Trial & Error: My Advice & Tips for New Dads – Room Cleaning
Life is all about trial and error. For some (me), it's a lot more error than anything else. My (epic) failures can produce something good, however. I can pass along the moments in fatherhood that I wish someone had been there to help me out with along the way. Please understand that, in many instances, my tongue will be planted firmly in cheek. Sarcasm is a father's best friend, and mine has been honed to the point of near-perfection.
One of the biggest fights that rears its ugly head in my home day after day is that of cleaning. The kids have seen my wife and I play "not it" on chores for a decade, so their skill at the game are remarkable. It's amazing to me that no matter how hard it is to get the kids to eat right (including vegetables), as soon as it's time to clean the bathroom, bedroom or the toys in the backyard they're both incredibly hungry and willing to eat anything put in front of them (including vegetables). Scientists should really look into this phenomenon. You'd think we were sending them out into the wilderness for a solid week the way they beg for food prior to taking on the task of cleaning.
Another technique is the "I didn't make the mess" argument. What the boys don't seem to realize, however, is that I don't care if a thief broke into the house, made the mess & left before cleaning up... it's still their room, and it's their mess. The method I used to temper this (and many more) argument is somewhat cruel, and if you don't have the stomach for it, I understand. I just hope your back doesn't hurt too much after bending over day after day to clean up the messes your kids make & won't clean. Before you judge me for the advice I'm about to lay upon you, just remember all's fair in love, war & parenting. Also, remember I don't care.
The motivation to clean rooms comes from fear. I'm not a regular spanker. I'll spank once or twice a month just to let the boys know I still have it in my arsenal. So spanking is out. Out, as well, is grounding. Kids have so many different technology options in the 21st century they'd almost rather be forced to stay in their rooms all day than play outside to begin with. That takes us back to sarcasm. Try saying a few different lines as practice:
- "No, no, no, that empty bag of chips looks great right there. That way we'll know exactly where the insect invasion began when you wake up with bug bites all over your body."
- "You're right. I think it IS easier to just not clean up. I'll start with the kitchen. When your milk glass is 2/3 full with chunky milk just mix it in with the new milk. It might be tasty."
- "Just leave the clothes right there on the bathroom floor. I'm sure after a few months all the water you spill out of the bathtub will have them smelling nice and clean. Plus, the ladies love it when you wear clothes again without washing them."
Sarcasm not working? Sarcasm not your thing? We may need to pull out the big gun on this one. I've only used this technique once. If you do it right, you should only have to use it once. They'll either walk the straight-and-narrow, or they'll be damaged forever. Either way, you've accomplished something. I'll set this conversation transcript up by saying that my son's Beta fish had died just a day earlier. The rooms were a mess. The bathroom was a mess. No one was willing to put out any effort to clean up their mess. Here's how it went down:
Dad- "Clean up this mess. I'm not telling you again!!"
Son- (Ignoring me) "Dad, why did Cobra (his fish) have to die?"
Dad- "Well son, God killed your fish because it's a sin according to the Bible to not obey your mother and father. God must've been checking up on you and saw that you weren't listening when we told you to clean your rooms, so he had to punish you."
Son- "What happens if the room's not clean the next time he checks. Will he kill Lexi (the dog)?"
Dad- "No son, next time he's going to kill mommy or daddy because we're not doing a good enough job as parents."
Son- (Devastated) "That's not fair!"
Dad- "Life's not fair. I love you very much, and I don't want to die, so clean this place up and keep it clean!"
Son- (Silence.... followed by feverish cleaning)
Mission accomplished. The room was clean, and from time to time I'll bring up the fish as a reminder as to what happens when rooms don't get cleaned. It may be true that I'll have to explain myself one day to my kids (and to the Lord), but for now... rooms are clean.