18 answers

My Daughter Refuses to Clean Her Room

Over the last few months my daughter absolutely refuses to do any cleaning in her room. She'll help me all day with the rest of the house, but when it comes to her room, she won't. I'm at my wits end, and I need some advice. I've tried prizes(I have a whole bag in my closet she can choose from), I've tried time-outs, I've even gone in there with a trash bag and said if she doesn't start cleaning I will take away all the toys that are not picked up. Right now she has me so frustrated she's sitting on her bed until she decides she wants to clean. She'll just stare defiantly at me and tell me she really doesn't want to clean, she only wants to play. I always follow through on whatever discipline I'm using, I always let her in on clear punishments, and give her time to fulfill her chores, but it's getting worse and worse. I don't know what to do, I am so at my wits end with her... I'm so sleep deprived from trying to care for my newborn and the house and the pets(8 birds and 2 cats)and her that I'm really starting to get short with her. I feel bad, and I just really need some advice on what I can do about her behavior lately. I know some of it is jealousy and vying for my attention, but I try to spend time with her, with and without baby Audrey. Please help!

What can I do next?

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I haven't used this but I know a lot of Moms who swear by housefairy.org. It might help or at least give you some good ideas.

I had this same issue with my 4 year old. I actually put her toys in the trash bag, with her watching, and put them in the garage with the rest of the trash. I eventually brought them back in without her knowing, but it worked. We have also started allowance and that has also helped. I guess it is just a phase and hopefully will pass. I hope this helps!

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I HIGHLY disagree w/ the people who said "just close the door" and here is why: you are doing your child a disservice if you don't show her how to organize her belongings and clean her room.

I was never shown how to clean my room, put things away and organize; it was a disaster when I went to college and then when I lived on my own. I couldn't do laundry. I couldn't even BOIL WATER. thats right, I put a pot of water on the stove to boil, turned up the burner but not enough...I couldn't boil WATER! :-O

check out the above site someone suggested (housefairy, its on the flylady.net web site). there are some great ideas.

If you are going to follow the housefairy ideas and help your daughter clean up her room, it will show her responsibility. It will also show her that you are NOT "the maid." I'm big on children having responsibility for themselves.

I have set up my son's room (he is 7) so that he has ample space to put things away. We added some shelves (down low so he can reach) in his closet. if they have spots to put things away, it will be easier for them to clean.

I have a limited amount of toys in my son's room; and he cleans his room EVERY NIGHT. and he also picks up his toys in the living room EVERY NIGHT. He also helps me with laundry, clears the table, and dusts, and other small misc. tasks. I don't think I'm pushing him too hard; and as he gets a bit bigger I will add even MORE chores! ;-)

I just want to show him a few things: first, he is part of our household, and responsible for helping run the house as well; I'm showing him that mom will NOT wait hand & foot on him; and I"m showing him skills that he will use when he's an adult; either in college or in his first apartment. I WANTED to keep things clean, I just had NO IDEA how to go about cleaning anything, or even how to pick up after myself (i know, I know. what can I say, my mother waited on us hand and FOOT.)

if you start NOW, (she is only 5?) you can fix this problem and give her some good life skills.

when people come over to our house, they always remark on how "clean" our son's room is! He actually LIKES keeping it clean, I swear! but I really believe its because we always expected him to, and helped him pick up toys when he was a toddler, and gave him more and more things to do and put away the older he got. His room never gets to be a disaster.

I know its got to be hard with a new baby, but if you nip this in the bud now, it will get much easier eventually. you may even have to break it down into steps for her...saying "clean your room" can be overwhelming to a child. go in there and say "put all the small toys away" and watch her do it. then say "pick up all the clothes & put them in the hamper" and watch her do it. then say "put your stuffed animals on the bed" then watch her do it. break it down into manageable steps, but make sure she has a place to PUT everything.

(sorry this got so long-winded)

2 moms found this helpful

My daughter has had difficulty cleaning her room also. Overwhelmed would be the best word to describe it. Something she started on her own is using a little white board (dry erase) and making a list of things to clean. She loves erasing things as they get done. Perhaps you could buy one 'especially' for her and have her write a short list (1-3)items on it each day and have her prioritize them as to what she thinks is more important. Since she is young, I would write down the things you want her to do and let her copy from your list what she will do each day. Good Luck. Don't sweat it and get some rest.

1 mom found this helpful

I can't offer you much advice. My 6 yr old has always been quite the neat freak but if she is helping you around the rest of the house maybe she would clean her room if you were up there helping her.."I'll start over here while you pick up the books" it might help. She's little and if her room is a big mess it might too much for her to handle on her own.
Congrats on the new arrival.

She's got a baby sister who does nothing all day, so she doesn't figure she has to clean! Maybe she does the rest of the house WITH YOU so it's fun. Or, Maybe she doesn't know how without you there.

First, scale back your standards. Figure out what is most important - that you be able to get from the door to the closet? That things not get broken? That clothes be hung up? Then make sure she has a low closet rod, or an organizer basket set or plastic totes or something. Put a picture of the category of items on the outside - dolls in one container, crayons in another, and so on. Try limiting the number of toys that are available at any one time - rotate them thru. She'll enjoy having less to manage, and each month when a new box rotates into the room, she'll be thrilled to see things she missed. Make it fun, not punishment.

Concentrate on 2 major areas and let the rest go. I mean, when she goes to college, you'll miss her, and will you really care that the room wasn't always clean. The critical thing is that everyone, including the animals, gets fed. An unmade bed, a kid who misses a bath once in a while, etc. - these are not battles you need to join in. You are exhausted, you have a newborn, and you need to get some rest and some quality time with your kids.

I don't keep any toys in my sons room. he has a play area and that is where we keep everything. Th eonly thing he has inhis room are books and stuffed animals.
He will help me clean the house and picks up his spills , but like your daughter will give me a hard time sometimes when it comes to cleaning his toys. I have gone through the play area and started to put toys in a garbage bag that he hasn't picked up and then I put the bag on th porch with the trash(seperate). It usually gets him to start cleaning. I also have him pick up certain colors or shapes and that gets him motivated by making it in a game.
He will also help make his bed and put his dirty clothes in the wash and his shoes away.
I'm not sure what your daughter has in her room but maybe if you took some of the stuff out it might help.
I knowhow hard it is to get kids to do stuff and I'm sure with the baby it makes it harder. But if she doesn't clean up you can start by taking stuff away.
Good luck

Close the door! I'm a neat freak, but if no one sees it and it's not a safety hazard, maybe you need to let it go and just do an end-of week pick-up?

Make it fun by putting big storage bins in her room and she can toss them in (Ikea makes great, inexpensive bins on wheels that we have everywhere!)

Otherwise, this may be the thing she wants to "own"-- her own space-- and you have to decide if it's worth the fight. My son loves to see all of his toys out ALL AT ONCE. If she's helping with the rest of the house, she's learning the value of cleaning up her things, which is important. I have found that what we thing of as "messy", little ones think of as "perfect"! She will likely be a creative soul!

I haven't used this but I know a lot of Moms who swear by housefairy.org. It might help or at least give you some good ideas.

Hi C.,
Congrats on your new bundle and congrats on staying on top of your older daughter's upbringing too. I agree with those who advise you to take away the toys and items she refuses to pick up. You could explain how wonderful it is that she helps everywhere else in the house, how much you as a family respect your home and items, it's an extension of loving each other. Talk about it how you and her dad (if he's in the picture) bought her the things she has out of love and taking care of her, and it's a sign of disrepsect not to take care of them. Even if you think she's too young to understand this stuff now it'll sink in as she gets older. Do it as she is watching, explain that if she won't take care of her things you understand that she just doesn't want them, because in your house you take care of things and listen to Mommy when she asks you to do something.

I don't know that I'd throw them in the trash just yet. I might say that as she improves in behaviour she might earn the items back one by one, and if she keeps her room up to standards she will continue earning the items.

Good luck!

Maybe you should offer to help, just like she helps you clean the rest of the house. I used to like when my mom just sat on my bed and made "fun suggestions" on how to clean and decorate my room. It might be a good time to bond with her. I am a grown woman that still likes company over when I am cleaning (I hate cleaning) but it makes the time go by faster. Good luck

I agree with the others advice to work with her and help clean-up. My 4 1/2 year old gets overwhelmed by a big mess in her room. I find things go best if I go help a little - I give her a specific task and I do a different task at the same time. It sounds like this is an attention getting behavior for your child (it is for mine, too). So, this can be an opportunity to give positive attention and model behavior for her. My kids also do better when we sing a "clean-up" song and have some sort of positive reinforcement immediately after. For us, after a length of play time, I'll let them have some "down time" with a TV show. They know that, once they finish picking up, they get to watch TV, which is a limited commodity in our house. I also have a end of day pick-up that happens after dinner and BEFORE dessert. We don't go to bed with a mess in the house. In both cases, TV and dessert, these are treats that they would get anyway, but they have to complete the pick-up task first. This is a way that I avoid using punishments. Hope this is helpful!

I think she may feel that it is her room and she likes it the way it is.
Good luck when your's are teens...I don't think I've seen the floors in my teen rooms for over a year!

Lots of great advice. A few more thoughts: 1. Even kindergarteners aren't developed enough to do more than one or two sequences of instruction at once, so breaking tasks down will likely help her to feel less overwhelmed. 2. Someone once put it like this: How would you feel if your husband came home one day with another woman and said, "Honey, this is my new wife, she's going to live with us from now on." That's how your daughter is feeling. 3. I have two daughters, both very different. One is naturally organized, the other loves living with all her stuff around her (she's a very creative girl). She's a teenager now, and we let her go two weeks then she has to pick it all up -- and yes, she still complains. 4. Coincidentally, when we got our second baby, the big sister got a fish tank! A friend was moving and couldn't take it, so we inherited it. We set it up in my older daughter's room, and she and her Daddy maintained it which gave them some special Daddy and me time. It was her job to feed it and help clean the tank. It gave her something to feel responsible for while we all adjusted to being a family of four. I think it also created enough white noise to drown out the baby's cries in the middle of the night because she never woke up. She took care of the fish tank for five years and loved it! 5. Maybe go to the library and get a book written for children that talks about a new baby. It can be a good way to start talking about how she's feeling with the new baby.

Good luck!

Good morning C.........sounds to me like she is just a little jealous and wants more of mom's time but I agree with you to not let her get away with what has already been established. I would do this with my girls and it always worked: take the items that she refuses to put away and take them from her. It is a priviledge to live in our parents home and take care of the things they or others have given us. If we can't take care of them some needy child most certainly will. Many lessons come from this and my girls use it today with their children and they are thankful I didn't let them get away with " their antics "

Loving, a grand mother of 6 and mom of two great girls, P.

First, congrats on the new arrival.

Second, if the mess is just in her room and not hurting anything, I'd let it go for a while. Let her clean up on her own terms. Until then, maybe no friends over, no dessert ever, or take away some other big, ongoing reward. She can decide when she wants that reward back and clean her room when she's ready. Then keep her room closed so you don't have to look at the mess. You can keep battling her over it, or you can pretend it doesn't bother you and let it go.

I had this same issue with my 4 year old. I actually put her toys in the trash bag, with her watching, and put them in the garage with the rest of the trash. I eventually brought them back in without her knowing, but it worked. We have also started allowance and that has also helped. I guess it is just a phase and hopefully will pass. I hope this helps!

So she is 5yrs old right? If it is a general clean up, you should stick to what you are doing and give her a punishment if it isnt done. But if her room is beyond a general clean up, it is very overwhelming for a 5yr old. I think they just dont know where to begin, not to mention, when it is their stuff, they probally dont see it as dirty, or messy, it is just their stuff. I have a 8yr old boy, and I have always found with him....... If I tell him, that WE are going to clean it together... it gets him into it... I start on one section that I know will be hard for him, and I suggest to him to start with another area to clean up that is simple, like put the stuffed animals in the bin, or gather up all the legos. Eventually after 10min, he really gets into it and he just keeps coming back to me for his little assignments. It has worked for us ..... Perhaps try this every few weeks and make it a team effort.
Best of Luck and huge congrats on the new baby!!!!

Congrats on the new baby! I'd say you have enough on your plate right now to just pick your battles. As long as her room isn't dirty (no food or muddy shoes or things like that) maybe let it go for a little while. Nothing will happen if she trips over her toys for a few weeks or even a couple of months while you get through recovering from having a baby and the early, most sleep deprived days. Forgive yourself and her for a little while while you all adjust to a new member of the household. You'll both have years for her to learn to clean her room. good luck

I noticed that you told her that if she doesn't clean up you will take her toys away ... but have you actually done it? Perhaps she knows it is just a threat. My sister has two boys and if they do not clean their room their stuff is taken away. They have only not cleaned up once. Does everything in her room have a place to go (a home). Some people just get so overwhelmed they don't know where to start. You can practice cleaning with her ... First the big stuff, then the little stuff. She can have a timer and if she beats the clock then she gets a prize or you can tell her she has to clean for 10 minutes ... call it pick up time or something better than cleaning. Sing a song, clean up, clean up, everybody do their share, clean up, clean up... If she picks up for 10 minutes she gets a reward like a sticker. Make sure you have bins for everything and no clutter. You may have to pick-up with her a couple of times until she gets the hang of it and she feels confident enough to do it herself. It could be a little anxiety, she is overwhelmed and just needs some motivation. But make sure she practices cleaning now, it is harder to learn later. My room as a child was a mess and I never really learned hot to clean ... to this day messy houses make me a little stressed and overwhelmed that sometimes I don't know where to start.

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