At Wit's End With Teenager's Room

kateoJuly 24, 2006

I am at my wit's end--My daughters room is awful--I mean ridiculus--She is a good person and to look at her you would think she has it all together--(She doesn't!) I would be soo ashamed if someone saw her room--(Thankfully I moved her new room down in the basement with her own bathroom)--but honestly--it is really disgusting--I am so ashamed and feel somewhere along the way I must not have done something I should have--i have tried everything--Praise, threats, shouting, discussions etc..--to no avail--Her room at university is the same--( I am so ashamed), When she comes home on the weekend--I ask her very calmly and nicely to make sure she cleans her room--she agrees--but never makes an attempt--When she started university I went down and totally cleaned everything--thinking I had it conquered and when she came home she'd try and keep it neat--It never worked--I really really dont know what to do--Any suggestions before I totally lose my mind?

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Close the door and forget it.....soon she will have a place of her own to keep the way she chooses. By cleaning up after her you are "enabling" her the same way making excuses for an alcoholic's mate makes excuses for his or her omissions and mistakes.
Trust me on this! It will happen! Both of my kids were incredible slobs....clothes all over the floor, dirty dishes under the bed I even found a mouse nest in the closet! ( after they moved out and I was reclaiming the space!)...both are now neat freaks....all in it's place and washed and no food but in specified spots!
AND....they are now parents of teenagers who are just like they were!!
Her worth as a human being is not measured in the neatness of her room. I was privileged to visit Albert's Einstein's home/museum in Princeton ....not exactly a neat place!
Don't sweat it! Close the door and and don't even look!!
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 24, 2006 at 12:58PM
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I agree with Lindac, close the door, don't enable her by cleaning up after her. Don't mention it, don't make an issue of it, drop the subject completely. It isn't a your issue anyway (Unless a smell emits from the room, then you have the right to insist she gets rid of the smell or live in the yard as it is a health hazard.).


    Bookmark   July 24, 2006 at 1:48PM
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Agree with the others.... not a worthy fight to pick.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2006 at 2:25PM
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Yup. Close the door and forget it. Had 4 kids, youngest a boy who is still at home and in college. All 4, but especially the girls were incredible slobs. They are all good house keepers now, but I wouldn't have thought it possible when they were at home. Even my son went through a period when he could barely open the door. Now his room is very tidy, even down to having things organized alphabetically or by size, etc. (I have to walk through the entry of his room to get to the laundry room.)

    Bookmark   July 26, 2006 at 10:23AM
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Yes, I agree with the others. Dont make it an issue for your own health and happiness.

However, I would like to make a few points.

I have mentioned to my messy children, that if they leave there stuff all over the floor, you wont see if there are spiders lurking around, or bugs, etc. That usually gets them moving, to pick up things.

I think the problem could be that they have too much stuff, they just cant deal with it all.

I think if they dont learn to look after their belongings, and this means keeping them tidy, it has repurcussions, in that they loose things at school. When they go on a school camp, they loose things etc. So really, they have to get into good habits of taking responsibility for their belongings.

I know its hard work, and sometimes you have to compromise, for the sake of a happy household. But remember they are lovely people, and dont let the mess cloud your feelings of love !!

Good luck

    Bookmark   July 28, 2006 at 10:00PM
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Sorry, but I would do something about it. It's my home and I take it very personally if my friends come in and see the mess. It reflects badly on me and my parenting skills. My sister's daughter's kids live like pigs. My sis said her daughter can't change them. I said I could and of course she got defensive regarding her daughter's lack of parenting skills. I told her, the kids would stay home one whole week end and we would all work to clean their rooms and the walk in closet....that is 2 ft deep in dirty clothes, wet and dry ones. I would show them where everything goes, when done, I would tell them if they leave for school Monday morning with anything out of place they would come directly home from school and put it away. After a week or two of this they would keep it clean, because they know you mean business. I didn't have to make my kids clean their room. When they were old enough to take a toy out of the toy box, they were old enough to put it back. I made a game out of putting the toys away and rewarded them with extra time staying up, if they did it without being told. My sons grew up proud of their rooms and our home and they made their lazy wives clean their homes.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2006 at 12:24AM
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My self esteem is not dependent on the condition of the cleanliness of my children's a matter of fact, my self esteem is not dependent on the neatness of my house.
But if having your children's bed rooms neat and tidy at all times is important to you, why then you are right to make an issue of it.
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 6, 2006 at 1:37AM
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Gosh such different opinions, from jonesy and Linda !

I have just gazed at my daughters room, its aweful.
The way I feel about it this morning is the opposite to my posting above. I am bothered by me it shows a distinct LACK OF RESPECT for the fact that she has a bedroom that is lovely, the fact she has lovely furniture, lots of lovely clothes, and she treats them all with utter disrespect by throwing them all over the floor, and leaving such chaos.

It REALLY upsets me today !!!

My daughter is 19 and I expect better of her.

I think I just dont like the conflict that would arise if I mention how I feel. She is off at work, and will be home at I want to have an argument then? No...I dont.

Maybe I should pick my moment and say how I feel.

I am very disappointed in her.

I dont think its anything to do with my own self esteem as mentioned by Lina...I think its do do with RESPECT !

What do others think.

Gotta go and calm down now!

Thanks for listening to my tirade.

BTW...I read in the paper a while ago, about a father who had the same problem, he took a picture of his daugher's bedroom and put it on a website for all the world to see.


    Bookmark   August 6, 2006 at 8:06PM
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Popi, yes it has to do with respect, BUT it is her room, and MAYBE the respect has to be for her and to let her treat HER clothing how she wishes, and since in is doing no damage, HER room (yes you own the house and furnature, but since she is going to college you are letting her have that room). Clothing tossed on furnature is not damaging them, just causing you not to see them.

When a person is trying to control their life, they are not always mature enough to control ALL aspects of their life. This is one area she does not have contol of yet.

If it did not bother you when the door was closed and you did not see it, then do not look.

RESPECT her decision to have a dirty room (if that is her only vice, and it is not drawing vermin and emitting a smell). If she is not doing drugs, not smoking (Or if you allow that and she is, that is fine), Not doing illeagle activities, and a dirty room is her one vice, that is a MINOR vice.

Trust me, there are other battles that could be fought, (and I have--remember I've kicked one child out!), a messy (not dirty, we're talking messy here right!) room is very minor.


    Bookmark   August 6, 2006 at 10:19PM
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I agree with Vickey on this one. If the only problem we have with our kids is the state of their room, then there is no problem. I tried to fight this losing battle and lost many times. Now I just close his door and forget it. It's his space, his privacy and it's probably a reflection of his disorganized state of mind than anything else. This ain't going to be the hill I'm going to die on.
But I do like the idea of posting photos on the web....maybe a side-by-side comparison with a pic from a "House Beautiful" magazine!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 10:01AM
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When my kids were living at home I showed respect for their private space. I didn't mess in it and allowed them to keep it the way they wanted. I had house hold help and when Ann would come every 2 weeks to clean, I would tell them, if you want your room vacuumed and dusted, pick the stuff up so she can do it. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn't. But I respected their decision.
Have any of you ever visited your child's college dorm room or their room in the sorority or fraternity house? Did you feel that clothes tossed on the floor showed a lack of respect to the institution they were attending?
You've got it wrong. You don't show respect for your mother by keeping your room neat...but rather by kindness to her by not borrowing her things, by not speaking to her in a disrespectful manner.
You have given your child their own space in your home, respect their right to not follow your standards of neatness.
The anger you feel at your child when looking at a messy room is YOUR problem. Why would you make such an inconsequential issue a point of conflict?

As an addendum, I know someone who is an unbelievable neat freak. The type who offers you a glass of ided tea and stands over you with a cloth and every time you pick up the glass, wipes the table ( a formica table!) under the glass before you can put it down. Her children don't visit. It's too stressful worrying if the baby will urp on the carpet and trying to make your bed before it's even cool.

A teen ager's clothes tossed over a chair in no way shows any lack of respect to you, but of impatience in the daily mundane stuff.

Intelligence, wisdom, school grades, kindness, holyness, earning potential nor morality are not measured by the neatness of your room as a young adult. It is not an issue, don't dignify a messy room by making it a battle ground.
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 10:50AM
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This thread reminds me of the time I was in the home of one of my ex-husband's law firm partners. The wife of this partner was notorious for being very, very frugal and exceedingly uptight and controlling. (Example: she gave a 50th birthday party for her husband and as people were finishing their food, she sent her kids around to collect the plastic flatware to wash and save.)

Her 3 teen children were brilliant students and generally well behaved, good kids. While walking through the house she spotted an empty wrapper on the kitchen counter and went nuts over it! For one thing--her son left an empty wrapper on the counter, for another--it was the wrapper to something she bought only for boxed lunches. I remember thinking that if this was the worst thing her son ever did, she was a very lucky mother!

Years have passed since that day. All her children have finished college. All of them are living as far from her as possible on the opposite coast.

My teen kids are pigs. It drives me crazy. I close the doors. Sometimes I hand in a garbage bag and tell them to at least collect the trash and bring out the dirty dishes. I don't do their laundry unless they put it in the laundry room.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 1:35PM
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You are all wonderful people!

A thousand thankyous for all the wonderful comments about DD messy bedroom. I feel silly now.

It is such a silly thing to get annoyed about, I will NEVER let it bother me again.

My DD is a wonderful person, and I would be far better off just remembering and acknowledging the good things.

Vicky I have raved on about this for the last time, and I agree with everything you said.

Linda and SR I agree with you as well.

My DH saved the day....he had a calm word with DD, joking about the mess, etc, and she did make an effort to pick up the rubbish on the floor, at least, last night, before she got into bed. Isnt that wonderful !

I am going to think of the big picture now, and remember the good things, and not focus on the annoying things.

Thanks people, you have REALLY helped me.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2006 at 3:41AM
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Just let her know that she will be responsible for the bug guy to come and spray.As long as she buys her own clothes I wouldn't worry about the way she keeps her stuff.Bigger issues out in this world to worry about.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2006 at 4:42PM
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I have made the observation that because my daughter has such a messy bedroom, which means she is not taking responsibility for her things, and the utter chaos makes it hard to find things.....and that she is not in the HABIT of keeping her things tidy.....she tends to leave stuff all over the house and is often looking for things.

For instance...she is making food in the kitchen, and leaves a mess. She is doing some sewing....needles, pins, all over the place. She borrows the car...stuff left in the car. Now I know this is not a huge problem, but I think it could become a problem for HER when she is out in the world.

I did get her into the habit of tidying up, as a child. This worked well, it all fell apart when she went into high school !

She is going overseas at the end of the month on a student exchange...I am slightly worried that she will loose important things...but I am probably just overeacting ??

I guess I am putting forward the point that a CONSEQUENCE of untidy bedroom at home, could lead to bigger problems, with keeping track of things out in the world !


    Bookmark   August 11, 2006 at 4:06AM
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Ah Popi, but what better way to learn the consequences than to have to suffer them. She may loose some important thing (if she looses that passport, it will ONLY be once--trust me, that is an important lesson to learn). That is how they grow up, that is how we grew up. You cannot control that, she has to. You cannot grow without consequences. How would you learn that fire hurt unless you tried it? Sure we don't want our kids to get hurt, but guess what, we cannot protect them, as it will only hurt them.



    Bookmark   August 11, 2006 at 6:48AM
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It took me probably 10 years after the kids were grown and out on their own...and most of my friend's kids too...
But one of the most important things I learned about raising little people to be responsible, happy and productive adults, is you can't force them to be what you think they ought to be. You teach values, moral behavior as defined by the society and the times, responsibility and self reliance....but that's about all you can instill in them
I can tell you tale after tale of kids who took 15 years to "find themselves", becaust parents expected him to be a stock broker when he really wanted to be creative to write or act, or because he liked to wear washed out flannel and hunt and Dad thought he should be wearing a 3 piece suit and go into banking, or Dad wanted him to be an engineer and he wanted something more people oriented.
People are predominatly left brained or right brained some analytical and some more creative. Creative people are notably clutter bugs, they see the whole picture and don't look at all the individual pieces. Don't try to make her into something she is not. A clutterless enviornment seems to be important to you but not to her....relax and let her be what she is! She may learn to put everything in it's place....or she may not!
And in a very few years she will be out of your house forever. Enjoy having her around now.
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 11, 2006 at 11:59AM
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"It reflects badly on me and my parenting skills. My sister's daughter's kids live like pigs. My sis said her daughter can't change them. I said I could and of course she got defensive regarding her daughter's lack of parenting skills. "
"My sons grew up proud of their rooms and our home and they made their lazy wives clean their homes."

Sounds like bullying begins at home.
So does that reflect on your parenting skills?

    Bookmark   August 11, 2006 at 11:14PM
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I agree with you wise old Vicky..she must find her own way...but when things get lost etc...guess who has to pick up the pieces !! But I guess that is the lot of the parent.

I got new worries now, not too safe travelling OS nowadays!


    Bookmark   August 12, 2006 at 6:35AM
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Popi, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PICK UP THE PIECES, if you do she is NOT learning anything, she has to learn to pick up the pieces (sound like pick up the pieces of her room, she also has to learn how to pick up the pieces of her life??? think about it, SHE has to LEARN how to do it)

And sadly yes, you do have more worries now, and that is plainly the flight here to the US. Where in the US will she be staying again, I don't remember.


    Bookmark   August 12, 2006 at 9:52AM
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Did Einstein's parents nag him about him not combing his hair?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2006 at 10:14AM
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I have always heard poverty breeds poverty, I believe that and I believe if I let my child live like a pig when she is a child she will live like one when she is grown and so will her kids. My sis was a messy housekeeper and so are all 4 of her daughters. It is not about self esteem, it is about teaching your child to be an adult. It is a difficult job and it is easier to say "it's her room". You do the best you can with your children, if they don't learn, at least you tried. And I didn't nag my kids, I reminded them and then made them stay in from play and clean their room.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2006 at 10:42PM
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But Jonesy, we're not talking about a child anymore, Popi is talking about an adult (who is still her child), and she cannot keep her "in from play". So some kids learn, some don't. I have two who are neat, one who isn't. Same parenting, same rules, different results.....I don't think poverty bred poverty there.


    Bookmark   August 13, 2006 at 10:35AM
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Jonsey, so her room is not up to your standards....but the rest of the house is, right?
That is your example....that is your piece of the world....her room is her piece of the world, her place, her sanctuary, her refuge.
Don't alianate your daughter by allowing your standards of neatness to color your relationship. Your grown daughter is a different person than you are.
Suppose, for the sake of making an example you chose to always wear your hair short, shorter than your ear lobes and don't understand how anyone can possiblky stand to have long hair blowing into their face....but your daughter won't get a hair cut...says she doesn't mind hair blowing in her face....and you don't understand are afraid that when she gets to be 50 she will be one of those women with salt and pepper hair stringing down to her waist and you can't bear the thought, when in fact she may marry a man who doesn't mind and her profession may be training horses.
See what I mean? She is who she is....her brain doesn't worry about trivialities like neatly folded clothes..she is a different person than you are....a neat room is not important to why should it be important to you that ths thinks that way?
Believe it or not neatness is NOT the only virtue!
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 13, 2006 at 11:39AM
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As a teen, I remember feeling very 'comforted' by having my stuff strewn around me. It was a sort of cocoon... My own little space in a house that did not belong to me. My stuff was piled high -- almost little walls.

When I moved off to college, and the entire room belonged to me, then I did not have the same emotional 'need' to be messy. My whole room was all mine, my identity was all mine. Keeping my space nice, clean and attractive was a way to show I had my act together - to myself and to friends who visited.

Just another perspective...

    Bookmark   August 13, 2006 at 1:59PM
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This is a great discussion, different perspectives, its great ! Interesting what you say Sweeby, that chaos in the bedroom, being a comfort.

Vicky....I agree with all that you say about my DD solving her own problems, and dealing with the consequences.

But, when she phones me in the middle of the night from the US and says I have lost my money, passport, etc, I will have to help, in some way.

I certainly let my children suffer consequences of their actions, as a key to them learning to deal with things themselves.

It all takes time though it goes to show, even though they say "I am an adult now, dont treat like a child", they still act like children.


    Bookmark   August 13, 2006 at 7:49PM
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Just a thought here, my 13 year old is ADHD and has much trouble organizing anything. You all may disagree but I try to find a happy medium. With three kids in my house, we don't allow anyone to eat anywhere except in the kitchen or dining room - which is open to our family room ( except for snacks with movies as a family!) There goes the food in the bedroom issue. It's about sanitary conditions. We used to live in the south and most everyone had ants at one time or another. As far as the rest of the room goes, he has to bring out dirty laundry so I can wash it. And I need to get in there periodically to run the vacume. So as long as he picks up the floor weekly and can find his important things ( homework, money, retainer, ect) the rest of his room is his. He hangs what he wants on his walls - heck we painted them black a couple months ago because that's what he wanted! He can keep is drawers, closet and shelves as messy as he wants. I can respect his space but he needs to respect my efforts to keep up with the household laundry and keep our house sanitary! And - I think that it is important to teach kids how to pick up after themselves and put important things in important places. The trick is to not let it become a control issue. A slippery slope.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2006 at 4:08PM
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I've never met a teenager who kept their room clean. My 17 year old DD's room is always a mess and I do try to keep the door closed because it does bother me. If she wants to go out on the weekends or if we are having company she does clean her room. Not to my standards, but clothes are put away, the carpet is vacuumed, her bathroom is cleaned. Takes her maybe a half hour. She doesn't complain about doing it either, she just knows this is the way it is. Works for me.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2006 at 3:52PM
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Lydia...we haven't met. LOL But I was that child. I remember getting a friend who came to visit involved - not just with straightening up my room - but with vacuuming my bed springs. Can you even imagine??

But my children - especially my daughter - were NOT like that. I agree with Lindac about this topic (and others who made similar points). You may be driven nuts by the mess but if your child is doing well in other areas...making progress toward growing up, it is so minor. Pick your battles.

And now I'm seeing my own daughter change in this area since her space is really her own (she pays her own rent). Now she spends time on weekends doing without any prodding from me what I couldn't convince her to do when she lived in my house. Imagine THAT.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2006 at 7:41PM
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Wow, so glad I'm not the only one with this issue. I have three kids each with their own rooms. THe oldest, SM is 15, has had the largest bedroom for 8 years now and it's total chaos. The younger two want to share a room (SM's room is perfect for two) so I'd like to move SM to a smaller room and let her decorate it how she wants. It may not cut down on the mess but I would like to have a guest room. SHE WON'T BUDGE!!!!I have given her every opportunity to cooperate; I've even offered her a computer in her room although it's been a rule of mine not to allow it. She told me if I moved her out she would move everything back in. She keeps saying "It's my room!. This is MY stuff. You can't move me. Then she cries! Am I being a horrible mom?

    Bookmark   November 25, 2006 at 12:20PM
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"It's my room!. This is MY stuff. " She's telling you she feels rooted to her room; that it's her home. You aren't being "horrible," but I'd say you are being insensitive. Kids need roots, and these are hers. To kick her out of "her" room so you can leave one empty for guests? If a few good bribes don't entice her, I'd give it up until she'd off to college, or move the two younger ones into a smaller room.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2006 at 5:04PM
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I tend to agree with Sweeby, but I have to wonder...if you say "okay you can stay" won't she relate that to her tantrum.

She might think "I got to keep the room because I yelled and screamed about it, and I might keep using that technique to get things to turn out my way".

Pick your battles. She is in the "teenage battle zone", so tread carefully to save your sanity.

I had a similar bedroom problem at my house, I wanted to move my DD into a larger bedroom but she wouldn't budge. Over the years, I moved my DS into the same room, and now DD is envious. She is 19 now, and a bit more adult about it, and realizes she was silly not to take it up a few years ago. So your DD might end up thinking that way, and you can both have a good laugh about it !

If you still want to do the bedroom shuffle, how about you try talking to her, when she is rested, fed, happy, then say how you can redecorate her new room, buy new furniture etc, etc, and talk about how you would LOVE a spare room so Aunt Betty can come and stay (an aunt she just loves).

All the best "horrible mum" (not).


    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 1:21AM
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Wow, this thread has hit some nerves.
My sons are grown and gone, but I sure do remember the anger and frustration I felt when their rooms looked like pigstyes.
However, I was raising them alone and with a full time job, I had my hands full. I decided this was not a battle that was worth fighting, so I told them, "Two rules: 1) no food, 2) keep the door closed". "If I smell something, I'm coming in"....

That approach saved my sanity. Result?
One is a slob, the other is a neatnik. Go figure.

Just as an aside, when I was growing up, my mother was not a housekeeper. Actually she was a slob. I kept my own room immaculate and when the door was closed I felt like I was in my own private world.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2006 at 9:34AM
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Thanks for all the advice and stories. I agree, Popi. SM might think she got away with her tantrum once again. She doesn't get along well with her younger sisters at all. (They tend to be close and always have been.) Honestly, I think SM was more adamant that she wasn't going to let them share a room than with not wanting to move. Also, Having a guest room was an afterthought with all of this. My house is centrally located for my family and since both of my parents have died, my house tends to be where everyone comes, especially during the holidays. Anyway, I have let the subject go. I discovered my frustration was more with SM's attitude and how she treated me than with switching rooms. Wow, How many times can I say, "If I talked to my parents the way you talk to me......." SM actually thanked her sister for not moving in. Umm...something positive. Happy Holidays.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2006 at 9:42AM
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I don't think I mentioned, I never fought with my boys over cleaning their room, I taught them to put things away as soon they were old enough to know what was going on. By the time they were teenagers they were doing it automatically and without complaining.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2006 at 9:30PM
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Alice Johannen

I agree, very interesting topic! My kids aren't yet teenagers (DS is 7, DD is 10) but we have the messy room issue already. Really, it's just they're not in the habit of picking up toys and stuff anywhere (we don't have a nightly routine about this because with both parents working full-time, we try to spend time with the kids on more meaningful things like reading together). The house is not a disaster, but it's not neat as a pin either. Sometimes that bothers me, sometimes not.

I wanted to make the point that I view it as part of my parental duties to teach the kids strategies for dealing with a room that's "a complete disaster". Strategies like, don't worry about putting each item away as you pick it up. Start by categorizing things into piles: clean clothes here, dirty clothes here, cars here, books here, etc, etc. Then deal with each pile in turn. It helps organize the stuff and organize the mind. When I participate with my kids in this endeavor, they don't feel so "alone" in what's viewed as an unmanageably big task, and I'm teaching by example that cleaning up is really gratifying in the end.

I had so many gigantic battles over my room with my dad when I was a teen. It was all about control, and I remember telling him that if it bothered him, I would keep my door closed. His answer was that I was not allowed to keep the door closed. He is a dear man and I love him a lot, but I have never quite recovered from these "epic battles." I was a straight-A student, had good friends, went to church ... the whole "good kid" shebang. And yet, he HAD to fight with me over my room, which was not unsanitary or anything. I am DETERMINED that I will not perpetuate this with my kids, so I thank you all for your posts to this thread because I've really learned a lot.

I will continue to teach them that there is value in having things put in their place, that there are strategies for making an unmanageable task manageable, and that sometimes having a place that's not cluttered helps unclutter your mind.

But ultimately, I will take your words to heart and try to remember that they need a place to call their own, which is within their control, and that a cluttered room won't ruin them. It didn't ruin me! :-)

    Bookmark   December 2, 2006 at 12:06PM
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I think you raised a good point, Alice, when you said you had major battles with your Dad, over your "messy" bedroom.

You want fond memories of your time with your parents, not memories of battles.

I think your ideas of organising the bedroom are spot on. Doing the tidying, and organising, with them is the best way to get them doing it themselves.

I realize, now, that children need there space, and if they want their things all around them, then its comforting, to them. Closing the door is a good strategy.

Focus on the positives.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2006 at 2:17AM
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