This is the latest from our new column, ‘Dear Danni’, where Dannielle Miller shares tips on parenting kids aged 10+.
My teens are messy and lazy around the house. How can I convince them to do their fair share without turning it into a shouting match?
Oh, Dear Reader, I wish I knew.
Your question reminds me of one I was once asked by a father as he saw me walking into his daughter’s school to run workshops there for the day. “Excuse me,” he yelled out from his car, “Are you that lady who is here today to talk to the girls? Could you please convince my daughter to clean her room?”
“Sir”, I replied, “If I could do that, I’d be charging a lot more for my talks!”
The truth is, messy kids happen to good parents.
I know this, despite the fact I have spent almost two decades drawing up charts, pleading, yelling, writing letters pointing out that expecting me to do most of the household work is unjust (both my kids have a strong sense of social justice and I’d hoped an appeal for fairness might do the trick). My kids are now 21 and 19 – and still untidy.
Yet, as my daughter rightly points out, they are also kind, funny, hard-working and we share a very close, connected relationship. “Mum”, she once said, “I am a good student. I have great friends. I’m a loving daughter. But I do drop towels. I think you need to get over it.”
Firstly, sassy. But also, there’s some truth there.
I have now come to the point where I try not to let the minor messes rattle me (most days. On others, I cry and moan about how dreadful it is that NO ONE will unpack the dishwasher without being asked to do so). As my teens are now older and have part time jobs, I have also asked them to contribute funds towards paying a cleaner which helps keep the common areas clean.
But I do have one other suggestion.
Keeping a clean house isn’t just about hygiene and aesthetics. A messy environment can also contribute to a messy mind. My daughter’s bedroom used to resemble an archeological dig, with various layers of clothing and accessories marking out key events in her life.
One night, she watched the declutter-queen Marie Kondo with me and suddenly all my nagging about the mind-calming qualities of order finally sunk in.
Perhaps you too might try calling in the big guns and trying Netflix as therapy (there’s also the Home Edit team who seems to find almost orgasmic pleasure in tidying up spaces).
For us, it worked – in part. Miraculously, my daughter’s bedroom is now almost always tidy, and she has joined me in realising how pleasant it is to walk into a space where the bed is freshly made rather than dishevelled.
But I must confess she is only semi-reformed as she still drops towels in the bathroom she shares with her brother. And she sent me the tik-tok clip below via text the other day for a giggle. I can confirm, it is spookily accurate.
Parenting is all about picking your battles. If keeping an immaculate home is one you want to fight, then onwards soldier!
Otherwise, at least train them to be considerate in common areas and keep their bedroom doors closed.
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Dannielle Miller is the CEO of Australia’s leading provider of in-school wellbeing programs for teens, Enlighten Education. She is also a best-selling parenting author, the Director of Education and Special Projects for Women’s Community Shelters, and is the founder of The School Toilet Project.