I sidestepped a couple articles of clothing strewn on my daughter’s floor, choosing not to make an issue of it. After all, this was a vast improvement over the filthy mess that had blanketed her room days before. However, as I deposited my basket of clean laundry on her bed, I distinctly smelled a rat…or was it a wet, molding swimming suit? A piece of rotting produce? Whatever it was, it was pungent and the odor wafted up from under her bed.
Against my better judgment and with more than a little trepidation, I knelt and lifted the dust ruffle. The entire length of my nine-year-old’s twin bed was jammed with everything but the kitchen sink. Argh! Armed with a sneaking suspicion, I moved to her closet and found a carbon copy disaster. All of my other responsibilities were forgotten as I charged from the room, rounding up garbage bags and empty laundry baskets. I’d had it and Operation Clean Sweep was under way.
I wrenched piles of clothes, kitchen utensils, wrappers, granola bars, and flashlights from under the bed. Oh, and one slimy banana peel. It looked as though she was preparing for a natural disaster or perhaps the natural disaster had already hit…right under her box spring and bed frame. The closet yielded stuffed animals galore as well as countless surprises that belonged in every room of the house, including the garage. Honestly, what does a nine-year-old need with two hammers and a screwdriver? I was knee deep in my sorting…toss it, return it to its home, create a permanent space for it…when I heard something that sounded like a wounded cat in the doorway. It was my daughter.
With her hands planted on her hips, she gave me an incredulous look and wailed, “Mom! You’ve wrecked my whole system. Now I’ll never find any of my stuff again!”
“But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.”
1 Corinthians 14:40 NASB
When children are preschool age, we parents assume most of the responsibility for picking up toys and putting away the items used in their daily care. However, as children mature, they should begin to take on some of that responsibility themselves. Passing this baton to our children is necessary and Biblical.
I’m reminded of the young men Simon, Andrew, James and John, who were fishing in theSea of Galileewhen Jesus walked along the shore. Jesus called out and invited them to follow him (Mark 1:16-20). Immediately they left what they were doing to accompany Jesus. When our children learn to keep their belongings in order, it frees up their time and space and creates opportunities for them to say “yes” to bigger and better things in life.
We can help our children stay organized if we…
1.Are a good model. It’s hard to coach our children to be responsible with their belongings if we are packrats with piles of disorganized clutter ourselves.
2.Help our children declutter. At this age, children can begin to understand that it is better to own a few things, all of which we enjoy and use, than to own an abundance of things, most of which we never enjoy or use. Take time to throw away toys that are broken or have missing pieces. Donate clothes that don’t fit and toys that have been outgrown to a local charity or a family in need.
3.Purchase the necessary equipment to make storage a snap. If kids have adequate rubber tubs, shelves, cubbies, dresser space, and clothes hanging bars that they can easily reach, they will be more apt to put things where they go.
4.Decide where everything belongs. We must help children understand that everything they use has a home and the next time they want to enjoy it, it will be intact and easy to find if it is returned to its home after every use.
5.Determine a consequence for persistent disasters. The most logical thing to do is scoop up everything from the floor and put it in garbage bags. Then put the bags into storage. Depending on the infraction, the bags may return on an appointed date. In other instances, it may be prudent to have your child earn or buy back the bags and in some cases, the contents could be donated or thrown away.
At nine years of age, my daughter was completely content living in her pigsty of a bedroom. I was the one who had a problem with it. Instead of nagging her incessantly about her mess, I did each of the things listed above. Then I became more intentional about my own organization, without becoming compulsive. Kadi must have noticed because on her tenth birthday she came to breakfast and announced, “Today I’m going to be a new person and I’m going to keep my room neat.”
I admit it. I had serious doubts about her sincerity, but sure enough, that day was her turning point. Today, the only thing you’ll find under her bed is an occasional dust bunny and, believe it or not, the clothes in her closet are arranged by color.
Mind you, that was not and is not our expectation for her or any other child in our home. That’s more a reflection of Kadi’s personality. Children are children and we need to have reasonable expectations about the degree of orderliness they will be able to maintain. We are not aiming for perfection. In fact, if we go overboard, we may stifle creativity. Without overindulging, we need to make sure our kids have the things they need. Then we must teach them to be grateful for the things God has blessed them with and help them clear away the clutter so they are more likely to see and hear when God calls them.
And so I pray…
Dear God, Your Word reminds me that you are “not the author of confusion, but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33). I praise you for your Word that leads me on my walk with you and in my parenting. I confess that sometimes I am a poor example of orderliness for __________. Forgive me for not always choosing to do things decently and in order. I pray that _________ will desire to keep only those things that he needs (Luke 12:15) and will care for the things that he keeps, putting them where they belong. Jesus, please show __________ that by taking care of his belongings and his appearance, he is reflecting you to others. Above all, may __________ have a clean heart and glorify you all the days of his life. Amen.
*Excerpt from my book, Parenting on Your Knees.
Parenting on Your Knees: Prayers and Practical Guidance for the Preschool Years
Strap on your sense of humor and don some knee pads as you prepare to be equipped for/by Parenting on Your Knees: Prayers and Practical Guidance for the Preschool Years. Vicki Tiede provides parents of preschoolers tools and strategies for parenting and praying when sleep and alone time are at a minimum. You will find hope and encouragement to nurture and pray for your child’s character, behavior, social skills, development, and spiritual growth.
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