My 5-Year-Old Will Never Pick Up After Herself, Unless I Stop Doing It

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If my little girl wants to leave toys all over her floor, I’m going to let her. If she wants to leave her blocks out for weeks, I’m going to let her. I might institute a, “No snacks in your bedroom,” rule. I don’t want bugs or gross smelly things under her bed. (I’m sorry, Mom. Those ice cream bowls pushed things too far.) But I’m going to let her see what it’s like to be in charge of her own space.

I’m going to let my kid have a messy room. And I’m going to let her experience the annoyance and frustration that goes with it. I’m going to let her lose things, and I’m not going to help her search them out. I’m going to let her step on a toy and break it, and we’re not going to buy a replacement. And I’m going to explain that she can’t have friends over to spend the night when they can’t walk on her floor or sleep on her top bunk covered in Barbie shoes and kitchen food.

My hope is that like I did as a teenager, my daughter will figure out that the mess just isn’t practical. She’ll see that while we might not find cleaning fun, it’s still a necessity. Either that or she’ll own her mess proudly. She’ll love that her space is covered in clutter. If that’s her true nature, why would I want to find it for the next decade?

As a bit of a messy person, I understand that not everyone is meant to be neat and organized at all times. We’re not all made that way. And ordering that type of behavior onto my daughter just doesn’t seem productive. It wasn’t for me as a child. And it hasn’t worked out as a mother either. So I’m going to step back and let me little girl figure it out on her own, instead of setting us up for fight after fight on a topic that couldn’t be less important to me.

Do I want my daughter to be responsible for her things? Yes. And if she loses a couple of toys she cares about, I think she’ll learn that responsibility. I’ll continue to expect that she helps us keep our home neat and tidy. But I’m going to let her room be her space to control.

That might make me a horrible parent. I might be shirking my responsibility and stepping down from the important fight. But I feel like a little personal mess is just not the battle I want to choose. Parenting is an experiment. And my daughter’s bedroom is about to become our laboratory. Let’s hope it all works out for the best.

(Photo: holbox/Shutterstock)

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