Like- "Is your room clean?"
It's a dumb quesiton because we know they'll answer "YES," regardless of what the room looks like. And, the longer they hesitate before they actually stammer out "yes," is an indication of how messy it really is.
The kids aren't lying, they just have different standards. Some kids think if they put their favorite toys away, the room is clean. Somt think shoving everything under the bed qualifies as clean. Some kids just need to see a swath wide enough to remind them the color of their carpeting to call it clean. Most kids see the items they have put away, most Moms see the things that weren't put away.
One of my children was brilliant enough to invent the diplomatic answer, "Well, it's kinda-clean-and-kinda-messy." While learning to understand the two different types of clean, "kid clean" and "Mommy clean," I mastered that age-old pigsty rant. My mom would be so proud of me. One kid had the audacity to interrupt me and ask what a pigsty was. But, I was already on to the line about disobedience and helpfulness and their future success depending on their diligence.
Usually, each item on the floor can be identified as something they were sent to "put away." If I'm really wound up, I throw in the lecture on how come there are only dirty clothes on the floor and no dirty undies, how come the socks are rolled inside out into little balls and how come every apple in the garbage only has a few bites out of it?
Yea, we Moms can go on and on, can't we?
This is the mess that Mommy made.
My kids learned in a hurry that I can't tolerate "kid clean." I pull out stuff shoved under their beds, inside boxes, purses and suitcases, behind the dresser, under the dresser, under the pillows, inside the closet, behind the door and on top of the dresser, make a pile in the middle of the room, and we begin again. They complain rigorously about "Mom messing up my room," but we attack the room until it is "Mommy clean."
We sort the offending items into piles and put things back where they belong. After all, how fun is it to play dolls, if you only have one dress and the blanket with the silly putty still embedded in the lace edge? How fun it is to play Legos when all the "good" pieces are still under the bed, under the couch cushions, and inside the vacuum cleaner bag? While cleaning, we always include a bag or box for the thrift store and one for garbage. When the kids are a bit overwhelmed by the mess, they are more willing to part with unnecessary things.
Although they take years to master the ability to Mommy clean a room, it takes even longer to cultivate the desire to WANT to clean my way. Yet, as much as they whine about me messing up their clean rooms, they love the feeling of a "Mommy clean" room.
I also have another ulterior motive in helping them clean their rooms - rescuing all my kidnapped items. My scissors, my tape, my fingernail clippers,
my missing vacuum cleaner attachment,
my hot glue gun, my sox, anything that is missing and doesn't show up, usually shows up in one of the offspring's room.
So, I learned early on not to ask the dumb, obvious question without a follow-up question.
"Is your room clean?
"Is it MOMMY CLEAN?"