Q: What should I do when my 8-year-old daughter refuses to clean up her room?
A: Pause for two heartbeats, and then calmly instruct her to do a smaller task than you'd initially asked for - to tidy up her art supplies, for example, rather than the entire room - and tell her you'll help. Say: "I need these crayons picked up. I'll hold the box." Often, children refuse to comply because they've been "sent away" or given too large a task, experts say.
Be sure to give an instruction, not a request. "We think that saying 'Shall we clean up?' is polite, but it's actually being wishy-washy," says Payne. And don't negotiate. If you find yourself saying "if" and "then" in the same sentence - such as "If you clean this up, then you can have a Popsicle" - rephrase, because you're essentially giving your daughter the option not to do it at all.
When dealing with a particularly stubborn child, consider trying a points chart, suggests Yale's Kazdin, who is also the author of The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child. Offer your daughter one point for cleaning up a certain part of the room or certain toys. "She can earn five points a day, and a certain number of points earns her a small reward," Kazdin explains.
He adds that rewards alone don't prompt children to change their behavior, but they do remind parents to offer praise for compliance - and praise makes a huge difference.