Children’s Room


By Ron Hindbaugh M.A.


The phenomenon of the messy room, like the common cold, seems to be an issue that all parents face sooner or later. More arguments in the family seem to be a result of this problem than almost any other challenge experienced by parents.

Confrontations about "messy rooms" start with one of the parents saying something like this.  "John, look at this disaster region, known as your bedroom.  If you can't keep this little room cleaned how do you expect to keep an ordered house when you grow up?  Clean up this room, now!"

John will probably respond with something like this. "What's your problem? It's my room, isn't it? You don't have to live in it. I should be able to keep it any way I want."

With the stage set, this particular skirmish for control of room appearance can escalate to a full-blown battle.  This battle can become so intense that both parents and children seem to forget the reason for the conflict.  Parents, who have had a good relationship with their child before this battle began, report that a wall between them and their child was built during this conflict that affected overall communication in the family.

To gain some understanding of this "problem" let me quote a prominent child psychiatrists, Dr. Foster Cline.  He states that when adults stay in a motel room for a few days the room starts to look just like a kid's room.  "It's that old problem of having to little room for the amount of stuff we like to have," he explains. If the child's messy room is just a natural consequence of a lot in a small place, the child may be just as frustrated with a messy room as the parents are.

Dr. Cline also states that studies do not support any connection between how children keep their rooms and how they eventually keep their homes. However, there appears to be a connection between how parents keep their part of the house and how children take care of their homes when they grow up.

Because of this information Dr. Cline suggests that parents "loosen up" about demanding perfect rooms and spend more time being a good model by picking up after themselves. This advice is not the advice that parents want to hear. Parents would rather be messy while demanding that their kids be neat. But when you stop to think about it, it does seem a little silly to expect our children to be neater than we are. To make life more livable for the parent of a "Messy Teenager" the following ideas are listed:

·        Make a deal with your child.  The deal could be stated something like this. "We'll stop nagging you about your room if you agree not to trash the rest of the house."

·        So that the child's messy room does not bother you ask your children to keep the door to his/her room closed when you have company over.

·        When the room is in such a condition that you cannot stand it anymore, do not demand that it be cleaned right away. Give your child a time limit. "Is it possible to have you room cleaned by Saturday?" or those who have their room cleaned by Saturday at 10:00 am will be going skating with us." (As soon as your child knows you keep your word, things should become calmer.")

·        Help your child individualize their room. (As long as it meets with your approval.) The more they can control paint color, furniture, etc. the more likely they are to take pride in their room. They could draw up floor plans and make a list of changes, accessories, and etc.  that they would like to see in their room.  Some of this individualization will take money.  You may want to help them with "matching funds".  This is a good way to help them learn to be responsible individuals.

You may dream of the day that your child's room is neat and tidy. But dreams change as kids and parents "grow up." When your kids are no longer around to "trash" their rooms you may dream about the "good old days" when they were there.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Your relationship with your child, in the long run, is much more important than a clean room. If you have to choose between a messy room and a good relationship with your child, chose a good relationship with your child.  Even if it's hard, learn to ignore the messy room.