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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

I am a person who is obsessed with keen on order. Most of life is manageable because I follow my own little rules and systems. For example: when I take off the puppy’s collar, I set it on the dresser near the garage door. Then whenever I need to take her out, I know exactly where it is and don’t have to spend any time finding it.

If I make a mess, I clean it up.

You would think that after living with me for over eleven years, some of my little systems and rules would have influenced the boys. Heh. Not so much. And this really is a puzzlement. By refusing to manage their time and space, they make their own lives more difficult.

It’s a little silly, but their bookcase is a great case study on the whole issue. I went through and straightened it out. Books were set neatly on shelves (we’re talking 3 shelves about 2 feet wide apiece here) and organized by size. No, I didn’t arrange things down to the last detail. But a large collection of hard cover books go on one shelf, all the paperbacks are on another. Magazines are on the third, along with all of their Scouting books.

Time after time, they completely destroy the order of those shelves. Why?? If you look at the bookcase right now, you’ll see books and magazines and paperbacks shoved in all willy nilly. Everything looks like it will fall out, many items are shelved so you can’t see their titles, and finding anything in that mess is nearly impossible.

I asked a simple question: “How many books do you take off the shelf at a time usually?” The answer was “one”. So here’s my follow-up question: “Then why don’t you put the books back neatly one at a time?”

There was of course no answer.

The result? The only way to get the books back in order is to do a big job, pulling them out and restacking neatly. Multiply this times the dozens of other toys and shtuff that is out (Legos! Don’t get me started on Legos!!!) and they’ve got a big clean-up job on their hands. Bigger than if they’d just put a little away each day.

Did I mention that we have them clean their rooms EVERY night? We do! Some days they’re not even in the bedroom, yet it’s still messy. What is that all about?

If we didn’t have them clean their room, I am certain it’d be a pig sty very quickly. I’ve flirted with the idea of just closing the door and letting them have the mess but I just can’t stand the mess and I only last a day or so. Bottom line? I don’t trust them to eventually clean it themselves. And it’s embarrassing to have people come over and see things in such disarray.

Generally speaking, it’s kids their age who are coming over. I still care that the house is in order though. We’ve tried different rules, like “you can play with your friends when your room is clean” but I someone has forgotten to police it enough that the whole thing failed.

Sigh. Yes, I’m writing this because their room is messy again. It’s both encouraging and disconcerting that the younger boys have an easier time of keeping things clean.

What to do from here? I don’t know yet. I really really really just want them to manage things themselves. Is that too much to ask?

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who despise messy rooms.

Image courtesy of cafenut via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.