Messy Teens (reader question)
This is a first in what I hope can be a valuable resource for Being MOM: readers. A couple weeks ago in a bit of a writer's block I asked on my Facebook page if anyone had questions I could help with. Today I will do my best to help with one of those readers with her question.
Amy asked for "Tips for an extremely messy 16 year old ... the bathroom she uses is the main washroom in our house (that guests use). How to get the point across that it’s HER responsibility to clean up after herself without making her feel negative about being so messy ! I’ve tried “how we do anything , is how we do everything “ meaning her mess is carrying over into the rest of her life (which it is ) Feels like I’m banging my head against a wall, how many times a day I have to ask her to tidy up her messes?"
I'm gonna guess you are not the only one with this challenge Amy. One challenge for me in digging into this question without being on a coaching call or talking in person, is that I am speculating and guessing, which may or may not get to the root of the challenge for you. My hope is that being a teen mom myself will give me enough to work with so it's helpful for readers. There are a few layers in here that I'll address separately.
First up- Thought work is work we do on our own thoughts. Not other people's thoughts. That means ultimately you have no control over getting her to clean up her messes. That doesn't mean you can't take action toward the goal, but in the end she chooses how messy she will be, and you then can choose to do thought work to manage your feelings around the situation. You asked "how many times a day I have to ask her to tidy up her messes?" and the answer is as many times as it takes. Bummer, right... or maybe not.
Because secondly- It's all about us! The self-coaching thought work, that is the core of this blog, is about how WE manage our thoughts no matter how the people around us behave or what circumstance strikes.
That being said I'm going to mix it up and bullet point some parenting ideas, then walk through the thought work with the assumption that NONE of them "worked".
Ideas (even if you've tried them all, consider trying again, never give up because one day something you've tried ten times already might actually work):
Leave her notes (I find humor works best):
on a clean sink- "don't I look sparkly clean? it feels amazing, thanks for keeping me that way"
next to a dirty tissue- "here I sit, just waiting to settle into my home in the waste basket"
on a balled up wet towel- "oh no! left here all wet and heavy I'm soon to mold and you'll have to use your tee shirts as substitute"
Notice when she does clean up and make an extra point of it by stating how it FELT. "Thanks for washing the toothpaste off the sink. It felt so good to know the bathroom was clean when guests stopped by." OR "I bought a new bottle of your favorite shampoo, because I was so pleased when I walked into the clean bathroom."
MODEL. The best parenting we can do is to lead by example, and you can gently verbalize that. "I can braid your hair after I clean up the wet towel from my shower. I hate that moldy smell." This is tricky, be careful to watch your tone and speak in statement, so as not to be too passive aggressive.
Let it get REALLY REALLY messy and put a note on the mirror or door that reads "Dear guests, The teenage resident of our home is learning about cleanliness and hygiene. We're all learning with her. Would you mind leaving a rating on a scale of 1-10 of how clean you think this bathroom is?"