Most teenagers hate cleaning their room.
They choose to live in what most of us would describe as ranging between cluttered and untidy to downright squalor. Boys are sometimes worse than girls, tending to deposit half-eaten food items under soggy footy socks and snotty tissues under the bed.
However, I have seen some girls rival even the filthiest of pigsties, with wet towels growing mould and even plates of what may have held some kind of snack at some point, piling up on the dresser. And who can blame them, cleaning isn’t exactly fun, but it’s a lesson in maintaining personal hygiene and respecting your own property that all teenagers need to learn.
When it comes to personal space, bedrooms are a kid’s first real step into the world of their own domain. It’s meant to be theirs, so why do they have to keep it tidy if they don’t want to? It’s a battle waged across all houses, and most parents have at least one child who prefers to live in their own ‘personalised’ space.
Generally, if your teenager is not housing rodents or mistakenly making explosives or antibiotics with the decaying food matter and bacteria growing in their bedroom, you can probably rest assured that they aren’t sleeping in a genuine health hazard.
The whole purpose behind teaching our kids the important life skill of cleaning their room is that they will learn about keeping things in order to be able to find them when they need them, to establish routine, to keep things organised, and responsibility for their own, and other people’s property.
There is a window here to teach our teenagers that not all chores are arduous, that there can be pleasure in taking care of things and showing respect to ‘stuff’, money and people. The secret is in the execution, much like a stealth spy operation, and we’ve found you some pointers to assist you in your mission (should you choose to accept it!):
1. Lead By Example
You can’t expect your teen to even contemplate cleaning their room when yours, or the rest of the house, is lacking in the cleanliness department. All kids are far more responsive to what we do rather than what we say and see things as the norm when we maintain it.
2. Make It Fun and Make It Convenient
Telling your teenager they need to have their room clean before they leave the house in five minutes is just being unrealistic. Agree on a time with your teenager that they will make the effort to really get in and clean up; strip their bed sheets, wipe down surfaces and sort out and put away their clothes. Allow them to play their music (we all know how much more fun it is to groove to the music whilst we clean) and let them enjoy the time to themselves in their own space.
3. Start Them Off
Open a window, put a bin in the middle of the room and maybe even provide a snack (if the job is THAT big!). Pull everything out from under the bed; place a laundry basket in the room for dirty clothes and a box for anything that belongs outside of the bedroom. Place the vacuum cleaner on the floor and any cleaning equipment on a shelf and let them get to it. Define clearly what you expect from them and what it means to have a clean room.
4. Let Them Call Some of The Shots
It’s their space, but it’s your house. Explain to your teenager that you expect their room to be cleaned and tidied and kept to a certain standard, but that they can control all other aspects of the room. Let them choose their bed sheets, posters, paint and decor and allow them to rearrange the furniture. Relinquishing control of one room of your house may be hard, but giving your child the responsibility of a space they created might make them try harder to keep it nice.
5. Respect Their Privacy
For teenagers, it’s all about leaving them to it. Teenagers need, and deserve, their privacy and should be able to be trusted to get the job done. Usually, a threat of coming in whilst they are at school and doing the job yourself will give them the kick they need to get started! Pop in occasionally to ensure they are staying on task but other than that, have a little faith.
When it comes to getting your teenager to clean their room, sometimes, your best bet is to just shut the door. A lot of parents choose to let their teenagers learn from their own mistakes when it comes to filthy clothes and unidentifiable smells and choose to just ignore the mess. Unless you suspect your teenager of doing something illegal or hazardous to their health, this method can work. Bottom line is, it’s your house, your rules; and you are the only one who can endure or ignore this inevitable part of growing up!