Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Losing battle

Jimmy and I are in a losing battle with Jay...our almost 11 year old. All I ask of him is to clean his room once a week. Korinne and Justin clean every day. Usually on Saturdays, I have Jay clean his room...yes he shares a room with Justin...and yes Justin and Korinne usually make the mess in their room. But because Justin and Korinne clean the living room everyday, and Korinne cleans hers and Jackson's room, I feel Jay cleaning their room is fair. Do you think so?

Well this past Saturday, since we were all at the Blognic, I didn't have him clean the room. Instead we wanted him to do it on Sunday. After many threats and withdrawing privileges, he still refused to clean the room.

So instead of resorting to spanking and all, Jimmy and I decided to switch the rooms around. We're putting Jay in with Jackson and Korinne in with Justin. Because I can count on Justin and Korinne to clean their rooms, that's not a problem. The reason for putting Jay (almost 11) in a room with Jackson (13 months) is because all of Jackson's toys are in containers in the living room. So any mess made in their room cannot be blamed on anyone else.

Besides switching rooms, Jay will lose all privileges such as going fishing with the family (which he loves) and getting any extra prizes (a video game rental or whatever.) We won't ask him to do anything. No more having him take out the trash. No more asking him to clean his room. No more asking him to clean the bathroom Jimmy and I don't use (it's the *kids* bathroom). When he wants something, he'll have to earn it.

Does all this sound harsh? We provide a stable roof over his head. We make sure he has food in his belly and clothes on his back. Is it too much to expect him to keep his room clean? I'm telling you his room is so bad that I have to clear a path each night so that when Jimmy gets the boys up for school in the morning he doesn't trip over something or step on something. At least with him being in a room with Jackson, there will be no toys. So anything on the floor will obviously be Jay's doing since the only time Jackson is in the room is for naps or bedtime.


JanetLee said...

Ah. The boy room. It can get pretty disgusting. I fought this same battle with mine. I finally waved a white flag. We negoiated a cease fire: No food or drinks in the room at any time. Bed linens changed once a week. Door closed at all times. If I could smell it through the closed door, he had to clean the entire room, top to bottom. His room remained a horror, but we got along much better. Of course, mine was an only child and his mess didn't effect another person.

Daniel said...

We've got three boys, all in high school now, and their rooms are still generally messy, as was my room when I was a kid. The kid in the cartoon strip "Zits" put it pretty well, saying that his floor was a kind of "horizontal closet." I think a lot of kids see things this way.

We chose to live with a lot of this, with some understandings like JanetLee mentioned. What we've not chosen to compromise on is parental authority. The way I look at it, if it matters to me and I give a reasonable instruction, the kid receiving that instruction is responsible for carrying it out. That means I have to inspect, and they have to keep cleaning and folding and sweeping until they pass inspection. Our youngest boy called it "playing Army." It also means that if something doesn't really matter much to me, I shouldn't pretend that it does.

Today I don't get on them about the messiness of their areas very often, but when I do, they clean up (not always very well) with no complaining.

As for the fighting over who should have to do what... well, let's just say I feel your pain. In a household with multiple children, equity issues almost always have to be resolved before you can get the individual kids to pitch in and show initiative. We never found a magic bullet for this -- so we still slog away at it.