08/05/2012 06:02 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

There's No Excuse For Grubby Children

Grubby child Rex

Before I had children I swore I'd never be one of those mothers who let their kids run around in filthy clothes, with food down their tops and snot congealing in their nostrils.

I used to see grubby kids in cafes and wonder how their parents could bear it.

'You'll soon change when you have children of your own,' people said. But you know what? I didn't.


I still hate to see dirty children and I still carry extra sets of clothes in case one of mine has a spillage. If you spilt your lunch down your top you'd change it, wouldn't you? So why would you let your children wear dirty clothes? I just can't fathom it.


We can't all afford expensive clothes and we can't all afford to put the washing machine on every day to keep our children's clothes sparkling white, but surely we can all afford to have standards?

In the interests of saving both money and the environment I accept that occasionally these ideals have to slip a little. But most people can manage to change their children's T-shirts when they're covered in food or paint. At the very least, use an old shirt to cover their clothes so you won't need to get them changed afterwards.

I don't understand how people can have so little pride in the appearance of their children that they let them out in filthy clothes.

Mum-of-two Katherine agrees with me. "It's just slovenly," she says, "I'd rather change my son's outfit three times a day than have him wander around with food down him."

But Merilyn, mother of three children aged nine, six and four, disagrees vehemently. "Children are not material possessions, there to make us look good," she says. "They are their own little people. Paint, glue or chocolate down their top doesn't bother them, so it doesn't bother me. We shouldn't treat children like extensions of ourselves."

I'm not anti-mess. Well, okay, I'm not particularly comfortable with messy play, but I grit my teeth and let the kids enjoy themselves because I know they love it, and I also know it's great for their development.

But let them then head off to the park with glue on their trousers and a meatball stain on their jumper? Not a chance.

I want my children to learn to look after their clothes, to understand that they need to wipe away a stream of snot, and that once they stop wearing a bib they need to stop dropping food down themselves.

It's all part of learning what's appropriate for each occasion; sure, we can get messy if we're digging the vegetable patch or painting a picture, but we'll tidy up before we walk into town.

Taking pride in one's appearance is a learned behaviour, and it's one I plan to teach.
Maybe you don't feel the need to keep your children's clothes clean. Maybe you don't think it's important to brush their hair or wash their faces more than once a week. But please oh please would you wipe their noses?


I physically gag every time a toddler runs up to me with a luminous green number eleven snaking its way down towards their top lip, a curious tongue probing upwards.


I once asked a close friend to wipe her son's nose, fearful he would deposit the sticky mess on my sofa. "There's no point," she said with a sigh, "it just keeps coming." So you just keep wiping, don't you?

I wouldn't walk around with my own nose streaming, talking to people through a waterfall of snot, so I don't expect my child to have to suffer it.

I asked on Twitter how other parents felt about the subject and was inundated with tweets from those who are just as repulsed as I am.

Marnie says she's subjected to it every time she visits her sister-in-law. "Her kids always seem to have solid yellow snot welded to their faces. 'Give Marnie a hug!' she'll say. Err no thanks."

I'm with Marnie, but dad Damian says it's a war you'll never win. "It's like the Alamo," he says. "You can battle all you like but ultimately you're going to be defeated by the mass of gooey nastiness." Someone pass him the Kleenex.

Read an alternative view on keeping kids clean here.

What do you think?
Are you a constant nose wiper and clothes changer or have you had to relax since having children?