Before You Call the Health Department!

Submitted by Diane Moore on March 27, 2009 - 03:49. ::

Is your child's room in danger of being condemned by the health department? How can they function in such a pigsty! How does the chaos affect their ability to think straight? That might be a parent's initial thoughts.

Then come the darker thoughts . . .
Is the condition of his or her room an ominous sign that there is a deep psychological problem? Is he or she depressed? Is it a confirmation that he or she has a deep character flaw?

Maybe not . . .
I'm a big fan of using every opportunity to develop character in your kid but . . . not everything is about character. Sometimes it's wise to start by simply giving "life information"

In the case of the "the room from a really hot place" it might work best to sit down with your child when things are going well and say, "You know, I've been thinking. You're now old enough to start managing your room and it might be time to explain how things work. You see, everyone is different in how they manage their ‘stuff''. Some people can manage a lot of stuff. Some people can only manage a little. If the person who can only manage a little tries to manage too much stuff they become unhappy and frustrated. They would be people who - no matter how much money they made - would be happier to own and maintain very little. (if they want a boat - they'll rent one for the weekend rather than maintain it all year!) It's not personal. It doesn't mean they aren't as strong, wise or good as the person who can manage a lot of stuff. At your age it's a really good time to find out how much ‘stuff'' you can manage."

Then you arrange for him to go through his room and put his things into four different boxes. Box 1 is for his favorite things. They will come back to him first. Box 2 is for the things that he's attached to but he can do without longer. Box 3 is for things he's less attached to and box 4 is for the things he can do the most without. It's best if he makes all the decisions. You can make it clear that if he doesn't want to do it - you will be happy to do it for him but you're pretty sure he'd be better at it. It's more likely to work if the child feels in control. But if there is resistance - remember, you own the real estate, you are responsible for teaching your child how to negotiate life. If the child knows you really will do it for him - he's much more likely to comply in order to be the one in control of his stuff. Remember - this isn't a punishment. It's a journey in self discovery! And . . . this obviously works best on preteens or young teens.

At the end of the packing, his room should look like a monastery! Make it fun! Be impressed. Determine a good time - a week to 10 days for him to adjust. If at the end of the time he shows he can easily manage the stuff he has - he can unpack and claim all that is in box 1. After the same amount of time showing he can manage the new amount of "stuff" he can move on to box 2 and so on until all the stuff in the boxes are put back into his room or he as found his limit. If he finds his limit and there is a box or two of his things left over, you can let him decide how he wants to deal with the extra. Let him make as many decisions as possible. The younger a child is brought into the decision making processes (decisions that bear responsibilities - not just the fun decisions) the more motivated he'll be as a teenager.

Best of all - in the end, you have given your child important life information and helped him discover something about himself - a much more positive result that the constant nagging that wasn't working anyway.

about the author
Diane Moore
family life specialist, is a regular Parent State University Instructor and now a popular radio presenter.