Is your teen’s messy bedroom killing you?

I can’t stand to look at my teenagers’ bedrooms. A mere glimpse in that direction puts me in a horrible mood and turns me into a nagging, screaming, nutcase!

I tell myself I’m going to punish my kids by leaving the piles of dirty clothes, used dishes and crumbled papers until they can’t stand to see them in their room anymore. But sometimes, I can’t stand it anymore…so I go in when they’re at school and straighten it up…just a little bit. I know, what you’re thinking…that I’m an enabler.

I’ve just stumbled onto an article in the Wall Street Journal that nails the dilemma I’ve been having: Bet you’ll love the title: When a Teen’s Bedroom Is Incorrigibly Messy, It’s Time for Extreme Parenting.

Here’s one tactic suggested by parenting expert Jim Fay, co-founder of the Love and Logic Institute. He recommends saying, “I’ll take care of it.” Then, get the job done in some way that satisfies you but “creates problems for the kid,” Mr. Fay says. “Maybe you hire a neighbor kid to clean up.”

In another scenario in the article, one parent picked up all the clothes on her daughter’s  floor, stuffed them in two garbage bags and hid them in the attic. When her daughter arrived home from school to a bare bedroom, there was screaming, and shouting, ‘How can I live without my clothes?’ ” The mom required her daughter to earn her clothes back by doing chores.

My mom had her own tactic when I was growing up: When she couldn’t take it anymore, she would wake me up an hour earlier for school to clean my room. That meant the light would go on abruptly at 5:30 a.m. There’s nothing worse for a teen than waking up an hour early in the morning to clean their room!

One family sought help from Douglas Riley, a clinical psychologist, in getting their 14-year-old daughter to clean up her bedroom. Riley, who has worked with families for 30 years, suggested that since she wasn’t bothered by the dirty clothes all over her floor, perhaps the whole family could start using her room as a laundry hamper. Her attitude changed after her parents and younger brother started tossing dirty laundry into her room, including a few soaked and smelly T-shirts and socks

So parents, what strategies have you used? Or do you think the battle isn’t worth it and do you just shut the door to your teen’s room and live with the mess?

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  1. Jodi January 26, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    I follow the shut the teen’s door, and walk away theory. That is one battle I have chosen not to take on. Does it disgust me? Yes. Drive me crazy? Unbelievably. But of the “hills to die on” I decided this wasn’t going to be mine.
    When I was a teen, my room too was a mess. But I got over it in college when I was living in such a small space that I couldn’t handle the mess. Hopefully my girls will get over it too!!

  2. Bin Tage February 29, 2012 at 5:54 am

    spanking, spanking, spanking…

  3. discount polo shirts March 23, 2012 at 5:34 pm

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  4. Chris August 16, 2012 at 1:45 am

    Hey, I just found your blog tonight, good stuff.

    I’m 20 years old, so I’m not all that far removed from being a teenager, but let me tell you — not ALL teens are messy. I, myself, am a complete neat freak. My room is (and has always been) spotless. I just wish more people I knew in my age group were like this…


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