Messy Teens

Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

~ Benjamin Franklin 1706-1790, Scientist, Publisher and Diplomat

 Do you feel like you’re always wading knee-deep through your teenager’s piles of discarded clothes, dirty glasses, crisp packets and magazines?

Does it drive you mad to see the constant mess in your teenager’s bedroom and if you do go and tidy it up do you find that instead of being thankful, your teenager is actually annoyed that their personal space has been invaded!

Well, you’re not alone!

Nagging and harassing your teenager about their untidy bedroom, is exhausting, stressful and generally doesn’t work!

I know it’s tough to see your once beautifully decorated, tidy and organised delightful child’s room untidy, dishevelled and a tip but it’s not life threatening. So learn to take a deep breath and press your imaginary pause button and think – “Is this remark or argument going to bring me closer to my teenager or further away long term in our relationship?” It helps you to step back from the immediate scenario. Then forget about the mess, close the door and save your breath for more important arguments with your teenager.

It’s important to choose your battles!

But that is not to say that you totally let them get away with it! It’s important to tell your kids what your minimum standards are clearly, specifically and categorically and to compromise by maybe choosing a day when their room has to vacuumed, dusted, tidied up and straightened out every week.

Link it to their pocket money or the lifts into town that you’re prepared to give them and stick to your guns and expect that standard from them.

It’s also helpful to make a distinction between their space and the space the family shares.

Teenagers like their own space so let their bedroom be that private space. It’s a place to chill out, relax, study and be alone and if you think “Their room, their mess, their business.” It helps you cope with the untidiness.

Try not to intrude but make it clear that the rest of the house is everyone’s space and be clear and specific on how you’d like that family space to be treated.

Sometimes a messy room can be a health hazard or a fire risk. So set clear boundaries and say what you expect, and although it’s probably far below your usual standards, be clear about no smoking in their bedroom, the food being cleared up and binned and glasses brought down. Also make sure hairdryers, curling tongs and straighteners are kept in safe places to avoid the possibility of fire.

Don’t make general pleas for help, always be specific in the tasks you ask them to do, set a time limit to when you want them done by and check they have done them and have sanctions ready if they haven’t!

Work out rules they can accept, which meet your minimum requirements and don’t have too many of them.

In the kitchen for example, state clearly your expectation that when they have made themselves something to eat, they clean up after themselves, (including the pots, jugs, lids and utensils) and wipe down the surfaces. Stress that the kitchen is everyone’s space and each person has the responsibility of keeping it clean. Ask who will clear up their mess if they don’t.

And you make a rod for your own back if you give in and do it yourself. If you always tidy up after them, they get used to it. Let them take the consequences of their untidiness. If your son can’t find his football shirt because it’s still in washing machine or on the floor, then so be it. If your daughter’s favourite top has been chewed by the new puppy because she left it on her bedroom floor for days, serves her right!

Consequences are always the best and most remembered teacher. They will appreciate what you do for them all the more, when they realise the effort it involves to do it themselves.

Remember you are teaching, guiding and encouraging them to be independent and to take care of themselves long term and you are also teaching them life skills, respect and responsibility.

Ask yourself:

• What changes can I make this week that will make a big difference to the way I feel?

• What do I need to remember to do regularly?

• What difference will this make to me, to my relationship and to the whole family?

• What’s stopping me making those changes?

• What obstacles may I come across this week?

• How will I get over them, round them, or through them?

• What will happen if I don’t make some small changes in my attitude, approach or mindset?

• Just relax and daydream how you’d like it to be regularly before you fall asleep and notice the changes that happen naturally.