How do I teach my teens to clean up?
‘‘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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with Dear Mary-anne in the subject line.
I’ve got better things to do than pick up grown boys’ dirty socks and undies.