Making a bed seems simple enough. An easy chore that kids should be doing as unquestioningly as brushing their teeth.
Lots of parents know otherwise.
But before you nag your youngster or teen again about whether they've made their bed, experts recommend that you stop and ask yourself a few questions.
"Asking, 'How can I make them' just invites a power struggle," warns Teresa LaSala, a trainer in New Jersey for the Positive Discipline Association, which works with schools and parents to teach kids responsibility, respect and community values.
"Is the long-term goal to have a teaching moment and build self-esteem and a good relationship with the child, or is it just to have a pretty bed? If the goal is just a pretty bed, it may be better for your relationship to just make the bed yourself. If, on the other hand, the goal is teaching, the first step is to understand the developmental stage of your child. Read about your toddler or 15-year-old and meet them where they are developmentally."
Done right, making the bed can be an opportunity to bond and learn such things as negotiation, communication, organization, and the importance of routines and doing something you don't want to for the good of the community, LaSala said.
Younger children love to contribute and be made a part of things, LaSala said. "It's when they feel their best is not good enough that they give up."
"You could have a 4-year-old pull the bed sheets up and the blankets up and put a little pillow there. The problem is that we as parents come up behind them and redo it, which simply teaches a child that their best isn't good enough," she said.
"If it's OK that it's a little crooked or bumpy in the beginning, then it becomes a win-win and builds self-esteem."
And making the bed once isn't nearly enough to teach the process or expect it to take hold.
"Routines need to keep being reinforced, but without anger and angst," LaSala said. For children between 4 and 6, she recommends starting by making the bed together at the same time each day.
For adolescents, the bed's not really the focus anymore: It's about the whole room and respecting their space.
The question is really, "Is this so important that you're willing to compromise your relationship with your teen child? It shouldn't become the major angst between you," LaSala said.
Leslie Josel, author of "What's the Deal with Teens and Time Management" (People Tested Books, 2015), says, "For teens, there needs to be a bigger picture and a discussion about each person's responsibilities around the house, so it's not just mom nagging again."
"One way to have this conversation is to say, 'If you're old enough to drive a car, you're old enough to make your bed and take out the trash," Josel said.
LaSala emphasizes communication. "If it's part of an agreement where you join together and try to talk about why and even whether making a bed is important, and figure out the best solution for the family, then it becomes a relationship builder and not a relationship destroyer," said LaSala.
MAKING IT EASY
For kids of all ages, making the bed can be made simpler.
Keeping the blanket in a duvet cover that you just shake into place is way easier than folding and smoothing top sheets. And there are plenty of helpful products, like blankets that zip onto sheets and sheets that zip into place instead of having to be tucked under the mattress each time.
The process is also easier if kids can get around the bed, so keep the bed away from the wall and without too much stuff on it, LaSala said.