Okay... So I registered at this site for answers to a basic question.

How dirty is too dirty?

I am a step mom to a 4 year old little girl. Me and my partner both have fairly busy schedules, me running a new business and my partner working long hours also. We still make time to come home every night and cook dinner together as a family, clean together, we have our shows we watch together then bedtime includes bath,story time and she gets a DVD to fall asleep to. As you can imagine this all leaves little time for deep cleaning on the house, therefore we have a maid that comes every two weeks to deep clean the whole house.

Okay so to get to my question. Our daughter's dad and us split time by the week for now until she starts school. Every Monday she goes to her Dad's or comes home to us. Well, every week it seems when she comes home from her Dad's I hear something about either fleas, bugs, her dad doesn't clean her room, all kinds of unfit things. I have also gone over to the home a few times and have never witnessed a clean living room which is the only room I have been in. Old cups covering the coffee table, I could write my name in the hardwood floors through the dirt, I saw 5 huge empty dog food bags piled on top of a very dirt dog kennel...wondering how many months its been since the trash was collected out of the house. My daughter never comes home smelling okay, her clothes are always stained and dirty, hair unbrushed, teeth unbrushed.

We have asked for the house to be cleaned up or else and nothing has changed.

So how dirty is too dirty? What would you do?

asked 19 Jul '10, 19:17

mommalanna's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

edited 20 Jul '10, 07:55

Rich%20Seller's gravatar image

Rich Seller

Well that does sound quite dirty.

However, it's important to keep focused on the actual effects of the uncleanliness. It's easy to think that it's simply bad thing to have a child in an unclean environment, but what looks dirty and awful from a normal western grownup person's view might not actually be so all that negative.

There are differences between types of uncleanliness. Leaving the child's teeth unbrushed (while not the worst offense ever) does have consequences on the child's dental health, especially when you consider that the child should think of it as a routine. Fleas and bugs does sound quite a bit alarming as well - although even here it's important to know the root reason why bugs are so attracted to the place. For example, as far as I know, a few spiders in corners shouldn't be that bad since that's just a sign of not cleaning them up, while something like cockroaches might tell a different tale.

But old coffee cups lying around, child's clothes being stained, having child's hair unbrushed - while it might not be to your taste, they don't sound like they'd be in any way bad for you child. Remember that overhygiene isn't a good thing either. He is her parent too, so in matters of taste you have an even playing field in choice of living environment.

When it comes to issues of taste it's also very important to take into account the child's feelings on this. There's a big difference whether the child is telling about how cool spider there was wandering around, or whether there was clear anxiousness in her voice because of how dirty the place was.

It could also be the uncleanliness is evidence of some other issues, like depression or such - but these issues should be then tackled by themselves, not by using cleanliness as a proxy.

I guess one thing you could consider too, is the societal norm of cleanliness, and the adverse effects that may happen if you child doesn't learn to expect it. I wouldn't spend any time on that myself, though.

So when resolving the issue, keep the discussion in the actual effects to the child, and try to leave matters of taste aside. This will probably make him listen too, if instead of attacking his habits you show that you're just worried of the child's well-being. What he has to do is provide a healthy environment for his child, and that's it. That might require cleaning up (sure sounds like it), but it might also mean he just has to make sure her teeth get brushed. In the best case, simply by showing this approach to him and leaving it to himself to determine what's healthy and what's not, he will start think about the issue and will clean up for the child.

So to finally answer "How dirty is too dirty": Too dirty is when it has an actual bad effect on your child's health, or when your child has a problem with it herself.


answered 20 Jul '10, 06:34

Ilari's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

+1 I think your points are very well put.

(20 Jul '10, 10:42) Emi

Get all the parental figures together in a neutral, informal place (ie coffee house, restaurant, park) and calmly explain your concerns. Hopefully everyone can act like an adult and the situation can be resolved painlessly.

If that does not work, you may want to talk to a social worker who assisted with the divorce (assuming there was one) or a lawyer that was involved in the custody of the child. Maybe the threat of losing access to his daughter will get dad to straighten up. However, I would reserve this step for last resort.

Talk to him first, and don't bring up the possibility of legal action right away. If he feels overwhelmed and doesn't know where to start, it might be helpful if you and your partner were to assist with the clean-up. If he has concerns about finding time to keep things clean, you could suggest that he hire a service to assist, as you do. Be calm and work for a solution. Try not to put him on the defensive.


answered 19 Jul '10, 19:40

mkcoehoorn's gravatar image

accept rate: 8%

We have asked for the house to be cleaned up or else and nothing has changed.

This way to approach the issue sounds like an unlikely way to motivate her dad to clean up...

I would rather recommend that you talk with him and involve him in jointly coming up with a solution. If he feels that you try to understand his side and take in consideration his issues when discussing this he is much more likely to comply. Feeling truly understood is usually a rare experience and if you manage to make him feel understood this will buy you a lot of goodwill.

Also him being involved in working out a solution will make him feel some kind of ownership to the solution which also makes it more likely for him to follow up (compared to just a final solution "you must clean up your house" handed to him by someone else).

A very good tool to work with any problem is a problem solving matrix: a piece of paper with 4 coloums:

  • What is the problem?
  • What is the cause?
  • What is the solution?
  • Who should do that?

Can you make one and fill in "I do not like that NN (the girl's name) stays in your house when it is unclean" in the "What is the problem?" coloumn and take with you when discussing and jointly fill out? Ask him to fill in what he considers to be the problem with cleaning. Maybe he does not consciously know exactly why, but find out.

There will be several points in every of the coloums, when discussing a problem there is hardly just one side/issue resulting in just one point in each.

If appropriate consider to offer to help him. Not in the sense of doing all the work for him, but something like "I know that the task might seem overwhelming to start with, but if you do action X until time Z I can come and help with action Q" where X might for instance be "buy some storage boxes", Z "within this month", and Q "help packing stuff into the storage boxes". Z might be a small or bigger task depending on what you offer for Q, the appropriate level depends a lot on the person, but I think smaller tasks (both Z and Q) are better to start with. You can always offer more help with bigger tasks later.


answered 01 Sep '10, 21:34

hlovdal's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

@hlovdal I like your answer and agree with many of your statements. As per our back it up principal http://moms4mom/back-it-up , would you be able to add references regarding your first few paragraphs (is this personal experience, something you read, training you received?) and also for the problem solving matrix.

(01 Sep '10, 21:41) Tammy ♦♦

For the part about understanding other people, Stephen Covey highlights its importance in the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by making it one of the seven habits, and writes:

"If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations, it would be this: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. This principle is the key to effective interpersonal communication."

(02 Sep '10, 00:17) hlovdal

Regarding the part about gaining ownership when participating in something, I found a few quotes:

-- http://www.lgnz.co.nz/projects/archive/toolkit/examples/ "By participating in the policy development, young people made meaningful decisions about something that affected them. They had control over the process, and so they felt a sense of ownership over a policy that would help improve their lives."

(02 Sep '10, 00:19) hlovdal

-- http://www.toonloon.bizland.com/nutshell/particip.htm Ownership of the idea brings committment to it. "The more men have responsibility for the result of law, the more likely they are to be interested in its result. Obedience is rarely creative in a highly centralised state."

(02 Sep '10, 00:20) hlovdal

-- http://web.gc.cuny.edu/che/cerg/documents/Childrens_participation.pdf "Nevertheless, it is useful, whenever trying to express the value of participation to more conservative thinkers, to explain that involvement of young people in projects leads to a sense of responsibility for the maintenance and protection of those products which are created."

(02 Sep '10, 00:20) hlovdal

I am not sure where I learned about the problem solving matrix, but I have good personal experience from using that when working with relationship problems with my latest girlfriend.

(02 Sep '10, 00:21) hlovdal

That's great thatnks hlovdal!

(02 Sep '10, 00:22) Tammy ♦♦
showing 5 of 7 show 2 more comments

The problem I have with this isn't the uncleanliness, it's the lack of respect. I can't believe someone would want to subject their children to environments like this. Don't get me wrong, my house isn't the cleanest, but we try. And we get everyone involved to do it.

The important thing to verify is whether or not the child is in a safe environment. If anything laying around is dangerous or is disgusting enough to cause illness. If that's the case, then IMO that's a different matter. If he doesn't address it, then it's a matter for the courts, because I wouldn't send any of my kids there till that got fixed.

The only thing I can express towards him is the profound lack of respect for his own child, and if he doesn't care that much, then well, that can be rectified.


answered 27 Sep '10, 23:58

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Jeff 2
accept rate: 35%

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Asked: 19 Jul '10, 19:17

Seen: 5,547 times

Last updated: 27 Sep '10, 23:58