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Teenager's Messy Room
Mom with a View

Teenager's Messy Room

Save the battles for the things that really count.


Dear Mom with a View,

“How can I get my teenager to help around the house? He doesn’t even clean his room, let alone pick up his dirty towels and clothes after taking a shower!”

Dear Parent of Messy Teenager,

You are not alone. Almost every parent of a teenager is the parent of a messy one. And if this is the area where you are most frustrated with your adolescent, I advise you to back off and count your blessings.

The variety of means and ways in which teenage children avoid responsibility are legion. We need to be realistic in our expectations.

And recognize the limits of our ability to enforce.

In general, teenagers need some space to try and figure out who they are and where they are going.

They need some rules (they even, very deep down, appreciate having some rules!) but these should be carefully thought out and developed. Since even the trivial can turn into a heated shouting match with your hormonal adolescent, you want to save the battles for the things that really count. I’m not sure that a messy room is one of them.

It is hard to “get a teenager” to do anything. They are often defiant or just plain disinterested. Their priorities are of the moment and shaped by their peers. In fact, the real secret to getting teenagers to clean their rooms is to get their friends to straighten up theirs!

In general our kids want to be good. They want to do what’s right. They want to be love and appreciated. Believe it or not, they don’t even want to fight with us. But they will if we force them into it, they will if we back them into a wall, they will if we provoke it.

So we have to be the grownups. We have to exercise a little (okay, sometimes it’s a lot!) self-control. We have to focus on where they’re doing a good job instead of allowing frustration to build over where they’re not.

Constant nagging is inevitably unsuccessful. Too many rules just mean that more will be broken.

We need to praise our teenagers for what they do right. We need to look for opportunities to appreciate them.

And we need to maintain perspective. With all the trouble that kids can get into these days, God forbid, with all the potentially destructive situations lurking just around the corner, a messy room seems like an easy thing to live with, perhaps even something to accept with gratitude!

August 30, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 9

(9) Sandy, September 2, 2009 5:56 PM

Who Cares??

A messy room won't kill anyone. My mother picked her battles, and making us clean our room wasn't one. I would clean my room because it was messy, not because my mom nagged me to do it. Now as a wife and mother of 2, i keep a clean house. And I am determined not to nag my child about every little thing. Praise God for doors.....just close them and everyone is happy.

(8) Leah, September 2, 2009 4:27 PM

As I read the comments that many parents are writing here, I see many different ways of parenting. I believe that they are correct as they apply to the many varied ways of parenting. I tell my son to clean his room every night of jus te little things that may be extraneous- to close the closet and shut his drawers and to place the laundry in the basket as Ima does laundry from the basket -not from the floor is always said in a nice tone of voice-yet serious. I enjoy my son very much and enjoy helping him with his issues. i believe the validation/listening part of our realtionship is the most valuable- not the messy room bit. I tell him to clean his room or pick up his table mess etc so that he will think this way in the future. I do not expect that he will understand or "enjoy" doing it now. Oh and uh, yeah, so one day his wife will not have to as well and his kids will learn and their kids and their kids and so on and so and......

(7) Patty, September 2, 2009 12:05 PM

Electronics are good incentives too........

A parent doesn't need to wait for the teen to be able to drive. If my daughter can't get her room together (I insist on once a week-unless she can't find things) she loses all electronic devices (I include anything whether she owns it or the family owns it) until the room is done.

(6) Anonymous, September 2, 2009 11:09 AM

easier said than done

it is easier said than done to have strict rules about rooms, even if these rules have always been in place teenagers will often defy them. if yours doesnt your lucky- I have a teenager who is driving everyone crazy and nothing seems to work with this child. He is defiant, his room is a mess, and it is all about him all the time. So it is easy to say just do this just do that , sometimes nothing works

(5) raymond bastarache, September 2, 2009 1:27 AM

a word to the wise is sufficient, cleanliness is next to Godliness

Train up a child in the way he should go, when he is old he shall not depart from it... IT IS NOT TIME TO DISCIPLINE A CHILD WHEN HE,S A TEENAGER . YOUR TOO LATE...... START WHEN HE IS YOUNG.

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