Untidy children's bedrooms are usually a problem because most children and teens can live with mess and most adults can't. It's one of those universal laws!
Before leaping into action think the problem through. Truly question whether a neat and tidy bedroom really matters?
What priority, in the scheme of things, should a tidy bedroom take when you know your child is battling with other issues in their life?
Reduce the mess
If you know your child can't keep their toys and belongings in order, reduce the number of items in their bedroom. Either weed items out through negotiation or do it gradually over a period of weeks quietly removing and safely boxing them into storage. Then, after three months or so bring a few back in and box up another set of toys that aren't being used. The overriding principle is to stop the growth of mess by paring down the number of items in the bedroom. Go for a designer, streamlined minimalist look!
One way to reduce conflict over the bedroom tidy up is to chunk the instruction into smaller, easier pieces to tackle. Try saying:
Be a bedroom slave
One fun idea is the 'bedroom-slave strategy'. Once or twice a week, offer a three, four or five minute period where your child can take either parent into their bedroom and for every one thing the child picks up and puts away, their 'bedroom slave' has to pick up, put away or rearrange something requested! It's fun, but consolidates the art of putting away. Some children need this sort of prompting for a long time as a change in habit cannot become permanent in a month or two.
Resort to YOUR way
For children who habitually fail to clean up their mess and refuse to engage in negotiation, you may need to go a step further. One approach is for you to clean up their bedroom, or a part of it, with them at a time that is mildly inconvenient for them. You will of course ensure it takes much longer, is tackled far, far more thoroughly and is quite tedious. Very quickly your child will learn it is better to clean up adequately in their own way rather than doing it mum or dad's way.
Try the plastic garbage bag technique
Alternatively, the plastic garbage bag technique is an arrangement which keeps toys and belongings confined to where they should be. State that toys spread over their bedroom floor or throughout the house is to stop. Designate exactly where toys and belongings should go. Once they have finished playing with them, remind your child they have five minutes to return them to where they belong. If they have not been cleaned up in five minutes or have been dumped elsewhere then quietly, without complaint, place them safely in a garbage bag and take it to the shed in the backyard. When your child wants their belongings later they will need to retrieve them. This seems to be a calming process for parents as they have permission to clear the clutter immediately. It's also groundbreaking to discover how many toys and mementos children have that once out of sight they don't recall or want to use. Occasionally review and fine tune the rules. It may be helpful to resurrect a few toys from the garbage bag as a means to develop a new system or to restart the existing system.
Finally, watch how you speak to your child. "Go and clean up your bedroom. Right now!" is not the approach to get a successful result. Instead, employ the skills you use in situations outside the home to get what you want.
Television and electronic games in your children's bedrooms
Locating a television and having an array of electronic games and gadgets in a child's bedroom is a mighty mistake, unless your child:
If you have given in to your child's insistence to have a television, and an assortment of other electronic equipment in their bedroom, then spend a moment to examine why this has evolved and whether it's advantaging or disadvantaging them?
If the television is already in the bedroom why not consider relocating it to a shared space?
Then, rework the bedroom together so it's no longer a movie theatre or fun parlour, but is perhaps more conducive to tackling a little study or sleeping. This conveys a clear message about your values.
Few children are able to independently regulate their access to the internet, electronic games and the amount of television they watch. They rely on parents to monitor and limit this. The establishment of a daily television/computer games free time (about an hour) within the family routine is a popular idea. Sensibly setting and maintaining limits for our children is one of the greatest gifts we give to them.