My Kids Are Making a Mess Angela Brown Ask a House Cleaner

Help! Help! My Kids Are Making a Mess

My kids are making a mess and they have no respect. Have you thought this before? Do you have kids that can make a mess quicker than you can clean it up?

Are you tired of nagging your kids to clean their rooms or put their stuff away? You’re in the right place.

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Hey there, I’m Angela Brown, and this is Ask a House Cleaner. This is a show where you get to ask a house cleaning question, and I get to help you find an answer. You can find this and 400 other answered questions in this series on our YouTube channel.

My Kids are Making a Mess

My Kids Are Making a Mess, Messy RoomHelp, help, my kids are making a mess quicker than I can clean it up. Do you know what I’m talking about? Here’s a caller who called and asked this question.

I’m a single mom with twins, they’re 11, and they make pretty significant messes. And I’m trying to get them to do better about cleaning up but it’s very hard because I end up spending the two nights a week that they go to their dads cleaning up because they don’t clean up their rooms in time for their dad to pick them up. It’s a consistent battle every week.

And then, I  feel so overwhelmed by having to clean up everything that they have made a mess of that I don’t seem to make any progress on other things in the house that I would like to get done. I have the laundry backed up. They’re going through that phase right now where they’re putting on an outfit in the morning for school and then changing after school and then taking a shower and putting on something else. And it’s like, ‘Why are you wearing three outfits a day when you’re quarantined? You’re not leaving the house so there’s no reason to waste three outfits a day.’.“

This is More of a Parenting Question

My Kids Are Making a Mess, Woman and Children on CouchHi, Stephanie. I’m super glad that you asked the question. You asked me a trick question because you asked me a cleaning question about how do we get kids to clean up and the answer is actually a parenting answer, not a cleaning answer. But, stay with me because it’s worth going through this together.

I’m the fourth oldest of 19 children and I watched my parents be very organized with lots of structure because they were investing in us as a kid and they knew that when they invested in us as kids that we would grow up to be bigger versions of the kids that we were. And so as adults, we now have the skills we need because there was a lot of structure. Kids need rules.

The Last Thing You Want to Do is Stop and Create Structure

My Kids Are Making a Mess, Man and Child ThinkingNow when you’re a parent and you’re overwhelmed, the last thing you want to do is stop and create structure and then enforce it. There’s a lot of work that’s involved. And parents with adolescents are going to go, “Oh no. Is it worth the trouble?”

Yes, it’s worth the trouble because if you don’t teach them today when they’re 11 years old you’ll be teaching them this lesson when they’re 33 years old and they have kids of their own and they’re living with you. So yes, you want to teach them these lessons right now.

Having said that, I’ve worked for three decades inside homes as a house cleaner with lots of families who have lots of kids. And so, there are a couple of things that I’ve learned over the years that might be able to help you.

Your Family is a Community

My Kids Are Making a Mess, Woman Hugging ChildThe first one that I want to suggest is that a strong family is part of a community. So if you live under the roof of a house, all the people that live there, and the pets you’re all part of this community.

As part of a community, you get to have chores. You get to participate in the activities that go on in the community that involves eating and having laundry, watching movies and hanging out with each other and making conversation, and all of these things. But part of that is upkeeping the space that you live in, that is part of what members of the community do.

And so, if you teach the children now that you guys are a community that as they grow up and they become members, remarkable members, of society they will also become contributing members of the community that they go into that is expansive of the home that you live in. So it’s a very, very important lesson.

Nagging Will Only Create Defiance

My Kids Are Making a Mess, Teen in Messy BedroomThe next thing that I want to mention is as a parent if you’re nagging at your kid, “Go clean your room,” that is your data. That is your data that you are forcing on them.

And when you force that data on them and you nag and you say, “Here are the threats. If you don’t do this then this is going to happen.” What happens is the threats and the nagging create defiance and insubordination.

And so, they don’t want to participate as part of your community. They’re like, “I’ll tell you, mom.” They don’t want to participate in that. So what we have to do is we have to flip the script. We have to flip it so that they want to participate.

Involve Your Kids in the Community

My Kids Are Making a Mess, Family on CouchNow, if we are giving them our data they will always argue with your data. People will always argue with your data, they will not however argue with their own. I know that’s a spooky concept but check this out.

Bring the kids in and say, “Guys, we’re growing our community here in the house. We have new rules. We have new consequences. We have new behaviors. We have new activities. Bunches of stuff are happening. I want you guys to help me create something new so that we can create this environment that we’re going to live in for the rest of our lives.”

Let them participate, “What does a clean house look like? How can we help reduce each other’s stress by picking up things? What do you recommend we pick up? What do you recommend we put away?”

Get them to tell you and then go ahead and make a note of it. Now, if we don’t pick these things up if this stuff doesn’t happen, then what are the consequences? Let them tell you, that’s their data. Once they’ve helped create the rules and they’ve helped establish the consequences it is your job as the parent to enforce them.

You Have to Create Discipline

My Kids Are Making a Mess, Girl Cleaning RoomNow, I say enforce and that’s a very strong word but to create discipline. Now, the root word of discipline is a disciple and that means to lead by following. We’re going to lead the children by following the rules we ourselves have created.

So it’s part of the bigger community concept. Now there’s a book that I want to recommend, it’s a book by Dr. Kevin Leman. It’s called Adolescence Isn’t Terminal. And I want you to check this book out. This is a phenomenal book, it’s been out for about 20 years. I don’t think I’ve ever found a better book on raising kids than this book.

I had a chance to interview him when the book came out and it has helped me immensely in my house cleaning and dealing with families who have issues like this. So if you say, “Well look, I know it’s late I’ll just let it slide this one time,” what’s happened is you’ve broken down the rules of the community that your kids helped create and now they don’t respect you. And so, they’re not going to be obedient and they’re not going to follow the structure that you have created.

Tough Love Can Work for Discipline

My Kids Are Making a Mess, Woman Scolding ChildAnd so, I know it sounds like tough love and it is but you get to enforce those rules and disciplines and consequences for the rules that they break. And it’s going to be awkward and it’s going to be uncomfortable and there will be sadness, I’m just preparing you for a few weeks.

After a few weeks when you hold firm what’s going to happen is all of a sudden this huge burden is going to be lifted off of you. Right now it looks like anxiety and stress and overwhelms. All of a sudden, you’re going to start to feel like you have more control.

Your Kids Will Feel Like They Have More Control

My Kids Are Making a Mess, Tired Parent and Skeptical BoyWhat’s weird is this, the kids are going to start to feel like they have more control. They’re going to start feeling and finding the structure and, “Oh, before I go to dad’s house I have to hurry and clean my room. Oh, after I put on my three sets of clothes for the day I have to take them off with a one-touch method and I have to put them away.”

And it becomes a formula that now they know what happens if they don’t because they themselves created the rules and they know you’re going to enforce them.

So it’s a weird change of behaviors but I promise you this, by changing a couple of small things it’s going to fix the question that you asked me about how do you get the kids to clean up. It’s going to fix that problem but it’s also going to fix a bigger overarching problem about what happens when the kids don’t respect you and they’re not following rules and they’re not part of a community.

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Resources

Adolescence Isn’t Terminal – https://amzn.to/2MZnWWv

Raising Good Humans: A Mindful Guide to Breaking the Cycle of Reactive Parenting – https://amzn.to/39wPGcL

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies – https://amzn.to/3bS6TQL

How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen – https://amzn.to/2Lx8PDj

Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World – https://amzn.to/3nHLHz6

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