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!