having trouble with 4 yr. old cleaning his room

Amanda - posted on 02/20/2010 ( 43 moms have responded )

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I have run out of ideas with my son to get him to clean his pigstyle of a room. Both my husband and I don't like messes in the house the one exception is our son's room. He can have it messy for two days then he needs to clean up. We have tried taking away all special previlages, going to activities that he would like but leave him at home with a relative. We feel he didn't need us to make the mess so he doesn't need us to clean up the mess. We also have had him start going to bed an hour earlier as punishment. Anyone have ideas on how to get him to do this. He is generally a very good boy and will pick up his toys at school and realitives house, but that isn't the case with his room.

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I have four children, and one thing I've learned is that the more they have, the bigger mess they make. I try to keep things organized and have a proper place for my children to put everything. Sometimes its too much to expect a young child to clean up the huge messes by themselves. When children are at school they are rarely picking up all the toys all by themselves. They see that there are other people cleaning and thats why they do it too. When my children have trouble keeping their rooms clean, I give them a choice to clean it or put some toys in storage or give them away to a thift store to make things easier. Sometimes the mess is just too overwhelming for a child, especially at four years old.

Karen - posted on 02/20/2010

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We tried sticker chart rewards, they worked very well. Everytime he cleans his room he gets a sticker, after 20 stickers he gets something he wants. If he does not clean, he looses stickers, the rewards get furthur apart when he get into a rountine until it is such a part of him that he performs by route.

Heidi - posted on 02/21/2010

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We have set a timer for 5 mins. and go in and help him clean for that 5 mins. after that we set the timer for 10 mins. At then end of the 10 mins whatever is not picked up and put in its proper place, We put it in bags and put them in the basement. (of course we give them back after awhile) Our son is almost 5, but when he sees it as more of a game to beat the timer, then to clean his room. Sometimes at this age you need to make it fun.....even if it is work :) Hope this helps some :)

Jaclyn - posted on 02/25/2010

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I didn't read through all the posts on here, so I apologize if I'm repeating others. Grounding a 4 yr old from outside activities or making him go to bed early doesn't really fit the crime and he probably doesn't understand why he's getting those consequences very well, therefore, they aren't effective. You have to pick a consequence that will make sense and have a direct effect on the problem. I know the post before me said to put the toys left out up. I agree with this and do this with my kids as well. Also I feel like 4 yrs old is too young to expect him to clean it by himself, especially if you're letting it go for 2 days. Picking up toys and clothes at least is part of our bedtime routine. With my 4 yr old I have to still give direction and say first put all your clothes in your hamper. Then I walk away and let him do that. And then say next pick up your cars and put them in the car drawer... etc. Organization definitely helps also. And when he's being really difficult I will sit in his room with him and help him makes piles of cars/tools etc that have their own drawers, which helps keep him motivated and not get overwhelmed also, but still teaches him to clean up his own mess.

Not all children are able to break down a chore into steps, so they get overwhelmed and then just fight it. It is simple to adults, but the adult needs to help make it simple for the children, which helps them learn how to do it and soon enough he'll be able to completely on his own.

Rebecca - posted on 02/24/2010

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well, i think four is a bit young to do it all on his own. my 6 year old and 3 year old would not tidy their room if left to their own devices, because they are not good at seeing the mess, and they are not good in strategising how to deal with it.

our approach is to be in the room with them, we sing a song about working together to get the job done (adapted from bob the builder: can we tidy, yes we can!) then we pick up things and tell them what to pick up as well. we have shelving in their room so that everything has it's place and they must put things in the right place. but i do not expect them to do it all on their own.

i have also made clear to my kids that since i help them tidy their room, they must help with other chores in the house ... but i don't expect them to work alone on anything ... it is always a co-operative effort, with everyone doing chores at the same time.

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Julie - posted on 08/23/2012

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4 is a tough age to understand the "you dont get to go/have -------, until you clean your room" so most of the time when my kids room at that age got too messy, i would usually once every 2-3 weeks do an overhaul....you can encourage him to help you while you do it, then he can get a reward after for helping and that will help him realize he can get good things for doing good things.

Kelly - posted on 02/26/2010

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What I had to do with my daughter is take almost all of her toys out of her room. This way she wasn't overwhelmed with all of the clutter. If she kept her room clean for 2 days before going to bed the next morning she was able to bring 1 toy back into her room if she wanted to. This has worked so well and in fact she has gone through all of the toys I have taken out of her room and is going to sell a bunch in our garage sale. Her room was terrible as well but I figured it out that she was way to overwhelmed even to know where to start cleaning so by uncluttering and getting rid of her toys has made it much more managable for her. Good luck and I know it is such a challange!

Dena - posted on 02/26/2010

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Simplify... with my 4 year old I have learned that messes must be cleaned up before making a new one. When that doesn't happen, I "throw away" the mess. Other forms of punishment seem a little too complex for him to associate with what he has done wrong and are not immediate enough. It's worked for me, though I feel bad for him. Hope this helps....

Elizabeth - posted on 02/26/2010

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He sounds just like my 7 yr old and my 5 yr old boys we have tried everything to get them to clean there room and the one thing that did work was w3e told them that if they dont clean it up every toy that we trip up over we will put them in a bag and send them to charity, thois worked like a treat as my boys love there toys and the thought of us giving them away made them clean there room and they have kept it clean ever since, dont just threten to do it though make sure that your child see's you bag the toys up, you dont have to give them away just hide the bag away. This worked real well on my boys.

Megan - posted on 02/25/2010

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I had the same issues with my son when he was young, he is now 9 and occasionally I have the issue again. I also have two girls, 3 and 6. THis may sound harsh but it will teach him a lesson he will remember. Help him clean his room, get it organized and give him an easy method of clean up...like toy bins so that he the task of cleaning up is not overwhelming. Explain to him that he will need to keep his room straight on a daily basis. If you allow it to go two days the chore for a 4 year old can be to cumbersome for them to accomplish and they will require too much direction to pick it up themselves. Explain that you will be checking his room nightly at a specific time, say 8pm, and give him a verbal reminder 1hour and then 30 minutes prior. Explain to him that anything...and I mean anything, regardless of price, attachment etc. Will go in the trash if it is on his floor. I have told my kids that if they don't care enough about their toys and their rooms to keep them organized that they don't need them. He will likely resist and the first time you may take a bunch of things away. Put them into a large tupperware storage bin and allow him to earn his toys back by taking care of the ones that he has left and showing that he is responsible enough to have more things in his room. If he continues to resist, he will end up with no toys, but you will have no mess either. Explain to him that you want him to be happy and to have fun but that it is your job to teach him responsibility. He will begin to appreciate the toys that he has and will begin to take care of them so that they are there for him to play with. I had to battle it out with my son the first time and all he had was a cuople of books left. He began helping with his bed making and laundry sorting to earn back his toys. Once he got them back after not having them for several weeks, he would have them picked up by the time specified and I continue to give 1 hour and 30 minute prompt to my kids so that they know it is time to pick up and are forwarned.

Rebecca - posted on 02/24/2010

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p.s tidying up is also part of the bedtime routine ... we have bath and pyjama time, then tidy up time, then story time, then sleep time. routine is important, but so is TEAM WORK.

Rebecca - posted on 02/24/2010

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@jamie: if my kids say dad doesn't make us do that, i say: 'do i look like your dad?' they say 'no' and then i say, 'then don't expect me to do what your dad does.' also say, 'what you do at your dad's house is his business, but when you are at my house the rules are....'

Lynette - posted on 02/24/2010

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I tell my daughter that she is NOT to come out of her room untill it's clean some weekend's she will spend the day in her room as she know's the rule, and also my hubby will tell her that if it NOT clean by the end of the day he will go in their and clean it him self, oh did I forget to say that if he clean's it ALL the stuff that is on the floor and stuff that is not where it should be goes in the wheelie bin for rubbish day, work's every time......

Veronica - posted on 02/24/2010

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I have three children ages 12, 9 and 7. They will clean their rooms when they are told to (usually) but I am usually not very strict about how clean they keep their rooms. I just figure I can shut the door and they are the only ones that need to live in it. They are no allowed food or drink in their rooms so there is no issue other than toys scattered over the room. I do have a fit if the toys are in any public area in the house, that is when they pick up as if I have to do it they go in the garbage (and yes I have thrown things away). I just have found that it would be an everyday battle with the kids and to me anyway that is a battle I choose not to take up unless it gets too bad. Good luck.

Tiffany - posted on 02/24/2010

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4 is pretty young to just expect them to clean on their own, my best results with that (my daugther is 3 1/2) is to make it into a game. We sing while picking up toys or we race to see who can get it done faster, it actually gets my 2 yr old involved also (a plus for me..lol)

Alejandra - posted on 02/24/2010

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Well with my 4 year son I try a lot of things too, and the only thing that worked was taking away all his movies and the privilage of watch tv, until he clean his room. The first time it took like 3 hours to do it, next 2.5, then 1 hour, till reduce like 5 minutes and you I know every kid is diferent but a you can try it, you have nothing to lose. Good Luck Amanda Best Wishes

Sheila - posted on 02/24/2010

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WHAT I STARTED DOING WHEN MY SON WAS YOUNGER WAS A CHORE CHART AT THE END OF THE WEEK ON THE CHORE CHART IF HEHAD A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF STICKERS HE GETS A DOLLAR. IF U DONT WANT TO GIVE HIM DOLLAR TRY A SPECAIL TREAT LIKE A TOY FROM THE DOLLAR STORE JUST SOMETHING TO REWARD HIM. IT GOT MINE TOSTART CLEANING UP AFTER HIMSELF. GOOD LUCK!

SHEILA

Rachel - posted on 02/23/2010

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with my boys i have a 6 and 8, does he get tired of stepping onthe toys or anything else, i tell them that i didnt put it there, but they get tired of looking at it and steppingon them and then they cleaning it up, and i will give them candy or something like that, something when im tired i will tell them lets go and cleaning togther and they like for someone to help because like the lady had said if it to must cleaning they get tired and to much for them to do

Jamie - posted on 02/23/2010

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Trying it as a game helped me with my oldest daughter. I would ask her to find as many yellow toys as possible and put them in the basket in my hands. Then we could count them as we put them into the toy box. Then we would go to red, blue, etc.. When my youngest was old enough to help pick up toys I changed it to a game of "who can pick up the most pink toys first?" And so on with all the colors until everything was picked up. Now my oldest is 11 & it doesn't work for her anymore because when they are at their dad's house, they don't have to pick up the toys because everything is in the basement. I struggle with my oldest to clean up after herself at my home because I get the reply "we don't have to at dad's..." ARGHHH! But with younger kids the game works well.

Jenny - posted on 02/23/2010

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OMG Amanda, this is exactly the same problem we're having with our 6 yr old daughter. Her room is like a bombsite most days and its the biggest battle to try and get her to clean it up! We've tried all the same things you've tried, with no luck either. We've even tried bribing her with a special treat/gift if she keeps it tidy for a week. (She might last a couple of days and then we're right back where we started).
So if you come up with a good idea, please let me know! We're at the very ends of our tether with this issue!!

Martina - posted on 02/23/2010

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when you work this one out let me know lol like you i've tried everything in the book & my 4 year old is also very head strong he'd rather take a punishment than do what he's told xx

Renee - posted on 02/22/2010

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with my daughter i just told her shes old enufto play then she is old enuf to clean. everytime she would refuse to clean w wuldgeta trash bag and tell her whatever se wont pickup that we will thro away when she thoght w wee bluffin we wouldput her stuff in a tras bag and tell her we threw it out and ide it ithe attick or garage it worked perfectly on daughter who now 6 and our sn who is 2

[deleted account]

one thing i've tried doing is... telling them to put toys away before taking out more toys. that seems to lighten the mess up a bit. another idea would be to take toys away until he's ready to take care of them. if he finds himself without toys, maybe he'll think twice about putting them away. try to make a game out of it, make it fun for him. good luck!

[deleted account]

Bribery is the only solution I've ever found to this problem. Sooner or later they want something. Wether it be a new toy or having a friend over-make a deal and stick to it.

Vickie - posted on 02/22/2010

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I have two kids, a 6 yr old girl and a 4 yr old boy. I am nesting bad with my current pregnancy, although I am always a neat freak anyway. I also run a daycare from home, I make my two clean up every evening as part of the bedtime routine. It is easier to do it daily so it is not so overwhelming for them. They also know that if I have to go in their rooms and clean I am bringing a trash bag and throwing away everything that I have to pick up (the first couple of times I did this I hid the toys for a couple of weeks, then went through them and only brought in half and donated the rest), they have now learned that anything I pick up gets trashed. Now every evening all the toys get picked up and put where they are supposed to go, it makes it a lot easier on me! Worth a try, every kid is different though! Good Luck!

Amy - posted on 02/22/2010

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I given my kids 1 hour to clean up. After 1 hours whatever they have not put away I will clean up. Then whatever I cleaned up goes to charity. I only had to give there things away 1 time. Now they race the clock to see how fast they can clean. They also appreciate their things more.

Limara - posted on 02/22/2010

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i have tried most things with my 4 yr old daughter and nothing seems to work the reward chart works for about a week then she gets bored of it so at the moment it is the chore chart it seems to be working as she has to do other stuff around the house like polish or sort the clean washing out and her room has stayed tidy for a couple of days as its on the chore chart so fingers crossed it will work.

Ronel - posted on 02/22/2010

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I have a 4 year old son. Not the easiest task, I agree with you! I do praise him in a positive way ('you are mommy's big son, so responsible..blah..blah'). Must admit, I am very strict and continue to be consistent. I do not clean up after him. He has to pick up or he does not come out of his room. Although he does not clean up properly, I usually go back and do it without him seeing me. It is the effort they put into it, trying to get it done. It is about not giving out warnings and then not following up on them. Good luck!

LaToya - posted on 02/21/2010

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I take toys away... I put them in a tote or trash bag and take them down to our basement (or somewhere out of site) once he starts keeping the toys he has left picked up I give him a couple more back... it doesnt always work and sometimes I take away more then I give but its away to get his attention... you just have to make sure you take toys that he really likes playing with... and dont expect it to be clean most of the time or perfect, I hate messes too so we are only allowed 5 toys in the living room at a time, the rest of the playing is in their bedrooms.

Teri - posted on 02/21/2010

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I organized my daughter's room with lots of shelves and bins. Each shelf and bin holds a certain type of toy. She may not always get the in the right bin, but she can easily put things away. She has a lot of stuff and it is very organized. The more praise you can give the better. Praise when he does even a little and I bet he will start doing even more soon. Always talk to God. You will be amazed at home much he can help! God Bless.

Sylvia - posted on 02/21/2010

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Um, dude? He's four. I think your expectations are maybe a little bit out of sync with his abilities at this point. Four-year-olds don't think like adults -- they don't even think like eight-year-olds.

If you really want him to keep his room tidy, you're going to have to work at it. "Clean your room" is likely to be overwhelming for a little kid, especially if it's really messy; you'll have a lot better luck if you break down the job into smaller tasks ("Okay, first pick up all the Legos. Good! Now pick up all the dirty clothes and let's go put them in the hamper. Wow, look how much floor you can see now! Okay, now you can pick up either the Transformers or the K'Nex. Which do you want to do first? etc."). This will mean more work for you, because you can't just say "Clean your room!" and walk away -- but it will also mean less frustration and counterproductive punishment for everybody.

Does he help you clean the rest of the house? Maybe it would work to have him help you tidy the rest of the house, and then you help him tidy his room? Lots of kids respond very well to a "teamwork" approach.

Also, though, his room is his space in a way that school and other people's houses aren't; he may very well feel that he has a right to keep his room the way he likes it, and, frankly, I'm not so sure he's wrong about that. At our house, we are all messy people; we keep the kitchen fairly tidy (there aren't a week's dishes in the sink, but is there some pretty gross stuff under the stove elements? well, yeah...), but there are a lot of housecleaning tasks that only get done when someone is coming over, and then all three of us, including the seven-year-old, pitch in cheerfully to get it all done. The rest of the time, we don't bug her too much about the mess in her bedroom, unless it gets to the point where you can't take two steps in there to get from the doorway to the bed. We reckon it's her space, and if we don't like how it looks we can shut the door ;^)

Lynda - posted on 02/21/2010

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i tried charts they worked...for a week! now my ten yr old son keeps his room picked up since i gave him my old cell phone and told him he needs to earn ten dollars a month if he wants to be able to text on the phone and its been over a month and it works!! not only does he pick up his room but he puts the dishes away and brings the garbage out wow, wish i wouldn't of thought of earlier it would have given my vocal cords a break lol.

now my four yr old daughter havnt figured that one out yet ha ha. although i can get her to help me pick up her room!! she will help mom do any household chore but she don't want to touch her own room.

now here's a question when they do clean their rooms how many stuff everything in the closet!

Atia - posted on 02/21/2010

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My SD is 4 and generally what we try to do to avoid those kind of situations is limit how much "stuff" she has in her room. She has alot of toys so we rotate them out, not just let her keep everything in there at once. This also helps her NOT ask us for new stuff every 5 minutes because its always like she has something new since she cant have everything at once and can't get bored with it so quickly. She still has moments where her room will become a mess and we are just firm and direct with her. No you can not do anything else until you put your things away.

Lisa - posted on 02/21/2010

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I have not read all of these posts, so I don't know if anyone has already said this.... I know he is only 4, but....
I do one thing and one thing only if my kids do not clean up their stuff. My kids are 7, 5, and 2. I simply tell them they have such and such of minutes to clean up their stuff, and whatever is not cleaned up goes in a trash bag. Then I get a trash bag, and make them pick up whatever is left on the floor and put it in the garbage bag. No, I do not throw the toys literally in the garbage, are you kidding? I paid money for that stuff! But, I do hide it for awhile. I'm not telling you to do this, but it DOES work for my kids.

Cheryl - posted on 02/21/2010

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i have had luck with my daughter by weeding out her toys. the less she has the less of a mess there is and this has proven to make it more managable for her to keep picked up. also it minimizes the "trashing" of the room during play time because she doesn't have to dig through to find what she is looking for to play with. i threw out all of the toys she seldom plays with and got her involved by letting her help select the toys to give to kids who don't have all she has. it was really empowering for her. (then when she wasn't looking i pulled out a few extra's that i felt were appropriate to dispose of ...like broken ones she was hell bent on keeping). she never even noticed those when we got through and is proud to keep her room in good shape....at least on most days.

Jessica - posted on 02/21/2010

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HERES A HINT: Don't expect that much from your 4 year old. My son is 5 and I deal with it too, he has ADHD/ODD. Thanks to the ODD, his toys are down to poptart box size containers. Organize his room. One box per item category. Tell him to pick up 5-10 things and then tell you what they were. If he can't tell you any, he's lying. It also boosts memory. He's so young that what you are doing will hurt him. My parents never showed me how to clean. They just said do it, and then paid someone once a week to clean, so I got lazy and I regret it. A simple thing like teaching your kid to vacuum is a great start. My son loves the vacuum, so its a treat. He makes the floor clean, he runs the vacuum. He doesn't clean the floor, I 'vacuum' up what he doesn't and loses it for a period of time.

Cristela - posted on 02/21/2010

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i have a 3yr old and a 4yr old both boys and they share there room. i was very hard to get them to clean there room but now, they dont even both to mess it up. I first starfted by cleaning it all by myself and would tell them that i did all the work on my own and they would then thank me, then i would slowly make them help me and show them where things went and then when i knew that they knew where things go i would just tell them that they know and they cant act like they dont know how to clean because they have done it with me!!! Now even if they dont clean it perfect they clean it and i havent seen there room and crazy mess in a long time!

Socorro - posted on 02/21/2010

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His room is a place where he has the liberty to do everything he wants. Just show him an example of how to do things his own way. Little by little as he grows, he will develop that attitude. A 4 year old is an early stage, just do it patiently.

Sue - posted on 02/21/2010

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We have the same problem with our 5yo. She is so pig headed at times its a fight. Usually threatening to throw all the toys she has on the floor in the bin gets her picking up or we will gather up all her soft toys and play a game of throwing them into the toy chest. This has created a very good over arm throw on my DD LOL. I totally agree with being overwhelmed with the whole mess. Asking my DD to pick up certain toys and then going on to another type works great. I often start picking up the rubbish lying around such as scrap paper or broken pencils and she joins in after a min or 2 and just starts picking up her things. If I just try and get her to do it though she just sits there and tells me NO.

Amanda - posted on 02/20/2010

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Alas I have tried all these suggestions. He is a very bull headed young man. If he doesn't want to do it, it won't get done. I will probably be going through his room reogranize it again and giving it the master clean. I am thinking this is just one battle I will never win. But thank you for the help.

Crystal - posted on 02/20/2010

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We have a 4 year old and a 2 year old. They have mountains of toys. We have a toy organizer in our daughters room, and books in our son's room (4 yr old). we have a rule in our house ... when you're done playing with one toy, you put it away before getting another one out. Now, obviously this doesn't always work out. :) So, when they make messes, we make sure to point out specific things they need to pick up .. i.e. Eva, pick up all the balls, Tyler, pick up all the cars .. etc. Little by little so they don't get overwhelmed by just hearing "pick up all your toys!" Every toy has a place and its important for the kids to know where those places are. Maybe take pictures of the items that go in certain boxes or tubs and paste it to the outside so when you ask him to put those items away, he knows where they go. Make it a game ... see how fast he can pick up all his cars ... time him and then he gets a small reward, or make it a race if you don't mind helping him. That way when you're both done picking up, you can praise him and say Thank you for helping mommy pick up your toys and keeping your room clean. Our 4 year old loves compliments! :)

Kim - posted on 02/20/2010

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when anyone figures it out please let me know. I can't get my 10 yr to clean his!!

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