To get a teenager to clear up after themselves, firstly, at a good time explain the problem in a neutral way. Talk when you’re having a meal or just chatting.

Don’t call your teenager lazy or a slob or be critical. Just explain the problem calmly and ask for their help in solving it. So you could say:
‘I’m finding the mess in the house really frustrating. It’s really good to get into the habit of clearing up and keeping things tidy because it saves time trying to find things and it’s more respectful to people living in the same house. The three things that would make a big difference to me would be not having school bags and shoes in the hallway if the kitchen was tidy after you’ve made a snack, and if wet towels are hung up in the bathroom. How would you feel about trying to remember to clear up those things?’

Secondly, get an agreement about the consequences for everyone if you forget.

Say something like:
‘Look, I don’t want to be nagging you. And that’s the last thing you want. And sometimes I forget to clear up my things too. How about we agree a consequence if either of us leave our mess around? So if your things are in the hallway, or the kitchen’s a mess or your towel’s on the floor, three times, what could you do for me to help you remember the next time?’ and what could I do for you if I forget?

OK -let’s agree that if you forget to clear up your mess three times, you help me for 20 minutes cleaning the kitchen.

And if I forget three times, you can have a free lift when you’re going out with your friends. How does that sound?’

And finally, comment when they do clear up and follow up with consequences when they don’t. It’s hard, but be really consistent about noticing every time your teenager does clear their things.

Just say something casual like:

  • ‘You remembered to take your things to your room.’
  • ‘I noticed that the towel was on the rail this morning.’
  • ‘Thank you for clearing up after making your sandwich. It’s so nice to walk into the kitchen when it’s tidy.’

But if things start to slip, say something really simple like:

‘I found the towel on the floor this morning. That’s one.

The kitchen was a mess last night, that’s two.

Ok, the towel’s on the floor again. Is 4.30 this afternoon ok for us to clean the kitchen together?’

And make sure you follow through.

So to get a teenager to clear up after themselves, 3 things you can do are:

1. Talk at a good time and explain the problem in a neutral way.
2. Get an agreement about consequences for everyone if you forget.
3. comment when they do clear up and follow up with consequences when they don’t.

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The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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