How To Live With Your Teenagers Untidy Room

'Whose room is it anyway?'

If you have a teenager, you're no doubt familiar with the warcry of independence:

'It's my room and I should be allowed to do as I please.'

You hear the aggrieved voice, but for the life of you, you can't see beyond

  • the unmade bed
  • the piles of discarded clothing
  • the litter of books
  • magazines
  • scattered CD covers
  • pizza boxes
  • and soft drinks cans.

Your spirits plummet as you prepare to join battle yet again.

But let's stop for a moment and take stock. Do we really need to create a fuss?

We all know adolescence is a time of change. The desire for independence is strong - yet the adolescent is still very dependent, especially where finance is concerned.

There's a subconscious need for rebellion during this phase: our children feel a need to kick against the goad; to throw off the shackles of childhood; to explore and develop this strange, often threatening personality.

That's why at around the age of thirteen our kids 'disappear' from the family circle and spend much of their time in their rooms.

It's like taking to the hills, a way of retreating from the old folks and their 'naff' conversations, values and ideals.

The Untidy Room Syndrome states loudly and clearly, 'I want to do things MY WAY, not yours!'

So the music blares, the scraps of food fester - as would the unwashed clothes, if you let them!

Only a privileged few receive an invite to the inner sanctum. The rest make do with: 'Get out of my room!'

MY room?

We parents provide every home comfort. We pay the mortgage. We pay the bills. We do the laundering. Yet we're told, 'Get out of MY room'!

Let's laugh it off! (While insisting on common courtesy, of course).

Growing kids need their space, a safe haven where they can 'chill out'.

So what about the mess?

What stance should we take on that?

Well, let's remember the mess is part of the rebellion. We keep the rest of the home tidy, don't we?

Then turn a blind eye (with one exception, which we'll come to in a moment).

Yes, turn a blind eye! If they want to scatter their CDs and magazines and clothes in glorious chaos, let them.

They're in a controlled, safe environment, after all - the family home. They're not trashing the town, like so many others.

No, let them get the rebellion out of their systems. Good news: it will only last a few years.

And hard experience will teach them the lessons they need to learn. 'Oops! My CD's don't play so well when they're scratched and dusty.'

'I'm fed up looking for things and not finding them. There has to be a better way!'

Let's encourage our kids to keep a tidy room - but leave the details to them.

So what about that exception?

Lay down the law - with a sledge hammer if necessary! - when it comes to matters of health and hygiene.

If you do the laundering and your kids expect clean clothes, then insist they pick up the items to be washed and put them in the laundry basket.

If they leave scraps of food and half-drunk cups of coffee, insist they clear them away. Explain why you're taking this line. There's no convincing objection they can raise!

Insist they make a clearance for whoever does the vacuuming and dusting.

Apart from that, take a step back. If they can happily live in the chaos, you can happily leave them to it.

Relax. Bide your time. The fires of rebellious youth will splutter and fizzle, and it will all come right in the end.

Happy Parenting!

Why do some parents and children succeed, while others fail? Frank McGinty is an internationally published author and teacher. His writing includes children's fiction and motivational books for both teenagers and parents.If you want to further develop your parenting confidence and encourage your kids to be all they can be, visit his web pages, AND

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