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Creativity needed to get kids to clean room

How clean is your house?

That’s a scary question to ask someone, even a good friend, during a casual conversation.

“How’s your day?” and “What do you think about the weather?” These are valid conversation topics. But talk about what lies behind someone’s closed doors and inside their closets and you just may be overstepping the bounds. It’s OK to talk about what goes on behind those closed doors, but not what lies behind those doors.

While channel surfing the other day, I came across a new British show on Lifetime TV that just happens to be called “How Clean is Your House?” Actually, my daughter, Laura, discovered this show before me, when it first came out last month. So Laura had our one and only TV on this program, which is nothing like your typical “Extreme Makeover” and “Trading Spaces” shows. I just had to sit down and watch with amusement, well, more like horror.

This show gets down to the nitty gritty. I’m talking dusting, vacuuming, cleaning out the refrigerator, scrubbing the toilet and other serious kinds of cleaning. It’s the ultimate Fear Factor.

As you would imagine, the folks in the featured homes are total slobs who do more than leave their beds unmade and throw dirty laundry on the floor. The main characters are more detestable than the annoying Snoopy Sniffer. Remember this commercial character from decades past?

This show brought back horrid flashbacks of my childhood. I shared a bedroom with my sisters, Becky and Julie, and our bedroom could have easily outdirtied these homes. I’m talking chocolate syrup experiments, spilled nail polish, puzzle pieces glued to the carpet, Lite Brite bulbs and jacks poking at your feet, making it nearly impossible to walk in the room. One time our room was so messy our neighborhood friends pitched in to help us clean it.

As for my mom, getting us to clean our bedroom was a hard task. She had to get creative. We always got excited when Grandpa Chico and Grandpa Chaya came to visit from Lubbock, so one Saturday Mom got this clever idea. She told us that not only were grandpa and grandma coming, but they were also bringing our cousins, Rosa and Mario. We immediately started cleaning our room.

After that we waited and waited. No Rosa and Mario. This happened a few more times. After about the third let down, we finally figured it out, so Mom and Dad had to try something new.

The new scenario went something like this:

Mom: “Go clean your room!”

Us: “Why? Is someone coming over?”

Dad: “No (sound of belt popping in hand) because I said so!”

That usually did the trick.

Fortunately, my daughter Laura’s room has never been that messy. Knock on wood. She’s not a normal teenager. She was born with this disorder, Compulsive Clean Freak Kid Syndrome. Some of the rare side-effects of this condition include watching hours of HGTV’s “Divine Design” and “Mission Organization.”

Anyway, Laura keeps her room clean for the most part. Once in awhile, I have to get after her to throw her trash or hang her clothes. On one rare occasion, however, Laura was procrastinating about cleaning her room, and then we got a last-minute call from one of her friends’ moms. Her friend, Julie, was having trouble with math, so Julie’s mom asked if she could run Julie over so Laura could help her. This was when we lived in Abilene, Texas. No sooner had I told Laura this, and she was rushing to her room picking up things as fast as she could.

So parents, if you’re having trouble getting your kid to clean their room, I recommend you try this tactic. Tell them one of their good friends, someone they really want to impress, is coming over. The old “Grandma and Grandpa are coming” trick is outdated. I recommend you try a more aggressive approach. Tell them Hillary Duff or Usher are coming to dinner.

The last thing you want to do, however, is tell them something in advance like “My boss is coming to dinner,” especially if this is true. This only gives those evil, conniving creatures, I mean your precious young, thriving teenagers, time to perfect those annoying little things you’ve patiently asked them not to do at the dinner table, like burping their ABCs or seeing how many times each finger will pop.

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: [email protected]