The daily chore of a neatly made bed

You wonder why something that requires as little physical effort as lifting, shaking and smoothing out a duvet cover would warrant as much nagging effort on your part every morning. Yet each day you play out the same tired old scenario. You walk past your child’s bedroom while he or she is downstairs eating breakfast to see the bed covers rumpled from the night before and pajamas on the floor. You know that it would be so easy to tidy up, to restore order in only a few minutes, but you resist the temptation, remembering what you know about doing for your child what he or she is quite capable of doing. So, instead you shout down a reminder – “Before you leave for school, please remember to make your bed!”

But this has nothing to do with remembering. This has to do with priorities and your child’s priorities, when it comes to order and bed making, are likely entirely different to yours. “And what’s the big deal about having to make my bed anyway?” she might ask. Might say that she prefers the comfy look of a bed that has just been climbed out of. Might say that she doesn’t see the point of making it when she’s only going to get back into it later that day. So, who really owns this problem and is it worth fighting over?

Most parents say, “Yes.” Some say that it is the only daily chore they ask of their children – that they see an unmade bed as a sign of being lazy, disrespectful, uncaring, and slovenly. Some might say that unmade beds make them feel that the whole house is in a state of chaos. A nicely made bed reminds them of the sanctity of a hotel room – with crisp, white linens and blankets tucked in at the corners. Neat, organized, clean – just the way most parents like it.

Most kids, however, are legitimately perplexed by this. They can’t see the relationship between an unmade bed and disrespect. May point out that they are not lazy in every other part of their day and that they really do care. They just cannot understand why you’re getting so worked up about an unmade bed.

So, what choice do you have? Well, you could continue to keep reminding your child about something he or she already knows all too well. You could refuse to give your child a ride to school until the bed is made. You could deduct a dollar from her allowance every day that she doesn’t respond to your request. You could share why the sight of her unmade bed distresses you so and hope that empathy for your plight will override her desire not to make her bed. Or, you could just close his or her door, make sure that the rest of the house is in the order you’d prefer, and accept that this is one issue most children and adults just don’t agree upon. My choice most recently has been to close the door. I’ve come to realize that yelling downstairs about an unmade bed is not what I’m going to waste any more of my precious breath on.

Sara Dimerman is registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario and provides counselling to individuals, couples and families. She is the author of two parenting books, ‘Am I A Normal Parent?’ and ‘Character Is the Key’ and is one of North America’s leading parenting experts. Listen to advice from Sara and her colleagues by searching ‘helpmesara’ on iTunes. Find out more at www.helpmesara.com.

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