Bedroom Battles

Child's Toy  •  The Mess

Image by Carlos Sottovia via Flickr

Ok moms and dads, I need your input.  Normally I post my witty thoughts, insightful self discoveries or crazy experiences with the family, but today I am looking for a little help from all of the experienced parents out there.

I believe this mother/child battle goes way back, possibly even to the caveman days when junior would leave his rocks and mammoth bones lying about the cave.  You know what I am talking about…the battle of the messy room! 

My normal parenting philosophy would be to let my son experience the consequences of his actions…if he wants to live in that mess, then we will just close the door and he can deal with it when he is sick of digging through the various piles in order to find the toy of the hour.  Unfortunately, nothing we do here seems to be easy.   We also throw in a shared room between a neat older brother and a messy younger brother. 

I have made several attempts to clean and organize the room, creating space for each boy.  While the older brother (age 9) isn’t a complete neat freak, he does do a good job of putting his clothes in the hamper and keeping his things off the floor.  The younger brother (age 6) does not.  It is a good day if his clothes make it within a 5 foot radius of the hamper.  He pulls out 10 toys at a time and leaves them strewn around the room.  Of course he doesn’t pull out the big, easy to clean up toys.  We are talking about army men, knights, various board games, etc.  Anything with lots of little pieces will do.

When we do order him to pick everything up, the toys get picked up and thrown in a corner or shoved under the bed.  I feel bad for the older brother and totally understand his frustration with his younger sibling.  I don’t blame him for getting upset and begging for a room of his own at least once a week.  I wouldn’t want to sleep in that chaos every night either.

Upon threat of throwing things away, the younger brother will make an attempt to straighten up a bit but the mess always returns in a matter of days, if not hours. 

So, this is where I need your help.  What do we do?  How do we teach the younger brother to clean up after himself without punishing the older brother by forcing him to live in a messy bedroom?  I’d love to hear your strategies!

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14 Responses to Bedroom Battles

  1. Lori says:

    ugh! oy! been there done that! lately what seems to be working is $2 allowance at the end of each week for keeping their rooms tidy enough for me to vacuum. Two out of three are in compliance.. number three doesn’t give a sh@t. Maybe, shut the door! Pour a big glass of pinot! Convert a space somewhere for the older/neater boy to have his own place to be neat. Good luck!

  2. That sounds like a good plan to me too – hee hee. One thing I did when I could not take it anymore is I created a “Toy Jail”. I used a large, clear plastic tub (so the culprit could still see the precious object instead of it being “out of sight – out of mind”) I kept Toy Jail in an area that it could still tempt the kidlets without them getting to it. Once in the jail, the toy had to be earned back. This is where you can throw in the old “keep your stuff picked up” for XX days, hours, minutes or whatever.
    There were times when the toy stayed in jail for so long that it was long forgotton and is now in the hands of a deserving child via Goodwill! 🙂 Good luck!

    • jenkline75 says:

      We have a similar system but our “toy jail” is my husband’s trunk. We do a toy check in the living areas at the end of the night and give the boys a 5 minute warning. Anything left on the floor goes in Dad’s trunk. I wonder why we haven’t tried that for the bedroom…hmmmm, thanks for the idea!

  3. Nick says:

    Maybe you could take away all of the boy’s toys while they are at school. Tell them they will not be allowed to play with toys if they can’t clean up after themselves. They now have to earn back each toy by doing chores. Another idea could be if you do the five minute rule in the bedroom the same as in the living room they can earn back time with the toy of their choice. When time is up then it goes back in the Trunk. Bye-Bye Wi. Let me know how it goes.

    • jenkline75 says:

      That is a good idea, sort of along the lines of what we do in the living room. The problem is that sometimes the toys Joseph pulls out are Jacob’s. So, then I feel bad about taking Jacob’s toys away when it was Joseph that left them out. I guess we need to tell Joseph that he just can’t play with anything of Jacob’s if he doesn’t put them away when he is done.

  4. Clayton says:

    You and your sister weren’t exactly what I’d call neat either. Busted!!!!! And to be honest I don’t know what we did. Did you two ever share a room. I can remember having to walk on things in order to come into either of your rooms. How did we handle you???? I don’t know. We’ll have to ask your mother. Maybe she remembers. But as far as I know, it was like that well into teenage years. Now, that’s the ramblings of the grandfather.

  5. Laurie says:

    Your readers have some very good ideas, most of which I have used. I think if you decide to remove toys, the child should witness or be expected to participate directly in the consequences. At 6 years old there is still hope.

    But some children prefer sloppy. I have three girls, all raised and disciplined essentially the same way. One daughter is very neat. Another daughter is somewhat neat. The third daughter just doesn’t mind sloppy. Fortunately, each child had her own room.

    My sloppy daughter (who was also the hardest to potty-train) just never was convinced that the time it took to be neat (or sit on the potty) was worth time lost playing or reading. It was not even worth a monetary gain or loss. She is very intelligent, is a good student, involved in many school activities, gets top grades, is involved in the church and the community, and possesses many other positive attributes. Yet she still has a sloppy room. Her bedroom door is required to be closed now so I can’t see the mess. And, she prefers it that way. I decided a neat room is a fantasy of mine, and acknowledge she is still a fantastic individual and a sloppy room does not take away from that fact.

    She is now in her first year of college and sharing a dorm room. I feel sorry for her dormmate!

    Is there any way to divide the boys’ room with a blanket or something to create a boundary between the boys. They should have separate/divided closet space and individual places to store toys. Violations of the boundary restrictions should be addressed immediately with specific consequences. Have the sloppy brother pick up all those little pieces on the floor, even if you have to sit on his bed and direct (don’t you pick them up), while his brother gets to do something fun.

    Remember, a sloppy child may just be an indication of an intelligent independent individual who has a set of priorities that are different than yours.

    Good luck! Only time will tell!

  6. Michele says:

    HaHa You are right it is an age old problem. Jordyn (who you know is now almost 16) is and always has been the organized and clean up and put it away type most of the time. But then there is Britt (almost 14 now) who leaves a trail to be followed where ever she goes. When I tell her to clean it up, she replies “Sorry, my bad” and she just relocates whatever it is to a new hidden spot such as under the bed, behind the bed, on the floor of her closet and continues until those piles are so large I think I am going to be swallowed alive. Last week, I had to gather some items of clothing out of her drawers to take to her for a sleep over. I could not believe what I found. Seems that every time I have been giving her a pile of her clean clothes from the laundry to put away (which first sits in her room till I demand over and over again she put it away), she has been simply putting the entire pile into whatever drawer she could stuff it into. There is no longer a designated drawer for say her pajamas, or pants or underware. Instead, it is a drawer free for all! I can assure you that I have begged, pleaded, rationalized, demanded and even bribed over the years to no avail. So good luck to you I say, cause I don’t think there is a cure for what ails you this time.

  7. Michelle says:

    Funny, Jen! I’ve been the neat sister sharing a room with a sloppy one. Every couple of weeks, I would go through like a tornado & straighten up the whole room just because it made me feel better. As far as the boys go, one thing I stick to is that I am not too particular about how they clean up in their bedrooms, the family room is a different story. Especially with those beloved tiny Army guys. There is a large blue bin in K’s room, if he wants to toss everything in there, I am cool with that. It’s off the floor & it is his problem to find everything when he is ready to play.

    • jenkline75 says:

      That’s kind of our thinking too, we even have the army bin (ours is green though). I just feel bad for the big brother because he hates the messy room. I think what I need to do is go through the room and purge 1/2 of what is in there then it wouldn’t be so overwhelming.

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