How do I teach my teens to clean up?

The Horowhenua Mail - - CONVERSATIONS -

‘‘Over the years I vac­il­lated be­tween the 'clean it up' or 'shut the bed­room door' ad­vice from the ex­perts. I tried to save my en­ergy for other clashes.’’

Q: I have three sons and I’m sick of clean­ing up af­ter them. No mat­ter how much I threaten or beg, none of the boys seem to no­tice their mess. How can I train them so they don’t be­come un­tidy men? I’m sick of pick­ing up dirty socks and undies.

Guys seem to shed their undies and old socks the way ci­cadas shed their skins. And like ci­cadas, guys seem un­aware a layer is be­ing cast-off. The trou­ble with socks and undies is they take far longer to break down.

I used to get up­set too, about un­der­wear strewn over bed­room and bath­room floors. (I’d like to add wet togs and tow­els to that tally of an­noy­ing castoffs – I couldn’t bear damp bath­room tow­els left ly­ing on my sons’ beds).

Over the years I vac­il­lated be­tween the ‘‘clean it up’’ or ‘‘shut the bed­room door’’ ad­vice from the ex­perts. I tried to save my en­ergy for other clashes, but I couldn’t stand the mess and I

Mary-anne says:

usu­ally caved and cleaned it up my­self or cre­ated a fight by in­sist­ing my sons do it.

It sounds as if the mess is driv­ing you mad, so it’s best to de­vise a plan now that saves you from that slip­pery slope. Have your dis­cus­sion and strate­gis­ing at a time when you’re not ready to throt­tle one of your boys. You could try the pos­i­tive re­ward sys­tem but re­mem­ber you’ll need time and en­ergy to set up a scheme and main­tain it. You’ll also need a real in­cen­tive; they can smell a phony re­ward from the tree­house.

If it’s any con­so­la­tion, I did find over the years that the strewn clothes were not in­ten­tional. When pointed out, the males in my house seemed sur­prised and dis­ap­pointed to see their trail. They some­times gave valu­able in­sights by of­fer­ing ex­pla­na­tions like, ‘‘I haven’t run out, yet.’’

As for train­ing them for the fu­ture; the men they’ll be­come? I once won­dered why my moth­erin-law hadn’t made any ef­fort to teach her son to be tidy, but now I take that back. I can see she fought and lost as well. I wish you luck.

Mary-anne Scott has raised four boys and writ­ten two nov­els for young adults in­clud­ing

As one of seven sis­ters, there aren’t many par­ent­ing prob­lems she hasn’t talked over. To send her a ques­tion email life.style@fair­fax­me­dia.co.nz with Dear Mary-anne in the sub­ject line.

I’ve got bet­ter things to do than pick up grown boys’ dirty socks and undies.

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