Thoughts On Getting a 16 Yr Old Son to Clean His Room

I welcome all advice and opinions on this. Mods, if this belongs in IMHO, I apologize.

#1 son is a great kid: he’s kind, funny, smart, has an extensive network of friends, but adults like him, too. There is much to praise and be proud of. I love him no matter what, but there is one area that I cannot abide:

his room. In casual discussions with other moms of teen boys, I’ve halfway diagnosed him with executive processing disorder (half jokingly). But we can label it anything we like, the fact remains that his room is disgusting.

Before some of you jump all over me, please know that I am not a house proud woman. Baths and kitchen need to be hygienic. I would prefer the house to be picked up, but freely admit to clutter on the dining room table and to not dusting as much as needed. The house looks (and is) lived in. Felix Unger I ain’t and don’t expect (or want) any of my kids to be that way.

But this is something else again: empty 1 liter and 2 liter pop bottles (he buys them himself; pop was axed from the grocery list in a budget move) litter his desk, the floor under his desk, under his bed. Used Kleenex ditto (recent head cold). Last time I did a major clean out (when he was in Australia) I found 12, twelve, used roll on deodorant containers under his bed. Clothes everywhere. Bits of homework, scraps of paper, pen tops, caps to flashdrives, covers to computer games everywhere. Loose change everywhere.

My policy is that if money is on the floor and I’m the one picking it up, I keep it. All that sort of money goes into a giant bank and when it’s full, I will spend it on something for the family. He knows this, doesn’t seem to make a difference (although there are no bills on the floor, I note). He has not fully unpacked his suitcase from Australia, despite having used the same suitcase to go on a church retreat a few weeks ago.

I don’t mind the clothes too much–he does his own laundry. I don’t mind some of the clutter. What I do mind is the dirty dishes and empty pop bottles and the used Kleenexes. Gentle reminders get nowhere. Nagging gets me nowhere. The come to Jesus talk re you are soon going to be responsible for your life, bupkus. Time was, I took away his computer mouse until he cleaned his room. This made him very hostile (tough), but that way doesn’t appeal to me at present.

I accept that he’ll never be a neatnik. But I have to think there is a middle ground here somewhere. Husband doesn’t care; he just shrugs and says #1 son’s wife will be there for him (and that’s a whole nother thread, folks).

Thoughts? Ideas? Rants of your own?

If your husband won’t support you it’s no win. Getting tough is the only answer with mega slobs, and if hubby is too much of a weenie to support you, you’re SOL.

You might try our solution. Tie phone/internet/television privileges to his room maintenance.

Pay him.

Is it worth $10 a week to not have to see the specifically unhygenic things in his room?

My parents came up with an interesting solution. They put up a big poster of fines for each messy thing they found in our rooms. A dirty sock on the floor was a quarter, an open drawer was a dime, etc. This was really embarassing when friends came over.

Didn’t do the trick, but it was an interesting solution.

Buy him his own large trash can, a supply of garbage bags, and close the door?

I mean, he’s 16. In two years he’ll (presumably) be gone. Do you really want to spend two years making this an issue?

If you get some advice that’ll help for a 26 year old (me), please pass them along! :frowning:

As a lifelong sufferer of major depression, I can tell you that my housekeeping gets worse in direct proportion to my depression levels. When depression rules your world, you look at a piece of used kleenex on the floor and you think about picking it up. “But then,” you think, “I’d have to pick up all the other pieces of used kleenex. Otherwise what’s the point?” So every small step feels like an insurmountable, sisyphean superfund project. A simple empty bottle can be overwhelming.

Also, both of my parents were abusive, and I found sometimes that I had self-destructive impulses. I realized later that this was simply an attempt to claim control over some aspect, any aspect of my life. My mom wants my room clean? Fine; I’ll leave it dirty. That makes it MY decision, MY control. I think this is called passive aggressive: by finding a situation that you can control passively, by omission rather than omission, you seize control but maintain “deniability.”

Now I don’t know your kid, and I’m not diagnosing him from afar with depression, nor you of abuse. I’m just trying to share some perspective on the issue, and point out that addressing it only as a disciplinary issue may not be the only approach. Find out why he doesn’t pick things up; ask him what he thinks about when he thinks about picking it up. And then address that. It sounds like a minor problem; I’m not recommending therapy or anything. But maybe if you could help him to realize consciously what’s more desirable, in his psychological universe, about living in a messy room rather than a clean room, you might help him learn to address such issues creatively, analytically, rather than simply as a “JUST DO IT” thing.

Then, hopefully, when you’ve discovered what the psychological obstacle is, you can embark on a “one step at a time” exercise. Pick up ONE thing every time he enters the room, and ever time he leaves the room. Or, have him promise himself a reward, but only after cleaning this square yard of the room. Or something along those lines; build a new habit one step at a time.

Positive, creative, rather than negative, disciplinary, will help bring about a more long term result; simple disciplinary insistence can worsen the problem by increasing his sense of lack of control. At least, that’s how it was for me.

Yes, because in 2 years he’ll be gone.

This is some old baggage, but my sisters were like this. And my mom closed their doors and joked about it etc. But they never learned how to clean or when to clean, either. I may have missed some opportunities along the way, but he needs to know what basic clean is. I know I’ll have no control once he’s gone. I don’t want to think about his dorm room (I pity his roommate). But this is my last chance, so to speak. If I can get some principles into him, the rest is up to him. At least I’ll know I did what I could.

I am considering tying the car privilege to his room. Right now, he is supposed to clean his room every Sunday (the only day he is home for a stretch of time). I told him yesterday I needed it to be clean enough for me to vacuum. It wasn’t. So, I did threw the pop cans etc in the recycle, and of course, added to the family bank (this kid will end up bankrolling us to a major weekend getaway at this rate).

I suppose I could have waited until he got home, confronted him and made him do it right then. Thing is, his homework load is formidable, so I’d rather do this more hands off (if I can). I will be talking to him once he gets home.

Thanks for the suggestions, keep them coming.

Introduce him to cute girls his age until he develops a big crush on one of them. Then invite that one over for dinner. Give her a tour of the house. The humiliation will cause him to clean faster than you’ve ever seen.

lissener–what you say has merit and it was a lot of my come to Jesus talk with him. I am of the school that thinks that most teens don’t need someone being the heavy, they need some guidance and support. Agree re the positive stuff.

Thing is, he says he doesn’t care. He may well not care. But that’s not an answer. He may not care about doing his taxes or his homework or being nice to his classmates in class, but we all have to do things that we don’t like etc. I’d like to get him to the point of devoting just one hour or so a week to his room (if that–it’s not that big), so that the habit of discipline becomes second nature.

Your son sounds a lot like my sister when she was that age, up to and including the abandoned beverage containers. She and my parents finally came up with two rules that allowed them to coexist without bloodshed:

(1) No food in the bedroom. Discussion over.
(2) The bedroom door stays closed unless Mom and Dad deem the room fit to be seen by anyone other than cwSister.

That was it. Rule 1 took care of the hygiene issue. Rule 2 took care of the “how can you live like that?” issue. If she ran out of clean clothes, that was her problem. If she couldn’t find something, it was her problem. If she didn’t like having to keep the door shut, that was her problem.

She did clean up her room eventually. Her boyfriend came by the house to pick her up, she had to fetch something from the bedroom on the way out, and he saw the mess. He told her, “cwSister, this room is a pigsty!” Within the next few days, she had shoveled out the junk (by the garbage-bag full), stuffed clothes back into closets, and imposed a general air of order upon the place.

So, there’s hope.

I am a lifetime slob and my mom dealt with it by closing the door to my room so it wouldn’t bug her any more. I did my own laundry and never brought food / drinks in there, so it didn’t affect her at all.

I effectively learned that it’s my mess and therefore my problem. I’m still something of a slob and I wished I had cleaner habits, but there’s no way that my mom could have won that argument with the teenaged me. She didn’t think it was a battle worth fighting; at the time I appreciated it profoundly, and now I can’t blame her for it at all.

It’s not like those other things kids don’t care about - at some point, he will need to pay his taxes and schedule his own dentist appointments (or else suffer the real life consequences), but as long as there’s no sanitation issue I don’t see the consequences of being a slob. There was a thread here last week of adults confessing their eternal untidiness, and nobody complained that their life had suffered as a result.

That’s what I was thinking as well. Girls are the solution!

hmm… 16 year-old teenage boy…

That’s not USED KLEENEX!!!:eek:

I had to look twice at the OP to make sure I hadn’t written it myself. We have the same kid (well, apart from the adults liking him thing) in the same room at our house. He is my husband’s son and he’s only been with us for about a year now. My husband generally cuts him a lot of slack because the boy’s been raised in a different household, but lately he’s been getting severely pissed about the boy’s failure to do anything he’s asked.
One of the major issues is that the kids aren’t allowed to eat in their rooms, and [del]the boy’s[/del] Matt’s room is always full of wrappers and bottles and dirty dishes. This happens over and over. My husband says don’t do it again, Matt says okay, the next day an empty cookie package is found.

We have little to no power over Matt, so there is no discipline for this problem. Basically, it just has my husband asking himself why his son won’t do these small things and why kids think we exist just to pick up after them. Gah…I’m beginning to remember why I never did post about this…

My brother is like your son. A super-awesome guy, all people including mom love him to bits. But she couldn’t stand his room. Neither could dad (I think dad hated it worse, as he’s a bit of a neatnik).

My mom cleaned his room for a long while but once he got to be an older teen she stopped. I think the possibility of finding something that moms shouldn’t see kept her from doing it. My parents just left the door closed. This tactic drove my dad nuts though because it messed up the air circulation in the house to have a room closed off.

Anyway, he moved out for a bit. I don’t recall his room being too untidy in the new place but he had not taken all his stuff with him and his room was larger. Since he lived with a bunch of guys, the house as a whole was messy.

Then he came back, now in his 20’s, and was just as messy. Once again it drove my parents nuts and once again they kept the door closed.

Then he got married, to a gal who had as much “stuff” as him - but they moved into her place so there wasn’t much room for his stuff. Most of it stayed behind in my parents’ house.

Even after he was gone, they STILL had to clean up after him, ONE MORE TIME. They boxed up all his stuff…and put it in MY basement.

He’s fairly tidy now but I think it’s due to the fact that they have a lot of houseguests, and of course his wife is tidy. And they share a bedroom so he has no place to leave all his crap laying around. I did have a good laugh one time when his wife told me that she was shocked - shocked - that he would do stuff like open up a CD at the kitchen table then wander off, only to leave the CD wrapper on the table for a week. I asked her just how much she knew about him before they got married :wink:

Anyway, my brother didn’t have the “trash” problem your son has but he seems to have the same lack of respect for his stuff my brother had. He also has the same convenience of having mom clean up after him, as long as he can stand the mess longer than you can. As I said, even when he moved out at the age of 28, it didn’t occur to him to clean up his junk and at least pack it away. Why should he - mom would do it. And she did.

I vote for just forgetting about it, unless you are cleaning it for your own reasons. Because he is not going to change, and he’ll always be able to wait you out on it and end up with a nice clean room.

Oh, they’re used, alright, just not on his nose. :slight_smile:

I’m a half-assed housecleaner, too, probably will be all my life, but I have rules too - no hygienic issues, no risk of bugs/vermin, and the bathroom and kitchen stay clean. If he can keep his room within these boundaries and it doesn’t spread to the rest of the house, can you leave him his little kingdom of slobbery?

One thing that does help me with my lack of desire to clean is to have cleaning supplies on hand wherever I need to clean. Would it help at all to help him devise some procedures to make cleaning easier for him (put a recycling bin right in his room, give him an extra large garbage can, whatever works)?

Barring that, I like the idea of inviting teenaged girls over. :smiley:

My mom and I compromised. I was allowed to be messy as long as I confined the mess to one corner near the bed. Meals were eaten at the table so taking dishes in there wasn’t a problem. I did eat chips and stuff in there on occasion, until one day I had gone into the kitchen to get a drink and returned to my room to find ants on the bed!

As the brother of a 16-year-old and a former 16-year-old myself, my principal advice consists of the words “give” and “up.”

Hmm. I’m not the neatest person in the world, but what you’re talking about is just disgusting. Have you considered lighting a fire in his room and letting him keep whatever isn’t destroyed?