Yawning and mumbling, your teenager listens to some of your lecture about their bedroom being dirty and them being lazy and fear of cockroaches and all you can see in their eyes is “okay, okay, okay…” How could it be? For years, you have been trying to sort out this mess with shelves and cupboards and baskets but your efforts never seemed to pay off and the situation is worsening. What can you do?
Parents often fear that the mess in their child’s room reflects an inner mess that would be hidden from them. If it is true in some cases and if some children would benefit from a good clean-up to sort their head out at the same time, most teenagers only need a room to call home. These teenagers desperately need freedom and it begins with the only place that they own, their bedroom.
While most parents are sick of it and would like to tell them to clear their mess, psychologists are formal: a messy bedroom is a phase that all teenagers must go through and ironically, this issue usually sorts itself out as soon as the parents give up. Therefore, you can stop feeling bad about leaving the room as is. If it drives you crazy, just shut the door to avoid the view.
It is not recommended to clean their room without their consent either. Once they reach their thirteenth year, teenagers need a place of their own where they can hide their secrets and make decisions without being looked at and constantly reminded of what’s right and what’s wrong. That place is their bedroom. Obviously, if your child runs to their bedroom as soon as they walk in and only come out to eat and go to the toilet, your relationship will eventually suffer from it. If you feel this is where things are going, try to find outdoor activities to spend some time together. However, in general, you should always knock on their door and ask for their permission before putting their things away or washing their clothes, even if only to show them that you respect their privacy.
Your child should not act as if your house was a hotel either. According to Daniel Marcelli, a psychiatry professor at the University Hospital of Poitiers, it is still more important to teach your child respect, chore sharing, and reciprocity than to respect their territory at all costs. Therefore, it is important that their freedom remains in their room and to make them understand that the areas that they share with others must be as clean when they leave, as it was when they arrived.
Of course, if you can tolerate clothes on their bedroom floor, they still need to remain within the limits of safety. Old plates, wrappings and clothes worn last month are not reasonable. Their bedroom should not become a garbage bin either and for some people, these bad habits could follow them as they grow up and make it harder for them to learn how to take care of their own apartment.
Children who have learned how to clean up efficiently at a very young age will find it easier to make it a habit. What we can do as parents is to teach them to do so in the rest of the house. Let’s leave their room out of it to help them catch their breath now and then.