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My Parenting Question is about Messy Teenagers!

by Marlene

Hi Annie,

I have three children and the eldest has reached the teenage stage. I am really struggling with how to motivate her to tidy her room, it is totally chaotic! I have really tried to use some of the positive tips you suggest for teenagers, but somehow it just ends up with me nagging, and her withdrawing.

I've tried to encourage her saying things like "I know you can get better control of your room, or I know you are a tidy person", but she doesn't have the same vision of herself as I want! How can I teach her to have pride in her room and keep the house looking the way I want it?

Hoping you can give me some good tips on how to have a tidy teenager!

thank you,

Comments for My Parenting Question is about Messy Teenagers!

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Messy Teenager Answer Part 1
by: Annie Desantis: Parent Coach

Hi Marlene,

Great question! I don't know how many times I have heard parents struggling with messy teenagers! So that in itself is a clue - I'm afraid teenagers ARE messy!

So where does this leave you? You are doing great things making positive statements about what you would like your teen to be doing. That does go a
long way to changing behavior, but ONLY if the other party is interested in making a change.

There are ways to motivate a child to comply with things we as parents want, but they are usually fear based options, such as punishment, or withdrawal of privileges etc or some parents unfortunately withdraw their love and approval.

The question I get my parents of teens to ask themselves is - how important is this really? Is it life threatening? Usually not! (Unless you are about to kill her!)

Is this issue contributing to the well being of the relationship? If I keep holding this as really important is it in the way of me having a loving, fun, open relationship with my daughter?

Now you may be feeling, I can't talk to my
daughter in her room because all I see is mess and chaos and it drives me nuts.

Are there ways I can back off of my standards and still have positive interaction with my teen?

Now I know from first hand experience how hard it is to put up with teenagers bedrooms, both my children became totally chaotic as teenagers.

Teenagers are at a stage of starting to pull away, and assert their own power, and what better way to do that than by taking control of their bedroom (or at least doing the opposite of what you want with their room!)

Part Two follows:

Annie D

Messy Teenager - Part 2
by: Annie Desantis: Parent Coach

Hi Marlene, Part Two below.

Some ideas for you to think about:

1. If you can drop the whole issue and just focus on what is great and fantastic about your daughter, that would be wonderful. One way is to shut the door! Don't go in her room until you are feeling centered enough to be able to just focus on your child and ignore the mess.

I know that is REALLY hard! And considering the amount of time teenagers spend in their room, you may not see her for weeks!

2. Find out if she has any motivation to having a tidy room, and what tidy is to her - her idea of tidy may just be washing in the basket. Yours may be dusted, bed made, surfaces clean. She will only be motivated to comply to her own vision of what she wants her room to be like.

Find out if there are ways you can support her to reaching HER vision. (And no, that doesn't mean being her cleaning lady!) It may be she needs a laundry hamper in her room. It may be she needs an updated bedroom now she is a teenager. Maybe she needs a big desk, or more shelves or better storage.

Sometimes when teenagers create the room as a reflection of their own personality, they are more motivated to keep it to a better standard.

3. Get really clear on what you most dislike about her messy room, what is the minimum you can stand - for me it was no food, plates or cups left in the bedroom and wet towels hung up. If I kept the door shut I could switch focus on the rest. I got my daughter a portable towel rack so she could hang her towels in her room.

4. Building a good relationship with your teenager is about good communication - and good communication is 90% listening! As parents we
tend to lecture and we forget to listen. Instead of trying to find ways to motivate your daughter to fit in with your ideas of tidy, spend that time finding out what she likes, what music she is into, what clothes ideas she has, what colors she would like her room to be - trust me, even dark DARK purple walls can be painted over when her ideas change. You may be able to share a project with her of re-vamping her room.

5. Look for ways to reinforce what she is doing that you already like - instead of trying to praise her into changing, when she does tidy the lounge, or sorts something, make sure you let her know how much you appreciate it. Make a habit to look for ways to appreciate her. We often focus far too much on what we want changed.

6. Allow her to take more responsibility. She can start doing her own laundry - you don't need to search her floor for washing. Find out from her how she would like to contribute to the household - maybe she loves to cook, maybe she would like to take responsibility for a project in the house.

I hope this gives you some ideas to think about, and maybe approach the messy teenage room with a different focus.

Have fun with your children,
Wishing you JOY,
Annie D

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