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Tidiness and cleanliness: help a child to develop useful skills

22.05.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

“My child is a piggy-wiggy. My son is 12 years old already, but he still does not know how to look after himself. As soon as he puts on a new piece of clothes, a stain or a hole immediately appears. His room is always a mess – textbooks, crumpled clothes, some garbage scattered everywhere. He doesn’t care about studying – the sheets of his notebooks are all bent or without a cover. I even put a trash can in my son’s room, but it didn’t help. He sometimes asks whether he can invite friends home. I say it’s just unseemly to bring friends into such a mess. He understands but still does nothing.  It is not just the mess, but his hygiene is also far from perfect — I constantly have to remind him about elementary things such as the need to wash and comb. I am ashamed of my son; I don’t know how to teach the boy to be neat. I tried talking to him, scolding and punishing him — everything was useless. ”

– Elena, mother of 12-year-old Sasha

The useful habits to brush their teeth in the morning and watch their appearance in adults are automatic. A small child still has to learn all this. Accuracy and neatness are not the “built-in options” that a baby should have by default. These skills need to be trained because they will be very useful to him/her in adulthood. In the article, we will talk about how to accustom a child to accuracy and tidiness.


Why is it important for a child to be neat?

how to teach a child to be accurate

As a personal quality, tidiness is the ability to always look well-groomed, to keep order in the workplace, to keep personal belongings and personal space clean. This can include hygiene, cleaning and care for clothes. [1]

The habit of looking after oneself, formed in childhood, does not allow to manifest in the future such qualities as:

  • fecklessness; 
  • unreliability;
  • unpunctuality; and
  • carelessness.

Many slovenly children grow up alone since their untidiness and uncleanness cause negative emotions in peers. This is especially evident in adolescence. Bad breath, dirty clothes and ungroomed appearance can lead to bullying at school. Usually, a sloppy child has lower grades at school. It is difficult for him/her to concentrate on doing homework when the workspace is improperly organized. The kid, constantly in the chaos of things scattered around the room, could certainly forget to take the necessary notebooks and textbooks to classes. [2]

Personal hygiene, being the main feature of neat appearance, will allow to avoid a lot of health problems, such as:

  • skin diseases (acne in adolescence, dermatitis);
  • dental and gum diseases;
  • diseases of the genitourinary system; and
  • intestinal disorders.

We will help to cultivate useful skills in your child

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Sloppy Child: Reasons

Not all young and middle-aged children share and understand parents’ concerns about cleanliness and tidiness. According to the American psychologist A. Fromm, there are several reasons for this:

  • Children are much less concerned about how they look in the eyes of others.
  • Dirt and untidiness do not repel children as adults. They are not used to treating these personal qualities as something bad yet.
  • For children, the rules of hygiene and neat appearance have not yet become a habit.
  • Compliance with many rules of hygiene by children is perceived as a boring.

The problem of sloppiness is relevant not only for 7-8 years old schoolchildren, who are still learning to be clean. Even in adolescence some children remain sloppy and completely unwilling to look after themselves. There are several reasons for this behavior:

  • overprotection of the child’s parents and the performance of all duties for him/her,
  • lack of a positive example of parents
  • the child’s laziness,
  • unformed daily routine,
  • inadequate sanitary conditions in the house,
  • depression,
  • loss of a significant other,
  • a characteristic personality trait, and
  • drug and alcohol abuse.

If sloppiness and non-observance of basic hygiene rules have already become a habit, you can invite the child to undergo the 7Spsy behavior modification program. Having mastered a new behavior model, the child will understand that accuracy and tidiness are useful qualities that help to communicate comfortably with others, properly organize their personal space and avoid numerous conflicts in the family. 

Neatness and tidiness are good habits.

good habit neatness

How to accustom the child to neatness? Personal hygiene and maintaining the order in the room are habits that need to be developed for several years. Screams, punishments, constantly picking after the child is not the way out of the situation. When accustoming a sloppy, untidy child to order, parents need to act in accordance with the stages of forming any useful habit:

1. Awareness of importance

The child should understand why he/she needs a habit of keeping clean and looking tidy. For an adult, theoretical justification will be enough, but indisputable evidence is important for children. If your child does not want to brush his teeth in the morning, you can tell him/her about how easily tooth decay occurs, and that then he/she will have to treat the teeth at the dentist.

2. Planning

Cultivating of any habit introduces adjustments to everyday life. It will be useful to make a clear schedule so that the child has enough time not only to study but also to clean the room.

3. Right attitude

Positive attitude and self-belief will allow the child to make his/her dreams come true. Parents will also have to participate – to remind the child, to explain, to encourage and to praise them. Cleaning the room and keeping personal belongings clean should not be a punishment for the child.

4. Implementation

After realizing the importance of habit and competent planning of the day, having charged with positive emotions, you can begin to implement the plan. The child must perform the tasks set before him/her with a specified frequency.

How to teach children of different ages to be clean and tidy

You need to start forming a habit of being neat and tidy from early childhood. The following tips will help you:

Сhildren of 2-4 years old

2-3-year-old kids begin to actively “copy” the actions of adults. It is during this period that parents should seriously think about how to accustom a child to be neat and how to form his/her personal hygiene habits. You can start by teaching them to clean up the toys and stationery after playing and how to neatly pack their things. Parents’ task is to explain and show the right course of action. Tasks, especially ones difficult for the child, can be turned into an interesting game.

Сhildren of 5-8 years old

Ideally, children of preschool and elementary school age should already clean up their things and take care of personal hygiene. It is important to explain to the child that the order in the room will help to focus on homework, that it is more pleasant to be in the cleaned room, to invite guests inside.

How to accustom the child to neatness? You can enlist the child’s help to complete everyday tasks. But those tasks should be easy for him to perform. It should be easy for a child to keep their workplace, cabinets, and boxes for children’s toys, clothing, and school supplies neat and in order.

Сhildren of 9-14 years old

Early adolescence is characterized by the formation of a child’s self. Children often perceive parents’ desire to impress upon them better habits as an attempt to suppress their individuality. Perhaps, by making an “organized” mess in the room, the child tries to convey to the parents that “this is MY table, do not touch it!”

What to do if a child is still slovenly at the age of reason? It is important to stipulate the red lines without scandals and protracted conflicts. It is necessary to explain what is acceptable in the house and what is not. Personal hygiene, a covered bed, a neat appearance, the absence of a mess on the table should be mandatory to maintain. You can leave everything else at the child’s discretion.

How to help a child become neat and tidy in adolescence?

According to many psychologists, it is difficult to instill any habits in a child aged 10-15. At this age, the skills acquired in early childhood are being actively developed, and anything new may cause resentment. What if the “chronic” mess in the room and non-compliance with hygiene rules prevent a sloppy child from learning and establishing relationships with peers? It is important not to miss the time and help the child to become more disciplined.

Neatness and tidiness are habits that can be mastered while working with a behavior pattern. The 7Spsy behavior modification technique is geared towards this.

We will help to cultivate useful skills in your child

Make for consultation WATCH VIDEO

It is a patented, scientifically proven method based on behavioral psychology theories. The program is designed for 2-6 weeks. Thanks to independent training with psychologists, the child will change the pathological pattern of behavior, which prevents him/her from being tidy and neat. Positive attitudes will help the child to reconsider their attitude to tidiness and personal hygiene. He/she will understand that sloppiness only complicates life. The psychologist’s advice will help parents to accustom the child to tidiness without reproaches and severe punishments.

Long-distance lessons are one of the main advantages of the course. Work can be done at a convenient time, without leaving the house. Absolute confidentiality is guaranteed. The child and his parents receive the support and help of psychologists by phone and e-mail, as well as in online chats.


  1. «Doshkol’naya pedagogika», 2001 g., S. A. Kozlova.
  2. «Vozrastnaya psihologiya: uchebnik dlya vuzov», 2007 g., L. F. Obuhova.
  3. «Azbuka dlya roditelej. Kak dogovorit’sya s rebenkom v lyuboj situacii», 2017 g., A. Fromm.