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My kid is a slob

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I need help, helping my daughter.  She's 8, and she's a slob.  I have tried all the things, but nothing sticks.  For one thing, she has too much stuff, and we know this is the main issue. We have done a toy rotation in the past, and that helps, but it still isn't getting at the root of the issue of not cleaning up after herself.  Simple things, like after you pull all of the doll clothes out and find that one outfit, put the rest back, or put your clothes in the laundry basket instead of throwing them in your floor...etc.  I do plan to do a major purge...again...but I want to help her develop good cleaning habits...especially since this is not something that comes natural for her.   Any advice?

Edit to add that right now all I feel like I do is nag, punish, etc to get her to do things.  I'm just hoping for an easier, more simple solution if that exists!

Edited by LVG

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1.  Stick together throughout the day and tell her what needs to be done all day.  Do it with her.  Be pleasant.  Show her how things are done.

2.  Stick together throughout the day and ask her, “We’re done with X, so what needs to be done?”  Then do it with her.  Be pleasant.  Correct her if she does it incorrectly, but don’t have impossible standards.  

3.  Back off a little bit from the sticking together and say, “Remember to tidy up as you go.”  Check on her often and say, “I see something you forgot to do with the doll clothes...”.  

 

In step 1 you’re doing all the thinking for her.  In step 2, you’re starting to get her to think on her own with prompts.  In step 3, you’re expecting her to do all the thinking on her own without prompts.

I would allow a good solid 3-4 weeks for each step.  

As she gets older, you might have to do this process in different areas.  For example, teaching how to create and follow her own to-do list, or how to handle classwork on her own.

Edited by Garga
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I would pick one issue at a time, post a note to remind her in the appropriate place, and come around with a reward/consequence frequently to check. For example, if she's interested in money, and the target skill is getting dirty laundry in the hamper, you might give her a dime every time you pop in and see that the floor is clear of laundry; but if she has slipped, she has to come pick it up and give you a nickel for each item that landed near the hamper. Eventually you can pay less attention, because the habit will be corrected. And you don't have to nag.

You might also try using the Habitica app together. Help your character level up, get cool equipment, get pets, etc., every time you do the things you're working on... but the character loses health every time you engage in a negative habit or fail to do a task you've committed to doing daily.

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10 minutes ago, LVG said:

I need help, helping my daughter.  She's 8, and she's a slob.  I have tried all the things, but nothing sticks.  For one thing, she has too much stuff, and we know this is the main issue. We have done a toy rotation in the past, and that helps, but it still isn't getting at the root of the issue of not cleaning up after herself.  Simple things, like after you pull all of the doll clothes out and find that one outfit, put the rest back, or put your clothes in the laundry basket instead of throwing them in your floor...etc.  I do plan to do a major purge...again...but I want to help her develop good cleaning habits...especially since this is not something that comes natural for her.   Any advice?

Edit to add that right now all I feel like I do is nag, punish, etc to get her to do things.  I'm just hoping for an easier, more simple solution if that exists!

My solution is not necessarily easier or more simple, but I think it's less stressful for both parties:

Create a tidying and cleaning routine that is done every day, and that YOU do with her. Gradually transfer expectations and responsibility to her, but that may take awhile (years). If this matters to you but it doesn't matter to her, then you will have to be the diligent one.

Pick your battles. Every doll dress put away while playing -- no. Dirty laundry into the hamper, not on the floor -- yes.

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Thank you for all of these tips!  These are some wonderful suggestions!  

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First, a re-frame: stop calling her a slob, even to yourself or people on the internet. She’s 8; she’s not done baking yet. 

Second, do not punish or nag. It won’t get you to your goals and will put stress on the relationship. I agree with what @Garga suggested. Stake that tomato while it learns to grow in the right direction. People who don’t sustain attention well don’t notice messes. (Ask me how I know!🙄) I don’t know if that is true of your dd, but it’s true with my less-attentive kids (and husband). 

Third, I discovered with my own kids that they will have their own inclinations towards or away from order. I can put routines in place that will cause certain jobs to get done regularly, but whether they themselves adopt order and neatness or not depends on their own personality and mind. My oldest kid is away this week and I am cleaning up stuff that *I would think* would be obvious and should not have gone one day in the disarray it is in, but my kid is not me. 

Put routines in place to help with the stuff that will drive you mad. Enforce the routine; don’t think by telling her a few times she will adopt the routine and shape up forever more. You need to help her learn. 

For the stuff that you can, make like Elsa and Let it Go. Seriously, for years and years, I made beds with my kids every single morning, from the time they moved into a bed of their own at age 2, until they were ten or eleven years old. Then, I let it go; I left making their beds up to themselves. One kid always makes the bed; two never do. 🤷🏻‍♀️I don’t personally get it; I like a made bed. But, except for the infrequent ocassions when there will be older guests seeing their rooms (for their friends, I don’t care; if they don’t mind their bff seeing their bed unmade, it doesn’t matter to me either), I mostly just make like Elsa. At this point, I don’t expect many more years of them even being in their bedrooms (for my two big kids), so I’m just focusing on the joy of having them near while it lasts. 

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12 minutes ago, Lang Syne Boardie said:

My solution is not necessarily easier or more simple, but I think it's less stressful for both parties:

Create a tidying and cleaning routine that is done every day, and that YOU do with her. Gradually transfer expectations and responsibility to her, but that may take awhile (years). If this matters to you but it doesn't matter to her, then you will have to be the diligent one.

Pick your battles. Every doll dress put away while playing -- no. Dirty laundry into the hamper, not on the floor -- yes.

This was very helpful for us at this age.  We’d set 20 minutes aside at the end of the day to straighten up.   Then we might occasionally do a short sorting project together during the day.  8 year olds are not natural cleaners from the most part.  You wouldn’t hand an 8 year old a math book and tell her to figure it out.  This is not a character issue.  

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Have scheduled clean-up times throughout the day, preferably right before something enticing (before lunch, before playing outside, before bedtime story). Don't say a word in between cleaning times. 

Supervise and help her. You can make a checklist to instill that habit but don't expect her to use it on her own for YEARS. It's a slow, slow process with many kids. 

Structure the environment. Open bins she can toss in, not boxes where she has to remove and place the lid. Label every bin, maybe even with a photo. The only things that should be boxed are things that aren't used often. Make sure the whole room is really working for her, her needs are different at 8 than they were at 6. 

At that age, I did a top-to-bottom purge, clean, and reorganization twice a year - after Christmas and after their summer birthdays. We talked a bit about what to get rid of and then I kicked them out and did it myself. Because sanity. I think twice a year is the minimum for kids who are inundated with gifts. 

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One thing that helps is using natural breaks in the day to tidy up.

 

"Hey, I'm fixing sandwiches; you go do x, y, and z to your room (give 3 concrete tasks, because my messy son thinks that tidy is different from what I think.) and then we'll have lunch."

 

"So and So TV Show is coming on in 15 minutes. Go get the doll clothes put away and I'll turn it on for you." 

 

"We're leaving for Grannys house in 30 minutes. Please put your clothing in the laundry room so we can be ready when it's time. " And I throw in niceties. "Isn't it nice to come home to a neat house?" My son really does like living in a tidy space. He just doesn't see what he needs to do to get it that way.

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I was probably that kid lol Looking back, I don't know if my mom or sisters really did things alongside me or not. I do feel like I didn't have enough explicit direction with cleaning growing up. I remember being scared to use a gas pump! I needed someone to show me exactly, not just tell me. I was scared to give ds his first bath! I wanted someone to show me how they did it, not just talk to me about it. I felt stupid and embarrassed. 

My advice is to find out what type of learner she is. Sometimes I see suggestions online to help kids with organization by putting a picture of the tidied area next to the area. That reminds them what goes there and how it should look when done correctly. I have not gone that far, but my house also isn't where it should be yet! So take my advice with a grain of salt. But I do like the advice of doing things together. She may be easily overwhelmed. 

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Re the doll clothes, I had a specific place in the dolly dresser for each of those things, with a different area for each of my four dolls, and everything had to be folded a certain way to put things away neatly.  I love having this be done, but it was a lengthy pain in the neck.  So, I dunno, in the heat of the moment with major pretending going on, we would completely have lost the momentum of the story if we had to clean up for 20 minutes every time we took one thing out.  So on that one I'm sympathetic to your DD.  

I have grown to like cleaning as I go along, but mostly in the context of laundry and cooking; not so much in the area of creativity.  It's kind of a different section of the brain for me.  If it's like that for her, you might consider asking her what she thinks would make a place beautiful *to her* and help her to get it that way a few times to get her thinking that way.  I wish someone had approached things this way with me when I was little.  I always thought of cleaning up as the miserable punishment for every good time, and actually had to learn how to enjoy order and beauty as an adult, through experience.  

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Step One: 

Stop calling her names. She is your DD and "slob" shouldn't be the way you refer to her.

It is not fair for her and it isn't helpful to improving the situation. Do you want her, at 8 years old, to think of herself as a "slob"? If she already is considered a slob by her mother, how or why can/could she see herself as someone who keeps her environment and possessions clean and orderly?

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Maybe she just said that here, not to her face. I do think it's a good point to bring up, though. I remember reading a book that told me to be more mindful about language... instead of "picky eater" they suggested "selective eater." lol

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5 minutes ago, heartlikealion said:

Maybe she just said that here, not to her face. I do think it's a good point to bring up, though. I remember reading a book that told me to be more mindful about language... instead of "picky eater" they suggested "selective eater." lol

Yes, but Mom is still identifying her DD as a slob. So even if Mom doesn't say it to DD, it is coloring Mom's approach to the entire situation.

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1 hour ago, unsinkable said:

Yes, but Mom is still identifying her DD as a slob. So even if Mom doesn't say it to DD, it is coloring Mom's approach to the entire situation.

I was referring more to the line about how her daughter might see herself as a slob. I don't know if the mom would project that or if you meant the daughter would hear the term. 

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4 minutes ago, heartlikealion said:

I was referring more to the line about how her daughter might see herself as a slob. I don't know if the mom would project that or if you meant the daughter would hear the term. 

I got you...

But even if the mom doesn't say it or project it, I think it is helpful for Mom to reframe the situation without name-calling.

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1 hour ago, unsinkable said:

I got you...

But even if the mom doesn't say it or project it, I think it is helpful for Mom to reframe the situation without name-calling.

Agreed

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5 minutes ago, heartlikealion said:

I'm guilty of falling into that myself. 

Sing it, girl...

(IOW, me, too. Not so much with name calling, but with seeing things in the negative when it is so much more beneficial to reframe troublesome situations into the positive).

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1 hour ago, unsinkable said:

Sing it, girl...

(IOW, me, too. Not so much with name calling, but with seeing things in the negative when it is so much more beneficial to reframe troublesome situations into the positive).

Yup. Memes remind me too... "that child is not misbehaving. They are struggling." 

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3 minutes ago, heartlikealion said:

Yup. Memes remind me too... "that child is not misbehaving. They are struggling." 

I loved the book Organizing from the Inside Out bc she said when you started evaluating your space, start with what is *working*, bc in most/many cases, you do have certain areas that are organized and work how you need them to.

It is helpful in a ton of situations, not just organzing, to start with: "What is working?"

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Does she have ADHD?  The symptoms in females are different.  Is she highly creative, talkative, does she get stuck in her own little world and hyper focus sometimes to the point that she sometimes doesn't hear you?

1) Understand she doesn't think like you. The best explanation I've found for how a "slob" thinks is Dana K White's books.  She has one on decluttering that will probably be the most helpful.  Buy the audible version and listen to it while purging her stuff. A similar one is Minimal Mom on YouTube.  They can both explain how your daughter is thinking and what you need to say to change the way she is thinking.  Things like the container theory - Pick out your favorite toy.  Put it on the shelf.  Pick out your next favorite toy.  Put it on the shelf.  On and on until the shelf is full, then the rest of these toys have to go, you don't have room for any more.   They also both discuss the clutter threshold theory.  IE: slobs have a lower tolerance for clutter than other people.  When overwhelmed by too much stuff, they ignore it all because it's so overwhelming it's paralyzing.

2) Once you have the room decluttered, don't assume she knows how to clean it. She doesn't.  Instead of telling her to go clean her room, tell her to put all the clean clothes on the floor on her bed, and all the dirty clothes on the floor in her hamper.  Next, tell her to hang up her clean clothes. Next, put all the doll clothes into the doll bin, etc until done.

3) Seriously consider a only one toy (or set of toys) at a time rule.  This doesn't hinder a creative kid the way it does some kids, because she might be constructing such an elaborate scenario in her mind that she's spending more time dragging out every toy and involving them in the set up than she is in playing in the imaginary world she just set up.

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7 hours ago, Quill said:

 

Third, I discovered with my own kids that they will have their own inclinations towards or away from order. I can put routines in place that will cause certain jobs to get done regularly, but whether they themselves adopt order and neatness or not depends on their own personality and mind. My oldest kid is away this week and I am cleaning up stuff that *I would think* would be obvious and should not have gone one day in the disarray it is in, but my kid is not me. 

 

I agree with this. Case in point -- I have a relative who runs a REALLY tight ship at home and her kids rooms were ALWAYS clean. She went to go pick up her kid from college and was shocked (disgusted) at the state of his room. All those years of teaching for naught! My dd, on the other hand, did actually live for years with clutter and mess in her room and now keeps her room pretty clean in college. You never know.  

Plus she has ADHD. So her room was a disaster growing up and now in college she works really hard to keep things neat because she knows she won't be able to find anything otherwise. Plus visual clutter is even more distracting. 

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Thanks to all of you for all of these great tips!  

First off to clear the air, I have never used the word slob in front of DD, and actually have never referred to her as that until I posted this...I was frustrated, as we had just had another major battle over her room, and it was just how I was feeling in the moment...that I have a slob of a kid.  I’m not perfect, but I certainly am very mindful of what I say to my kids and about them.  Thank you though for pointing out that using negative words like that is never good for anyone involved.  Rest assure though that I’m not over here calling my kids names on the regular...just today😬

Yes, ADHD may be a factor...it’s something I’ve been concerned about and plan to bring up at her next appointment.  She’s a very creative kid and likes to pull all of her toys out and create big scenes.  I’ve always been very mindful of the fact that it’s frustrating to her to have to clean up all this stuff after she just got it all set up for her scene, so I try to give her grace in that, but it gets to a level of ridiculous amounts of things being out.  She gets overwhelmed, I get overwhelmed, and it just creates a lot of frustration for both of us.  I agree that we need to lower the amount of toys she has access to.  We have done that in the past, and it really helped, but she would still complain and drag her feet about cleaning just those few toys.  We do use open top bins to keep cleaning as easy as possible.  I haven’t labeled them yet, but plan to do that this week.  We went out and bought more bins to sort stuff in so it’s easier to find...hoping that helps with not needing to pull so much out to find that one item.  We also plan to go back to having only one grouping of toys out at a time...barbies or babies, but not both.  

Thanks for helping to remind me to be patient with her.  I try often to remind myself to do that, but I’m very organized and so are my other kids, so this is just one of those areas she and I struggle with.  Hopefully after implementing some of these strategies I will be on the road to helping her not feel like cleaning is such a horrible thing!

 

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FWIW, my own mother could have written this about me at age 8.
At age very-much-not-8-anymore 😄 , my friends often walk in a marvel at how organized I am.

There is hope. 😉 It will just require a lot of scaffolding, patience, and routine.  Having too many toys as a kid completely and entirely overwhelmed me.  I didn't have a strictly designated place for everything so therefore, in 8yo logic, it didn't matter if I put things away or not.
And, I found the idea of opening and closing lids to be too many steps for me to get things done efficiently.  Then there was the last problem - my mom would scold me, and eventually blow up, and then I'd shove things places and call it good.

Fast forward to adulthood and my own kids/home:
-actual things are kept to a minimum.  I keep a lot of blank space in my house - not so much to be sterile but enough to feel calm - so that I keep track of things better.  We're planning out Christmas this year and none of us want more stuff except my own 9yo, so we're thinking about a single item for him, a family gift, and consumables.
-everything has a designated place, but I have trouble seeing clutter still.  Does that make sense?  I can't walk into the kitchen and know anything more than "it's messy".  My brain requires me to pick up each item in turn, decide if it belongs there, and then think about where it belongs.  I can't just pick out what doesn't go and put it away.  It's part of why I keep the blank space in my home.
-very few things get lids.  Open baskets, bowls, shelves. Anything that is a one step process to put away is my friend.
-strict routine.  Seriously, this is my best friend.  My kids each have a routine that mirrors mine so we're all doing the same things as soon as we wake up and before bed.  Wake up, make bed, tidy room.  At night: bedtime prep, put laundry in the basket, tidy room.  And if you think it's redundant to have 'tidy room' on either side of sleeping, you have not met my tired brain that skips over things at night. 😄

Nobody taught me any of this as a kid.  I was expected to just fall in line with whatever worked for grownups and none of it stuck.  It was only when I really needed to get a handle on my home that I developed my own methods that worked with my specific needs.  Your dd will get there.  I promise.  It might not be for another 10 years or so, but she'll get there. 🙂

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On 8/19/2019 at 9:31 PM, LVG said:

She’s a very creative kid and likes to pull all of her toys out and create big scenes.  I’ve always been very mindful of the fact that it’s frustrating to her to have to clean up all this stuff after she just got it all set up for her scene, so I try to give her grace in that, but it gets to a level of ridiculous amounts of things being out.  She gets overwhelmed, I get overwhelmed, and it just creates a lot of frustration for both of us.  I agree that we need to lower the amount of toys she has access to.

I have one of these. We have to put limits on the scene stuff, but we do allow it. One way is to tape off an area of floor or get an area rug that you use as a boundary (or use a specific blanket, etc.). Things like, "You can leave this out, but you need to put this away" are helpful too. 

How is she with time? For my son, when he's wrapped up in something, time flies, but if it's boring, it drags. Hard, not hard is only sort of a factor--it's about boring or not, frankly. Even coming up with slightly more efficient cleaning strategies is a problem because if he's cleaning, he likes to get lost in the details--that's more fun than it being efficient. It's nuts. He's seeing that efficient means it gets done and is slowly responding. For instance, he's started being willing to do something like find all the books and put them away, find all the papers and put them away, etc. and that goes so much faster. It's also helps get 80% of the clutter off the floor without having to make a single decision. Then it looks and feels better for tackling decisions. That might not work for everyone, but it helps us not get "sucked in" to some aspirational drama about an old sock with a hole, lol! 

We also have some toys in locations where it's better to play with them--they can be spread out or left out at times (like the basement). That can help.

I recently designated a bookcase for my son for things that he plays with on his desk. Every cubby has stuff that he uses one thing at a time (unlike the scene recreation stuff) to try to make it more automatic what belongs and doesn't belong on the shelves and also keep the desk clutter down. If he needs it, we'll get trays to put the stuff on so that he can easily carry it to and from the desk. The more elaborate toys that spread out are not anywhere near there, and most are in a rolling cart with drawers (the rolling part helps a lot!). The distinct drawers let my son pack up scenes in chunks if he has to clean up and doesn't want to start from scratch. 

On 8/20/2019 at 6:56 AM, HomeAgain said:

I was expected to just fall in line with whatever worked for grownups and none of it stuck.  It was only when I really needed to get a handle on my home that I developed my own methods that worked with my specific needs.

This is what is slowly happening here. My son has always been indecisive on top of all the distraction and chaos around him. He's learning to have some idea of what he likes and how his clutter is limiting him.

As for tomato staking and "noticing" things--honestly that would've driven me nuts as a kid in terms of my possessions, but having two people in my home that notice NOTHING even when you're pointing at it, I think the noticing training is wonderful. Whether it's wonderful for possessions is another question (effective, more than likely, but also probably not fun). But if you want to train someone to notice something, it's good advice and does help. 

On the cleaning together routine that's daily, I think that's a great way to deal with some aspects--laundry, path to the door, stuff that they've put in the wrong place ("Hey, your coat rack is for bookbags, coats, hats, not the random sock.."), etc. 

In other words, each kind of problem probably needs its own solution, all of which are customized to your DD. 

Oh, one thing that saved our bacon a lot is the "miscellaneous bin." My kids always have one, and it's sized according to what's practical. It's for little clutter that doesn't really have a home with like items. It keeps organizing sane. They are allowed only ONE miscellaneous bin, and when it's full, stuff has to go. 

For the record we despair about my son learning to make decisions or notice things, but as he's started to care, it's been getting a lot easier a lot faster.

For new habits, clean together as much as you can stand it--just honor her way of thinking as much as you can discern what it is. 

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On 8/19/2019 at 8:31 PM, LVG said:

 She’s a very creative kid and likes to pull all of her toys out and create big scenes.  I’ve always been very mindful of the fact that it’s frustrating to her to have to clean up all this stuff after she just got it all set up for her scene, so I try to give her grace in that, but it gets to a level of ridiculous amounts of things being out.  

 

It might help to find a designated play space in your home where the toys can be left out. I don't always make my kids clean up the  toys if something requires setting up and they are going to play with it the next day anyway. 

Susan in TX 

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If you think ADHD may be a factor then it's even more important to remember a few key ideas:

Supervision

Routine

Break big steps into small steps, small steps into baby steps

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