Dear Rene,

I’m at my wit’s end when it comes to my sloppy son, Tyler.  His room is a mess! I spend too much time cleaning up after him and I can’t seem to get him to clean up after himself.

Tyler is a typical 16-year-old teenage boy; he’s popular, active in school sports and always finds time to be with his friends.  So, that means he’s running in and out of the house and is always late for some event.  For him, juggling his busy school and social life takes top priority over keeping his room clean. His clothes are on the floor, leftover food on plates remain on his dresser for days and the room smells old and musty.

Tyler protests and does not want me to clean his room. He believes that as long as his room door is closed then his messy room shouldn’t be a problem. I believe he should do better.

Rene, it drives me crazy to know that behind my son’s closed bedroom door is a mountain of mess. How can I get my sloppy sixteen-year-old son to clean up his room?


Megan, Orlando

Dear Megan:

AGH! Okay you have to regain control of this situation and I mean like yesterday. You’re raising an overgrown baby who will one day leave the nest, marry a beautiful woman who will grow to resent you as she’ll have to pick up where you left off by, well, picking up after him. Okay, deep breath, counting to ten, here’s what I would do.

NO MORE PICKING UP AFTER TYLER: If he wants to live in his own filth, let him, but he’s not allowed to bring food in there anymore. Not only is it gross, but old food lying around is rat and bacteria bait. Remind him the mold should be confined to science class, not his room and put the kabosh on that. If he wants to wear dirty clothes and dress off the floor, as much as it pains you to see your adorable son looking like a panhandler, you’re gonna have to let him. That will stop the moment he gets a disgusted look from a girl he thinks is cute.. He may actually start USING the laundry hamper you have in his room.

GIVE HIM AN INCENTIVE TO KEEP HIS ROOM CLEAN: You listed a lot of things that Tyler is into. Time to be clever and hold some of those activities hostage. Look, rarely do people do things because they are the “right” things to do; most of us are prompted when life gets uncomfotable. Sit Tyler down and tell him that cleaning his room is as important as those other scheduled activities. If he cannot manage that along with the others, something’s got to give and it won’t be the cleaning sessions. I suspect once you take away a few of the “hanging with friends” activities he will get the message. You may need to remind him from time to time but I supsect if he wants it bad enough, this will ultimatly work.

TAKE AWAY TYLER’S DOOR: In the event that all else fails, you’re going to have to go to DEFCON1. I know this sounds crazy but I’ll bet it gets results. Think about it; what does a 16-year-old  boy want more than a girlfriend, clear skin and a bad ass car? PRIVACY! So get out your tool box and remove the door from it’s hinges. The flip side of this is that you’ll have to walk by the room and see the filth but my guess is that it won’t be that way for long.

I hear this from my kids sometimes too, when they try to convince me that it’s “their room” and they can do whatever they want with it. That’s when I remind them “their room” is part of “my house” the one I pay for and as such, they must abide by “my rules”. As for you, as uncomfortable as this is going to be for Tyler, I suspect it will be equally so for you. Just prepare yourself for a couple of tough weeks until Tyler gets with the program. Close your eyes as you walk past his room; better yet, avoid that part of the house altogether.

Good luck mommy!

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