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Tidy tantrums.

Fat Mum Slim /


There’s a 5 year old in my house, making a mess.

We’re on day 5 of 50 days of holidays. I fear that by the end I might go insane.

It’s no secret that Lacey has a little bit of sass about her {read: attitude that can sometimes be cute, but oftentimes not}. She’s stubborn, and cheeky, and is always up for a battle. She should sell tickets to her tantrums, because they’re quite the performance. Last Friday she did an awesome performance right in the front yard. It was amazing. There was movement, and noise, and theatrics. My neighbours asked me a few days later, “What was that thing about last Friday?”

Cue red face, and embarrassed look, from me. Lacey could care less.

When I was a kid, I think my Ma used to tidy our rooms for us. I remember her getting cranky and we’d all have to spend hours cleaning. I hated it. It was even worse when our house was for sale and the Real Estate would call with someone to view it. You’ve never seen a whole family jam things in cupboards faster.

With Lacey, I’m finding it impossible to get her to clean up after herself. Have I failed motherhood? Where was that in the parenting books I read?

On day 1 of the school holidays we battled. I explained to her that each day her room had to be tidied. That it made sense to play with one thing, pack it up, and then find another to play with. In one ear, out the other.

On day 2 I held her hand, whilst wearing my crankiest of pants, and said that she wasn’t going to much enjoy school holidays if she didn’t pack everything up that she played with. I made her pick up every single thing whilst holding her hand and put it away.

On day 3, I surrendered. While she was playing outside I cleaned it for her. I just couldn’t fathom another bedroom battle.

On day 4, Hubby stepped in. Hubby, in all his policing wisdom, took video evidence. “So, Lacey…” he questioned, iPhone in one hand recording, “what do you do when you make a mess?”

“I clean it up,” she replied, all doe-eyed and innocent-faced.

“So anything you play with today, you’re going to pack it up?”

“Yes,” she nodded.

“Alright,” he said, clicking the red button to stop, “I’ve got it on video now. We have evidence. You said you would, so you will.”

Yeah, right.

On day 5, I asked for help.

But first, I bribed her. “If you don’t clean your room we won’t go to the pool this afternoon.”

“I didn’t want to go to the pool anyway…” she sassed back.

Apart from giving her an attitude adjustment, which she clearly needs, how do I make her clean up after herself? It’s such a daily, exhausting battle. I’ve taken toys away. I’ve helped her. I’ve tried rewards.

Is there an easy way? Help me! Do you have the same problem at your house?

P.S. In happy/cute news, Luella rolled for the first time last night. She was so proud. So cute!

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  • Laura

    zero comments 😀 because nobody knows 😀 We have the same problem 🙂

  • Amanda Attard

    You may not like this comment but there is no easy way, especially for someone with sass!
    I have a 22 year old and a 20 year old – their idea of cleaning is definitely not the same as mine. To be honest I think it’s a battle not worth fighting, although it’s hard not to battle when the house looks like a battlefield. Good luck with the holidays xx

  • Natjenko

    Toy ransom! Once you’ve asked your kids to pick up toys they’ve taken out, if they don’t follow through, you put the toy in your own “ransom box.” The box has a collection of chores to choose from that kids can perform in order to get their toy back.

  • Katrina Ellbourn

    Haha I like Laura’s comment 😛 but yes my sassy 4yo is the same. I usually let it go but make her pick it up before meals and bed. If she is particularly argumentative, I offer to do it with her. Easier to lessen the battle IMO! Her usual excuse is it’s “too hard.” The threat of not getting lunch until it’s clean mostly wins out. Good luck!

  • spark

    I’m not a tidy person but I know what you mean about the mess that comes with children and it does my head in!!! Part of me wants to tell everyone “no presents” because I just don’t want more toy clutter. I don’t have experience with the 5 year old set but I’m pretty much the expert on sass due to my almost 3 year old (and by expert, I mean experience rather than skill set on getting them to do anything). My method of getting her to help clean up is to keep it short and sharp (unlike this comment), to help her and have low expectations. I don’t expect we will be able to pick up all the toys but at least some of them. I put on some fun music at full volume (we’re using an 80s mix) and put it on for 3 mins and dance and pick up all the toys at the same time. She loves it so much she keeps asking to do it again and again. I make it a competitive game as well. “I’m going to pick up more toys than you…I’m going to brush my teeth before you” etc I’m starting to find that sometimes I don’t have to use any tricks and just tell her and she is starting to do them as she is used to doing it. Good luck!

  • Go Luella! No advice for Lacey I’m afraid – I’m yet to reach that age with my little one.

  • The 6.5yo now tidies quite well (with persuasion), the 5yo has a meltdown at the smallest suggestion of picking up toys, 1 3yo continues on playing without a care in the world and the other 3yo is happy to help about 70% of the time. Time helped with the 6.5yo, no strategies that work on the rest other than getting in there and doing it myself, 2 out of 3 generally pitch in then. But to get to that point I have to get over my own “but I didn’t make the mess” tidy tantrum…

  • Samantha

    I’m bad myself. In fact my son is better at picking things up than me. He is 20 months old.

  • Melanie

    Sorry, no suggestions, I have 3 aged 5,4 and 19 months tearing my house apart daily. If I don’t get to it in between cooking, cleaning and giving them some type of quality time then it just waits till the next day. I do act “cross” it if there’s toys all over the lounge room at bedtime prayers though, so they work as a team and hubby and I count to 20 or so and they hurriedly pack up the toys into the toybox.

  • Felicity

    I created a “toy library” in a unused cupboard. The kids had to check out toys to play with them and could only borrow one set/container at a time. they then had to return the full set to borrow again. It works! I also had a rule that all toys had to be returned by 6pm the day they were “borrowed” to ensure the house was tidy each night. It helps to have a list of toys inside the cupboard so you know exactly what should be in there. Good Luck!!

  • Lisa Mckenzie

    Welcome to the world of girls i found my daughter much harder to get her to do anything i wanted to than my son ,she was sassy stubborn and still is but she has a clean house now it her own!

  • kate bottrell

    We have had the same struggle this week!! I am happy to report the playroom and bedroom are spotless!! And my 2 boys have really toed the line – for 2 whole days now! Lets see how long it lasts! HA!
    Whatever doesn’t get picked up goes into a box or garbage bag and stored in the garage until they earn them back. This happens ALL.THE.TIME tho so I figure its not so much a solution but an excruciating punishment {for me cos they carry on like I am murdering them!}


    My husband brought the Wheelie Bin right into the house to the kids bedroom door once. That caused a completed frenzy of cleaning and panic. It worked a couple of times, but I refused to wheel it in every single day. I feel your pain, my five youngest think the whole house is their playground. Would you believe The Teenager is the tidiest? My mum had a box and at the end of the day she would collect everything that wasn’t in it’s home (including my Dad’s stuff!) and if we wanted it we had to hunt through the box and put it away. At the moment messy kids are my life. If you find the cure to this ailment, please let me know.

  • Emma

    I’m not a parent so no idea how hard it must be, but this seems like one way!!

  • Bec

    My sister is a clean freak and as a result my nephew is too. He plays with a toy, puts it away and then plays with another. It is scary to watch. My kids are like hurricanes. Nothing works. A friend pays her kids to do jobs. Money talks she tells me. Mine lasted a day then the money stopped talking. Good luck!

    • I was talking to my little sister, who is a neat freak too. We decided that her daughter will probably take after her {like your nephew!}, and mine are destined to be messy.

      Apple from the tree… or something like that. 😛

  • Steff

    I tell my 3yo that any toys still left out after 60 (seconds) will go in the bin. Anything left then goes in a black bag (unless she’s made a real effort.) We then “put them out” for the bin men and she has to tidy up every day until next bin day so the bin men give them back. Sounds extreme butive only had to get the black bags out twice!

  • I was always a tidy kid, but my sister was the total opposite. We shared a room and I hated it. My Mom would tell her to clean up before she could go outside to play with her friends, but she would just sit in her messy room by herself all day. Finally my Mom snapped. She picked up everything on the floor and threw it in a garbage bag in the attic. My sister had to keep her room clean for a week before she would get the bag back. Sometimes it worked, other times it didn’t. When it didn’t work, my mom would just keep bagging everything up. At one point she didn’t have any toys in her room. As a kid, I thought it was pretty extreme, but it sure worked!!

    • I like this. We just got an attic put in the other week. It can be the new toy room. 🙂

      • D. Bell

        The other option is that toys must be played with in a designated area…If you have room for a toy room or play room this could also be a solution. That way when guest arrive they either skip the offending area or they know that this is a hazard zone and are prepared for the worst. LOL

  • Bee

    I think you just learn to get better at ignoring the mess. Layla and Jesse always have messy rooms ( especially Layla)… It’s embarrassing but I refuse to clean it in a daily basis for them. I cave about once a month and do it but the rest of the time it can stay messy, just close the door and walk away…

    • I probably do.

      We have people popping in all the time, and Shane has a kind habit of always giving them a tour of the house. I die when her room is messy.

      To be honest though, my office is always worse.

      Never-ending battle.

  • Liz Paganoni

    Do you know my daughter?! This sounds exactly like her & I & our battles of will!!

  • D. Bell

    A battle in every home on every continent. It might seem extreme but the parents that I know who have had success with this issue have all said that it requires tough love. Threaten to pack up and give away all of the toys left out then actually follow through. They will cry like it is the end of the world, but they learn to respect their belongings. Part of the lesson is that we must learn to be grateful for what we have. When we don’t care for our belongings it says that you are taking your good fortune for granted. Some parents have gone as far as taking the offending child to a shelter to volunteer so they can see for themselves that others do not have as much and would be grateful for what they have. Have you had a conversation about why it is important to tidy up? Be consistent and stand your ground, mum!

  • Lisalea

    Find a cockroach, small rodent, ants , hell even a Christmas beetle if your desperate. I used to hound my 10 year old son to tidy his room time and again . I eventually lost the will to fight and used to just do it myself. That was until one day he was laying on his bed reading and a massive cockroach crawled across his leg and then under the bed. He came out screeching . ” Well, what do you expect ? Your room is a pigstye. Cockroaches love messy dirty rooms “……
    After we found the cockroach and threw it outside he tidied his room from corner to corner and even asked for the vacuum.
    He still does it every Sunday morning.
    Or if that is too hardcore, try the “clean up song” on YouTube. There are a few different ones. I run a family daycare and I use the cleanup song everyday. They love it.

  • Rowen Spall

    My mum used to threaten that she’d throw our toys away, when she went and got a black sack that used to get us cleaning

  • Karen M. Andersen

    A rewards chart Chantelle! My daughter is 10 and her room was disgraceful, constantly…and I mean disgraceful! As in pencil shavings and tiny bits of paper on the floor everywhere, I found dirty knickers under her bed…yeah, pretty woeful. I tried the spending hours in her room with her each school holidays making her clean it and re-organize it thing. This last school holidays, I’d got so fed up that I was ready to run away lol! We worked out a rewards chart. Each night if her room is tidy, she gets a tick on her chart. If she keeps it tidy every night for two weeks, then she gets a reward (she loves those rainbow loom bracelets and makes them with her BFF, so we got her a loom and some bands to make her own at home). If she can make it to one month with her room tidy every night, then she gets a big reward…a new desk chair. She has been wanting one for a year. After the first month, we will start giving her pocket money instead of rewards if her room is tidy and she does her chores every day ($5 a week). And guess what? We are half way through week 3 now, and every night her room is tidy. She has been doing it without me even asking, even making her bed every morning before school. I am so darn proud of her!!! I tell her so every day and give her a big cuddle 🙂 Maybe you could try something similar with your daughter, but use a shorter time-frame as she is younger??? Just an idea 🙂 Hope it helps you in some way.

    Karen xx