Monday, August 25, 2014

Teen's Room Is Her Domain, So Remain "com", Mom

Dear Tazi:

My sweet, beautiful, talented, and pleasant daughter is driving me up a wall! Yes, she is a teenager. Could that have gone without saying? On most fronts, "Eleanor" is the perfect child - and I am not just saying that because I am her Mom! She stays out of trouble, dresses appropriately for her age, gets excellent grades in school, is involved in extra-curricular activities and sports, is popular without being a "mean girl", and even volunteers at the local animal shelter on Saturday mornings. In fact, it was she who suggested I write to you, and we have both agreed to abide by your advice.

My problem with Eleanor is her bedroom. It is an absolute pigsty, and this is in complete contrast to the rest of my home, which is neat as a pin. At any one point in time, half of her clothes are on the floor in what she calls "laundry piles"; I cannot see the top of her dresser for all the papers, books, and accessories littering it; her bed is never made; and I will not even begin to tell you about her closet, as mere words cannot describe the dumping ground that it is.

I realize that my daughter's busy schedule demands a great deal of her time and energy, so the last thing she wants to do when she gets home is clean; but her bedroom is just so far out of hand! The more I beg her to clean it up, the worse it gets. In spite of her protests that she is not, I think she is doing this to spite me. My daughter claims that it is her room and she should be able to keep it the way she wants; but I counter that it is in my house, and I want the room clean. What do you think, Tazi? Which of us is right?

Debra the Harried Mom

Dear Debra-Harried:

I can understand your frustration completely! If it were up to me, my litter-boxes would be cleaned and freshened after my every use; whereas my Mommie feels that a once-a-day cleaning and sanitizing should suffice. This brings me to the detail that you left out of your letter: Is your daughter's room dirty? Not just messy, but dirty?  Does she leave dishes with food stuck on them lying around, or sticky glasses, or other things that would attract ants or other bugs? Does her room emit an unpleasant odor that is stinking up the rest of the house? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then she has crossed the line from messy to dirty and her room should be cleaned immediately for the health of the entire household.  Feel free to revoke her priviliges until this happens. 

On the other hand, your daughter's argument that her room is her personal space is a valid one. I realize that it is your house, but this one corner of it is space that you have given to her to have as her own. It is her personal domain; the place where she can decompress and "let it all hang out".  If she chooses to keep this space in disarray then she is the one who has to live in disarray, not you. If you cannot stand the sight of her mess, just close the bedroom door and pretend that it is not there. Sooner or later, she will get sick of her own surroundings and clean the place. She will also run out of clean laundry, and be forced to clean up the piles on the floor and organize her closet.   [One caveat: Do not allow her to burn candles, incense, or anything with a flame.  This could create a fire hazard].

You say that you "beg" her to clean her room. Are you sure that you are begging and not nagging? The two may seem similar, but to the person on the receiving end they are vastly different; and whereas the first will generally elicit sympathy, the second will result in your daughter stubbornly digging in her heels and refusing to clean just to spite you. Letting her be may result in her abiding by your wishes sooner, rather than later.

I realize this advice may be hard for you to accept, so I can offer an extreme alternative: embarrassment. The next time your daughter's friends show up at the door, invite them in and tell them that she is "up in her room" and send them in to see her. To a teenager, nothing is worse than the disapproval of their peers; so if her friends are horrified by the mess their reaction just might inspire her to turn into Martha Stewart.


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