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advice needed, messy children

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Hi there, I need some advice, and a bit of moral support. I've got three kids who are basically good, I know this as their school reports say so. Trouble is, the eldest two, who are only 5 and 6, seem to think the best days fun is completely trashing the house. I work 6 days every other week, so every other week I'm doing a 54 hour week plus travelling, and the hours are pretty awful - I finish at 2am then have to get up at 6.45 for the school run. Every day I work there's always tea for the children when they get in, I've tidied up, and there's normally tea for OH, who works Monday to Friday 8-4 and sometimes Saturdays. I leave the house at 4.15 leaving the kids with my mum, OH gets back about 5.30, by the time I get up in the morning having had about 3 1/2 hours sleep the house is a disaster. I know it's probably not all that important, but I really hate mess, and the more tired I get the less I can stand it. I don't expect them to be models of behaviour all the time, and I don't expect them to tidy up like I do, but when I've put their stuff away for the umpteenth day running it would be nice to be able to walk across their room without standing on toys, books, clothes. Cos there's the other thing, I can barely keep up with the HUGE amount of laundry we have, yet they get changed a dozen times a day and whilst the stuff isn't dirty when they take it off, it's all screwed up in a heap on the floor having been walked on.

I'm sorry to go on, I'm having a really down day. Every school morning I end up yelling and shouting at them to get ready - you'd think they'd just do it, it's not an unusual routine, get up have breakfast, get washed, get dressed, walk to school. I't s been the same for 3 years now, but I'm still having to shout and it's just so wearing and tiring. I finished late last night so didn't get to bed til just before 3am, we have to leave for school at 08.30 and at 8.35 I was still shouting at them to brush hair, get shoes and socks on get coats on.

I just reached the end of my tether this morning. It shouldn't be so important to me to have a tidy house, I guess it's one of the few things I have control over and if the house is clean and tidy it gives me a sense of calm in my otherwise chaotic and very busy life. How do the rest of you all do it? I read about people making their own christmas wrapping paper, doing all these craft things, going to concerts, I barely have time to blow my nose. By the time I've finished getting everyone to bed (when I'm not at work) and have done our dinner and cleared that away it's 9 o clock and I'm just about ready for bed.


SOrry, just having a wallow in self pity, feel a bit better already. Have got a full fat coffee now, too tired for decaf, and at least the sun is shining. Only two more shifts to go, might even pull a sicky, but then I'd be faced with an evening battling to get them all to bed! Surely a mothers life isn't ALL a big battle? There must be more to life than this?


Mrs B (very full of self pity when she should be grateful for her 3 healthy kids and the roof over her head)

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Glad you are feeling a little bit better.


Have read this very quickly but 2 suggestions immediately came to mind


1.OH to get his own tea sorted out.


2.Is there one room that the children can do their thing in and that you can close the door on? Failing that designate one area the grown-ups area and no kids stuff allowed.


We have one big room and Layla is constantly making things so we have scissors, sellotape and paper all over the place (but we only have one child and its a big room so we cope). Every week we have to have a big tidy up but in the meantime we fight a a losing battle to get her to put her things away on her designated shelves.


And I don't have any solutions for the 'get dressed', 'go and do your teeth' 'shoes on NOW' battle as I go through it every morning too - but again I only have one, would not be able to cope with 3.


Here - have a chocolate biscuit to go with that coffee!

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It will get better as they get older, I promise.


I'm not too good at it, but try to remember to ask for things to be put away before tea etc and definitely before going to bed. It needs to be part of the routine.


I have a friend with 4 children, 10, 9, 6 and 1. They are amazing! The 10yo makes all the packed lunches every day - and organises everyone. The 9 yo is responsible for the dishwasher - all day, both loading and unloading. He is quite offended if anyone else touches it. the 6yo sets the table for meals and clears it all away. I think it was hard work initially but now it's just what they do. I have known them for 5 years and this isn't new! They all start very young.


So Mrs B, your children need to keep the house tidy as part of the household routine. They are young enough to enjoy the responsibility and to be dazzled by some sort of reward. Dish out the jobs! And talk logic! There are 5 people in the house - why does only one person have to keep it tidy? That just doesn't make sense.


Good luck! - and don't feel bad, this is very good upbringing and I wish I had done it better!

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Another thought: remember that you set the tone. If you are frazzled and shouting all the time, then your children will be similar. I don't know how you manage to be honest, but try to keep clam and placid. Smile and show how pleased you are when someone is ready on time. My 9 yo has always responded well to races, so maybe 'who will be first in the kitchen with clean teeth, brushed hair and shiny shoes?' Maybe that person gets to sit in the front seat - or some other reward?


Firstly though, maintain a happy and calm atmosphere. It'll work wonders!

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Ooh oooh rewards.


Layla has a jar and some lego. She has a list of jobs she can earn a piece of lego for - eg washing up, tidying her stuff away, helping clean out the chickens etc.


When she gets 20 pieces of lego in the jar she gets a treat (we negotiated on this and at the moment its £2 extra pocket money). Sounds a lot but it takes at least a couple of weeks to get to 20.


This is part of an overall money does not grow on trees, you have to earn it theme we have going on but it does act as an incentive to help out. Layla currently gets £2 a week pocket money but we have told her that will never go up unless she starts taking on specific jobs to do every week,


The jar thing started at school with a marble jar - the class gets a treat when the jar is full (usually a visit to the park) but sometimes marbles get taken out for bad behaviour (its a bit of a crazy class). Layla asked if she could do it at home so she does have a stake in it.


Maybe you could try something similar - the two older ones might start getting competitive and do lots to help! It works best if you have specific jobs so there is no negotiating extra pieces of lego/marbles/pasta.

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I had problems with mine bing un co-operative about tidying up when they were little.


I think one of the problems is that they just have too much stuff. :? Our own fault for wanting to give them the stuff that our parents couldn't afford for us....we think it will make them happier...it doesn't.


I followed a friends advice. She told her children that anything still not tidied away in 20 minutes would be put in a bin bag and taken to the charity shop where someone whose children would appreciate the things would be able to buy them.


Of course....they call your bluff....but you have to carry out your threat. You will only have to do it a couple of times for them to get the message.


Good luck.

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thanks everyone, I've just done the "if it's not tidied by the time I've hoovered downstairs I'm coming up with a bin bag" thing and they are now in panic mode, hopefully tidying and not just stuffing it under their beds. It's now always this bad and sometimes I'm like a duck, serene on the surface, paddling like hell underneath, and you're right, they do feed off however I am. Still, off to buy bedding and corn later, a good cleaning out the cube session will fix me up, suns shining which is WAY better than yesterday, it's cold and bright, just how I like this time of year. They have got WAAAAAAY too much stuff, the problems of an adult sister-in-law who lives with parents and has an entirely disposable income!

But Tina C, the chocolate biscuit was lovely thanks!


Mrs Bertie

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I think being a parent is one of the trickiest jobs in the world, and other people always seem to have it sussed and I never do if that's any help :?


I can remember locking myself in the downstairs loo once just to have a cup of tea by myself :oops:


Rewards can work, but it has to be an achievable goal, when my oldest was constantly getting out of bed at night a friend offered to let him sleepover if he stayed in bed for ten nights :D was a brilliant offer, but the reward didn't happen for reasons beyond her control, and my son then felt that reward based chores weren't worth doing :( still doesn't and is 15 now :roll:


Tidy up races, getting dressed before breakfast (but there is a risk of spillage on uniform :? ) treats like staying up 10 minutes longer, or

choosing a dvd to watch at the weekend might do it :?


Share out chores and a sticker chart could be worth a try?


However you do it, remember there are lots of us out there also doing the swan on the surface paddling like hell underneath :)


karen x

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Mrs B my heartfelt sympathies. The first thing that strikes me is how sleep-deprived you must be, and if your kids are that young you probably havent caught up your 'baby sleep' yet (!) that will probably put you in a frame of mind where it is very hard to make light of things and laugh off the mess.


The hours you work make it difficult for you to spend any quality time with your family and the fact you work them makes you feel guilty- Crikey!

As for the mess, remove half the toys and clothes from the kids and halve the chaos, I used to do this regularly when mine were small and they rarely missed anything that was put away. Just flick clean but trampled clothes into a bin/box in their rooms for re-wear, if they want to look creased it wont kill them and if their friends take the mickey they'll stop doing it!

Chin up love, if it were me I would have been carted off by the boys in white long ago............. (((((((Mrs B))))))))))

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You have my sympathies! I work full-time with a 4 hour round-trip commute, and have a 5 and 3 year old who are messy beyond belief. My biggest problem was getting the 5 year old to get dressed quickly and out of the house in the mornings for school. I bought a couple of cheap, round, brightly coloured bath mats and that's their area for getting dressed. It keeps them focused and provides some entertainment as they race each other to get ready.


With regards to their toys - I have reward/sticker charts and they get a sticker once they have tidied their toys, brushed their teeth and got ready for bed at the end of the day. Doesn't always work, but the element of competition is good. Once they reach the top of the chart they get a small reward, like swimming or a trip to the park.


If that doesn't work, I get the bin-bag out and they lose the toys that they've left out (for a week or two)


Hope that helps, it's not fail-proof but it might give you some ideas. Also, again far easier said than done - try and get some time for just yourself, you'll lose your marbles if you don't once in a while!


Good luck :D

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Wow, Mrs B, just caught up with this! I'm sat here trying to decide what job to tackle first - lounge floor is covered with trains, they got told off last night for pulling all the cushions off the settee and jumping all over it. Their bedroom has books all over the floor and the playroom (they share a bedroom so they can have a playroom) has had the boxes of train track and duplo tipped all over the floor. Some brilliant advice here - I try to do some of these things, and I do have an advantage as I only work one day a week, but also do some work from home. The rest of the time I just try to make sure that the kitchen and bathrooms are clean and the laundry done (I fold it up and put it back in the drawers if I think it will wear again). The rest just gets abandonned until we are all together, then I try to get Dad to help them tidy a room at a time. It's never ending isn't it, and sometimes it drives me barmy, but I refuse to be a slave to housework.


I like the idea of getting them to help - mine do have some small jobs, setting the table for tea, not much, but a start. I definitely need to work on this one! And who said they grow out of it?? :? I'm afraid my 16 year old makes just as much mess as his little brothers (but I NEVER clean his up!). Hm, think I might start a lego jar - I have a big box of lego that they don't know about, I might use that, then when the jar is full, they get the lego to play with and start to earn more! :think: Anyway, you are not alone! Come on here and have a rant when it gets on top of you. 8)

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Mrs B I'm glad that you are feeling a bit better after posting on here. I have 2 boys aged 10 & 3 (nearly 11 &4). If I had a penny for every time I have said in the morning "have you brushed your teeth, brushed your hair "etc.....I would not need to work the 2 days/week I do :lol:

My husband is a very tidy person, & he had made me (over 14 years) come around to his way of doing things. Has your OH been used to an untidy home when he lived with his parents? It sounds like you have a very hard routine with your work, & your OH must find it hard as you are ships passing in the night- that must be a strain on both of you.

I agree with Rhapsody that you will not have got over your sleep deprivation with having such little people in the house, & The idea of halving their toys sounds a good one to me- I think I'll have a go at that one :wink:

All I can say is that I am glad no one on this forum (or anyone who I know) gets to see me in the morning when I have got my bawling head on trying to chivvy children along. Personally i think it is easier to go to work than look after children, as pareting is a 24/7 job.

Yuo sound like you are managing to cope with your situation well, but perhaps could do with a break- hence the need for a "sickie" (not that I'm suggesting you do so). When is your next holiday from work?

Is there any chance that you & OH could go away somewhere simple for just one night without your children? (I know, easier said than done, Ethan is nearly 4 and we haven't managed it yet). Does your mum live nearby?

Try some of the reward suggestions, they may help, & I totally understand about you needing to live in a tidy if not prestime house.

Hugs x

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Just want to add - A big thank you to all of you who suggested a 'lego' jar! I discovered a forgotten bowl of glass beads on top of the fridge (hidden because Matthew was eating them :roll: ). Each child now has his own jar and when it is full of beads, they get a treat. I sat them both down and carefully explained the system to them. So far they have: changed out of school uniform and put away; tidied toys off the lounge floor; taken dirty plates into the kitchen for me; stopped whinging for sweets when asked :shock:


So far so good! :dance:


(can anyone tell me how to stop OH winding them up and taking the mickey though? Short of giving HIM a marble jar! :evil::roll: ) :wink:

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Just read this thread but can't really add anything except sympathy :) .


One tip I heard on some kiddie training programme or other was to have lots of large toy boxes or baskets and then let them race to see who can put their toys/books/etc away fastest. Don't know if it works though :? .


I think the best idea though is to halve their toys. When you bring the hidden lot out, it'll seem like Christmas again for them! My boys (15 and 13) still get excited when they come across toys in the attic they played with years (and years) ago.

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Snowey I wish I could offer advice but I need it myself.

My lot seem to know that races are for my benefit and can never be bothered to try and win points.



ps snowey I keep finding similarities, I have a Matthew too


:lol::lol: I know, scary isn't it! I think we are forum twins! 8)

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Mrs Bertie,


My sympathies - I have two boys aged nearly 4 and 5 and a half and I struggle to keep up with their mess, the laundry and the housework and I _don't_ go out to work. We also have those frantic 'get dressed' moments at school time and I usually resort to doing it all for them - not ideal but it gets it done.


I don't have any magic solutions, just wanted to offer some sympathy!



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Snowy, just smack him over the head with the jar - he'll soon stop.


Rosie likes cuttign and sticking, and the living room floor and the dining table are often covered in her projects and mess... she has inherited her fathers inability to tidy up after herself and get ready in the morning :roll:


For mornings, we have atime table, which we drew up together and she is supposed to follow to the letter and be ready to go tto school at 8.30am. Rosie knows that if she's not ready, then she will go to school as she is - last week, there were two days when she went only just dressed, unwashed and with dirty teeth - it's her lookout!


I reckon that if I can manage to do everything in the same amount of time, then she can show some respect and get herself ready too.


Doesn't always work though


you have my sympathies.

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I dont have children, but I can suggest what my mum used to do with me and my brother when we were little sproggles.


threaten with the tidying up - if it isnt tidied up by X then Mum will tidy it up (this consisted of mum putting everything in the middle of my bedroom floor - and I mean EVERYTHING)


we also had a choice, either washing up OR drying up, or Vacuuming OR dusting, not a choice of if it was done or not, we were going to do it, which one was our choice?


what about an alarm clock, if you can beat the clock then you get a lego block (or something)?


just a suggestion


hope it helps




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With my children, they know that everything has to be tidied away before teatime, or else I tidy it, into a bin bag for the charity shop. And I follow through with the threat - it took exactly one day for that to work with my (then) 2 year old and 4 year old sons, and it still works to this day. if they fancy playing up about tidying things away, then I get the binbags out, and the toys are soon in the toy boxes.

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How did today go, Mrs Bertie?


My two (4 and 6) are real slugs in the morning and no matter how many times I tell them to get ready, they always mooch along at their own Slow pace, doing everything except getting ready for school. Which often leads to a screaming match at 8.30!!


Last week I forwarded the clocks 15mins, and as usual they weren't ready when the clock showed 8.30am. So I told them they were going to school as they were and put their coats over their PJs, opened the front door and set off down the driveway!! I've never seen them move so fast in all their lives, they were absolutely terror-striken !!! They raced upstairs and where dressed and ready within 2mins.


Since then I only have to mention the fact that they will have to go to school in their pyjamas and it ensures that they get ready in time.


I still haven't cracked getting them to tidy-up. I think I'm going to try and use the jar filled with lego or marbles idea.


Good Luck.

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