Know that, because of your modeling, at some point having an organized living space will also become important to them. If its not important to them now, allow for that. It won’t always be the case. Also know that if you are willing to give them a bit more freedom with regard to their own space, they will be more willing to cooperate with you when you need them to.

*The best way to teach kids to be clean and orderly is to model the behavior. By keeping your space and your things in order, they will learn to do so. If they are used to living in an organized and clean environment, that is what they will be comfortable with. While this is a lesson learned over time, it is a far more effective one than if you were simply to demand order. Forcing a child to keep his room orderly, does not teach him to be orderly. It teaches him to follow directions, to avoid punishment, to comply and, most likely, to grow to abhor cleaning his room. While truly teaching our children to appreciate order and cleanliness may not show the same immediate results, it is a much more effective long-term solution.

Here’s to a messy room!

© Gila Brown, 2009

Gila Brown, M.A. is a Child Development Expert and Parent Coach, with over 10 years of teaching experience. She specializes in parenting school-age children with grace, using principles of attachment parenting, positive discipline and effective communication. Visit to sign up for a free newsletter.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

  • Alicia Bayer

    Great points! I agree completely. Modeling tidy behavior can be the hardest part for me personally. :) I wrote up 14 ways to end chore battles with kids here: <> with other things that work for us (all with an AP focus). I just found your blog and am happy to have discovered it!

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