Must Punishment Always Be Spelled Out in Advance?

Updated on March 22, 2013
J.B. asks from Katy, TX
53 answers

Our 13 yr old never keeps his room clean or picks up after himself. He has been given every 'tool' available to help him. He has been shown 'how to' at great lengths. And still no effort or attempt on his part.
Examples are leaving dirty clothes on the floor... 3 ft away from the laundry basket IN HIS ROOM. He never makes his bed (it's something we do in this house), leaves shoes/school work/stuff laying all over his room.
So.... knowing what is expected of him and having the conversation time and time again do you feel it appropriate to impose punishment without punishment being spelled out before hand.
In regards to his room we haven't said "if you don't clean your room, _____ will happen or get taken away".
So what say you.... fair? unfair?

What can I do next?

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answers from Los Angeles on

Totally fair. He knows the score, he knows that he needs to keep his room clean. When you mete out a punishment, then he'll know what happens when he doesn't do it. He's 13, not 5.

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answers from Biloxi on

Eh, I think in the case of room cleaning and regular chores that the "if you don't do X, then the consequence will be Y" conversation should happen. It only has to happen once and can be as simple as one sentence.

In the case of something that is high risk and egregious, then immediate punishment is called for.

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answers from Honolulu on

You do not have to spell out the punishment beforehand.
Not at all.
When I was a kid.... I was never "warned" nor warned umpteenth times to do something. I was just punished/reprimanded, if I did not do it.
None of this multiple warnings or talking a certain way or negotiating or hand-holding or anything. If I did something that my parents did not allow or were against the rules, a blatant offense, I was scolded and punished. And that was it. Never again, did I do it.

This is a great article on Teenagers, which the National Geographic had:

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answers from Washington DC on

What about natural consequences?

We let my SD know that her room had to be clean for a friend to come over. So any time she asked for a friend to visit, we'd say, "What's your room look like?" Many times her own consequence was having to spend some time cleaning vs hanging out.

Or we made her do all her own laundry and if it was all over the floor and never got washed, well, I wasn't the one going to wash the jeans she can't find in the pile the night before.

FWIW, I was a disaster kid and manage to keep a house OK. My mom just closed the door.

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answers from Boston on

I wish I knew about Love and Logic years ago!

We chose not to pick this battle. But... my husband had one rule. When he checked on the kids (until they left after college) at night, there had to be a clear, safe path from their beds to the door. If that "fire escape" rule wasn't followed, he woke them up and had them clean the route. I'm glad to report that rule was almost always followed.

Best of luck!

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


Every kid is different. Some do not have ANY organizational skills matter what you do to help them. It's just not something they "relate" to.

In our home - punishment is spelled out.
1. If you do not do your homework - you may NOT text on the phone nor may you play XBOX, etc. No TV. Period. Until homework is done.
2. Chores - same as above.
3. Bedroom - My oldest son is good at keeping his room clean and picked up. My youngest? Not so much. Like your child - even at almost 11 - his idea of "picked up" and "bed made" is NOT **MY** idea of picked up and bed made.

How have we dealt with it? We've tried keeping his room as "sparse" as possible - using the KISS Method - Keep It Simple Silly. If he throws his bedspread over his bed - I'm okay with that...I've loosened up in what my expectations have to be on that.

No hangers on the floor. URGH!
No clothes on the your child, my will just leave his where he takes them off - even though the basket is just a few feet away...

before things are done - we go through the room -
bed made - check.
clothes picked up - check

I really do not like having to hold his hand through it - but really - it's the ONLY thing that helps him. If it's not done - he doesn't get TV, electronics, computer - anything...

I've learned to pick my battles. His room is not near the main portion of the home, so people don't see it unless they intentionally walk to his room.

If you think punishment - spelled out - will help. Then do it. Make a chart...use a hanger with clothes pins on it...for each task...and he must turn that clothes pin over when the task is done...

11 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

We have a 13 year old son. (and 2 more on down the line) Sounds like our boys are twins!

In our home we teach them how to clean. They have a lot of cleaning responsibilities even though I am home full time. That is the lesson we are wanting them to learn. We let go of the "clean room,bed made each day" battle. It was not the fight we wanted to fight. We had to approach it with a new outlook and not that he is being disrespectful to the stuff we have bought him...or he is being lazy etc. We just are happy that he knows how to clean. Not that things are prestine every day.

We do expect that once a week he does a "tidy up day". This is usually Saturdays for us. We have found that when we laid off him about his room then he doesn't push back as much. I have even found him tidying up his room on other days other than Saturday. I have heard the vacuum on multiple occasions and then go find where the noise is coming from. The boy is vacuuming under his bed and rearranging furniture. Wow!! I hadn't even uttered a word to him.

Sooo, I say lay off. Let this go. Close the door if the mess bugs you. But do impose an occasional "tidy up" day. Our son knows that on "tidy up" day, all chores and his room must be cleaned before any electronics go on or activities with friends is planned.

I know...clothes on the floor right next to the hamper looks ridiculous...but it doesn't matter to him yet. Someday it will click. It will become important to him. Just make sure you are teaching him how to clean,do laundry,do dishes etc. Does he do his own laundry? Launder his own bedding?? This has helped our son take more pride in his much underwear,socks,favorite shirts he has left to wear.

Good luck. But my vote is lay off. He is a teenager...don't make your fights be about a clean room. You don't want to push him away with fights about a clean room. Tell him that once he gets his room clean on ________ day then he can hang out with a friend or have an hour on his favorite video game. Spin it to be more positive then a negative will happen if he doesn't get it done. Really...the approach is the clincher with teenagers.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

For it to be effective in that case it has to be laid out ahead of time. It has to be tied to the crime and it has to be worse than committing the crime.

What I mean is you want him to pick up stuff and keep his room clean, to pull it off you have to start with a clean room and everything picked up. See if you don't then staying home is easier than cleaning and in general most parents crack after a few days.

So for it to work, work with him getting everything picked up, perhaps lay it out as WE will clean this up and if you don't help with the cleaning you will not go out tonight. That give him the option of having help with cleaning or staying home and having to clean the whole thing himself. I have never had my kids refuse this offer. :) and they are ADHD! So when it is done you spell out, keep it this way or you don't go out! What that does is with any luck he is doing something the next night, no one can trash their space in eight hours, I hope. So an hour or so before he plans to go out, is everything straight? Since it will only be a little bit he will whip though it. After a while he just keeps it clean without prompts. :)
Okay after reading the other answers, sure you can do whatever your want, ground him for life without warning. Thing is if you goal is to change his behavior and not prove who is in control, you have to warn what will happen.

You have to create the mindset I am going out so I better make sure I have picked up. That won't be done if you punish without warning. It will not get cleaned and the next day you will be in negotiations with the reprobate. At some point you will crack because they have youth on their side, you know that effing stamina they seem to steal from us?

I think the reason so many people have sneaky teens, that go around the rules, is they don't tie the punishments to changing behavior, they just want to be able to say they are a strict parent.

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answers from Dallas on

Check out love and logic ( you can call them about classes in your area/facilitators. Sometimes they are free, at the most they are reasonable.

They are all about natural consequences. For example, if he doesn't put his clothes in the bin, they don't get washed so his favorite shirt he planned to wear isn't ready - well that's too bad, maybe he'll put his clothes in the bin next time, etc. The bed thing doesn't bother me as much - I'm bad at it, because my hubby wakes up after I do.

As long as he isn't taking food in there to rot and attract bugs, this might be a "close the door, you're responsible for it" thing. If school is close enough for him to walk if he's not ready when it's time to leave, then you may have to do that (ex. from not finding his shoes in time). If he can't find his school work, then he doesn't turn it in and he doesn't get the grade he should have. Natural consequences. It's MUCH harder than straight punishment, but they learn more from it.

Hope that helps :)

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answers from Austin on

We gave up and instead closed her door. When she did not have her favorite clothes clean or they were lost. "So sad, too bad" .. "I do not want to hear about it. "

Cannot find that lost shoe? "Nope not buying another pair.. Hurry up, I am leaving and you do not want to be late to school.."

A few times, I did tell her, "Tomorrow afternoon, I am going to go into your room and throw away anything and everything that sis n the floor that does not belong there."

I also NEVER allowed her to invite anyone over unless her room was picked up.. That got her motivated.

And so natural consequences can work, but you have to be willing to stick with them..

If I had thrown away anything from her room.. it was really gone.. not in our trash can but taken to my works dumpster.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I say that in this case, you do need to give a warning.

I know that it drives parents nuts when their kid has a messy room, however, I want to posit the question: isn't this like, the ONE space in the world he should have control over?

Instead of punishing, I think I would make this *his* problem. So, when laundry doesn't get washed-- so sad, too bad. If he's walking on his clothes, then let him know that you will not be buying him new clothes until it's necessary (summer shorts, tees or back to school); if he trashes out his clothes because he doesn't put them away, he'll have to earn the money to replace them.

Doesn't make his bed? Well, he's the one who has to live with that. How does it affect you?

I'd work to make the consequences of an unclean room as natural as possible, and then to choose your other consequences carefully. If it's a pigsty, then choose your time "I cannot see the floor in your room. I know you want to go to X with your buddies( or another fun privilege), and you need to have your floor picked up before you can go." Give him 24 hours so it's not a long nag, and then *let it be his to deal with*.

If he says it's too hard, give him a simple list of where to start.
1. Pick up clothes from floor. Dirty=hamper/Clean=drawers/hangers
2. Find schoolwork/books. Put away in backpack. Put library books in separate pile to return.
3. Make bed. Take off quilt/sheets; take dirty sheets to laundry. Replace with clean sheets from (cupboard/linen closet). Make bed up.
etc etc. This written reminder will mean that he must self-manage his cleanup.

Let him vacuum/sweep his own floor.

You want him to learn how to get beyond the battle with you and manage it himself. You want him to associate the clean-up with a pay-off. Also make sure that he has enough time to during the weekends to provide an hour to tackle this. Remember that kids are easily distracted, too.

So, only fair if there is ample warning,and do talk to your spouse about this. WHY is it important that the room be picked up? Honestly, as a teen, I had no idea why my mom was so particular about my room being clean. I simply did not understand what was so stinking important about it. As an adult, I did learn the benefits of doing those tasks, but I have to say, if my mother had connected it to 'clean your room and then you can do this fun thing you want to do' vs. 'you're grounded because your room is a mess'...I likely would have had a better attitude about it.

I should add this: some punishments are reasonably served cold. Hurting someone (lying, stealing, hitting, being very disrespectful)--those are known wrongs which hurt others. I think, in this case, the only person the messy room is truly hurting is your son, which is why I suggest a warning. This isn't about him being mean or bad, this is about helping him develop self-management skills. That's why I think a carrot is preferred to a stick in this situation.

ETA: "At some point you will crack because they have youth on their side, you know that effing stamina they seem to steal from us?" Oh my, Jo! That was so funny-- and so true!

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on


It would be perfectly fine (in my book) to dole out a punishment on the spur of the moment for something that happened unexpectedly (he broke something, he lied, he said something rude or whatever)... but for an ongoing issue, you need to spell out the consequences in advance.

Honestly, why don't you just close the door though? Until it bothers him, he won't change. You can make it bother him by spelling out consequences, or you can wait until it becomes an issue for him. Eventually it will.
I have a 14 yr old son, and really, we always had this same kind of thing going on. Just in the last year, he has really started taking ownership of his room and keeping it in much better shape. Still not quite the shape I would like, but far better than ever before-and it is because HE wants it picked up. I don't even have to fuss about it anymore.


The rest of the house is a different matter. He is called to pick up behind himself if he leaves a mess somewhere, I don't do it for him. And there are "rules"... no wet towels on the floor being one.

Sorry, had to add again--- I agree with Jo that you should start him out with a clean slate, whatever approach you decide to take. If your son is like mine, in his 13 years of sloth, he has managed to accumulate (despite your best efforts) a sizable amount of clutter and junk and actual garbage. Take a day (a weekend one, so he can help) and get it sorted out and in good order. Do some purging before hand while he is at school though (the actual garbage stuff--empty shoe boxes, wrappers from whatever that fell out of the back pack, broken pencils, etc). Then, when those 5 garbage bags are in the trash, tell him that Saturday you are "doing" his room. You being the collective "you".

@Rose-- we do the "fire escape route" too! :)

8 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

You probably know this, but this is prototypical for a preteen boy. I'd honestly be surprised to hear about a 13-year-old boy handling laundry/cleanliness issues any other way.

So, I think something that's half-punishment, half-incentive might work well. You might try giving him one warning:

YOU: "Since you don't have time to pick up after yourself, then I'm sure you won't miss your phone/iPad/X-Box/whatever at all."

KID: Howl of protest,

YOU: Well, clean up after yourself, and it's yours. If you choose not to do that, it's repo'd.

In general, if a kid shows an unexpected lapse of judgment -- 5 year old runs into traffic, 15 year old stays out late and doesn't call -- you can punish without warning first, since the kid should have known better. But if you've got a chronic situation and you want to ratchet things up from lecture to consequence, then ideally it'd better to give fair warning first.

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answers from Columbia on

I haven't had to deal with this issue yet with my own child, but when I was 13, I was pretty much the same way you described above. I was a slob. And I continued to be a slob no matter what my parents told me until I was out of the house and in college. I'm no neat-nick now by any stretch, but I'm not a slob either. And I would prefer to have things clean and picked up. It drove my dad nuts that my room was so messy. But here's what my parents did: as long as I kept my filth to myself and my room was clean when company arrived, they let it go. I had to live in it. I was a teenager and knew better, but I liked living in chaos. I had to do my own laundry, so it was my problem if all my clothes were dirty. It was my problem if I couldn't find my things and it was my own fault that my parents didn't buy me the new thing I wanted because I couldn't find the other thing they just bought me. I had to buy my own things with my allowance money for the most part anyway (which I got, in part, for cleaning up my room.)

I was also very close to my mom and she refused to enter my room when it was a wreck. That bugged me tremendously, so that was an incentive to pick up once in a while.

I agree with some of the comments below. If you give him incentives, he may bite. I'm not sure if punishment will really work though, or absorb the way you want it to. He's old enough to know better, but it's his stuff, his space. Once his stuff starts to expand all over the house and cause a problem for the rest of the family, then it's a problem, at least in my opinion. When I used to leave my stuff everywhere, my dad would just quietly pick it up, put it in a trash bag and go donate it. I learned quickly that I had to keep my stuff in my space.

Good luck figuring out your best course of action!

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answers from New York on

I'm super neat and always have been so wonder what i'll do if my kids are messy. My sister's room was always super messy. My mom rolled her eyes and let it go. Now she's very neat while her daughter's room is a mess. Does it really matter if his room is messy? It's his room... I don't want to be a control freak. I think the laundry stuff needs to be fixed and if you want his bed made, that's a definite. No wet towels on the floor either... I'd spell those 3 things out and a punishment if they're not adhered to but let the rest of the stuff go. Figure tell him today so not a lot of time lost between punishing today or tomorrow if it's not done... Btw - does he have to make his bed before school? That seems a little harsh. Most adults I know don't make their beds before work... And I never made mine. My mom stayed at home and did it. She considered it part of her job while I was focused on school. Now i'm fanatical about beds always being made (but not before work!) so not like if he doesn't learn now he'll never do it.

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answers from San Francisco on

It can be fair, if a clean room is important enough to you and you're willing to do that battle for the next 6 years.

There is a school of thought that a kid's room should be theirs to keep as they want, as long as there's a reasonable amount of sanitation.

All I can say is, choose your battles.

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answers from San Francisco on

I'm afraid I lost that battle years ago. Hell, my own HUSBAND drops his clothes on the floor, right next to the basket. I make him keep his laundry basket and mess in his closet so I don't have to look at it.
Same thing with my teenagers, I just close the door, so I don't have to look at it.
I do make them clean up all their messes around the rest of the house.
I just feel like there are so many potential battles with my kids on any given day: homework, grades, chores, extracurriculars (sp?) friends, driving, curfews, health/eating, exercise, employment, dating, money, the list goes on and on. I have chosen not to make their bedrooms, or the way they dress, part of my list of daily nagging, expectations and/or punishment. The only rule is NO FOOD in there and they do all their own laundry.
But in answer to your actual question (lol!) I think 13 is plenty old enough to understand expectations ahead of time so I see nothing wrong with taking away a privilege when he doesn't do something he knows he was supposed to do.

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answers from Boise on

I agree in a sense with Fanged Bunny, you are the parents and can punish as you see fit.

However, I agree with the other poster in the sense that you have allowed it up until this point and coming in and saying 'well son your room isn't clean you're grounded for a week" is unfair.

Instead make it clear that he has until Saturday at noon to have his room cleaned, to your standards, or you will come in with a trash bag and remove everything that isn't in it's proper place. Then if he doesn't do it, have at it, and remove all of his stuff. Usually once is all that it takes.

Now, here's my take on room cleaning, not that you asked, but here goe anyways. At 13 he should be responsible for his room.......whatever way he wants to go with it. Dirty clothes not in the basket, are clothes that don't get washed. Of course at 13 he should be doing his own laundry, so really this shouldn't be your problem anymore. Can't find something in his mess- his problem. Brakes something in his mess-his problem.

I never ruled my kids rooms, except when they were very little. They did know that I expected rooms to be picked up at least once a week, and I did check it out. Usually Saturday before they could do anything else, and this worked, they had the freedom of being slobs, if they so liked, but I also got to know that at least once a week it was clean and anything that shouldn't be in there (like trash and dishes) were being removed.

It was a lot less stressful that way for everyone involved.

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answers from Houston on

I'd look at how he is with everything else. Is he a "good" kid? Does he keep the common areas clean? As long as he's not growing anything in there, I'd lay off about HIS SPACE. If you allow eating or drinking in bedrooms, tell him that he's got too much going on in there for that to be an option for him. Ease up on your expectations of him. Don't make everything in there non-negotiable. It's possible that it's just not who he matter how you try to beat it into him. It might be best to choose the most important things that you want him to maintain and let the rest of it go.

Once you re-establish the expectations, based on what's reasonable with each kid, then "pop quiz" punishments can be okay. I was that kid who kept a cluttered room. I'm still kinda that way. (Your head would probably explode if you saw my desk right now.) When I'm "working", I like to have all my stuff around me. It stimulates me to see my stuff or to be able to reach out and touch whatever I might need. I get little to nothing done when everything is put out of sight. Also, I have no patience for making a bed every day. If I'm setting it for company or if I'm the company, no problem. My bed that I could stretch out on at any given moment that I'm home? I do pull up the covers, to "close" it. I am willing to make it look pretty neat, but I won't be trying to bounce quarters off that sucker.

What is the point? Are you trying to teach him something that he can take with him, or do you just want things the way you want them? At what point does he get to learn how to put things up in a way that works for him and how he thinks? Show him that there's more to keeping things neat and clean than just "because I said so". For example, teach him that folding his jeans isn't just neat for the room, it also keeps the creases ready for wear. That's what sticks. Did you have a kid who jus tdidn't see the point in bathing, until that first crush? All of a sudden it made sense. If you want them to take it with them, then it's got to be presented in a way that makes sense. Otherwise, it's an ongoing battle.

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answers from Norfolk on

I suppose I'd approach it this way:
"Son, it seems you are overwhelmed since you can't seem to get through the basics of room management - laundry in hamper, room clean (vacuumed once a week), school work tidy, etc. I want to help you out and I think the best way to overcome this overwhelmed situation is to de-clutter your room till there is a manageable level of stuff. We'll know we've hit the right level when you can maintain your room to our expectations. Then if you can keep it up, we'll slowly allow a few things to go back in. If it gets out of whack again, we'll take things out again. We'll start this weekend.".
Make it a friendly conversation - smile!

Then DO IT - no more waiting - no more warnings - just follow through.
If you have to empty his room till he has just a bed, a dresser, and only a few changes of clothes - so be it.

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answers from New York on

No. As a parent, you can dole out punishment in whatever way you choose, it's your parental perrogative. Not dissimilar to a calc teacher announcing a pop quiz.

I don't think it's unfair. The room should be cleaned because you asked him to, not because he is looking to avoid a stated consequence.

Good luck to you and yours,
F. B.

PS- I applaud the patience you've demonstrated so far. That sort of thing would drive me spare.

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answers from Columbia on

I suggest using Love and Logic (it's an excellent book). Using love and logic requires that you allow real life consequences to take place, and you show empathy towards your child.

It's the "If, when, then" technique, with empathy. "If" you don't do what needs to be done, "when" you're SUPPOSED to do it, "then" you cannot do what you want to go do. You must feel really disappointed."

The most important thing about this technique is to stay away from lecturing. Let real life teach the lesson. You remain empathetic, not irritated or condescending. They learn to resent their OWN poor choices, not mom and dad being dictators. They change their habits because they learn that they are responsible for the outcome.

For instance, you say "Oh, we're going to get some ice cream/watch a movie/have dinner. You can't go because your room is not up to the family standard. It's really too bad you can't go. We'll miss you." Then go and leave him to clean up.

Or, here's one we used on my eldest a couple of years ago: "Well, since you decided to wait until the night before it's due to do the history project you were assigned two weeks ago, you can't play in the basketball game. I'm sad that we won't be able to see you play, but we all know how important it is to get our homework done and not procrastinate."

My youngest son loves watching "Wheel of Fortune" and "I Dream of Jeannie" every night after dinner. This is something we do as a family. It is also the boys' responsibility to do the dishes after dinner. Well, the boys decided to play around in the kitchen and take too long to get their chores done. T missed both of his favorite shows. Did I stand up in the kitchen nagging him? Nope. He realized quickly that his wasting time lost him the ability to enjoy his favorite show. Every night since he's managed to finish in time. :-)

You really don't have to take away video games or make punishments or lecture without end to get him to clean his room. Let real life be the teacher. As adults, when we don't finish our work, we don't get to do the next thing that we'd like to do. We work until the job is done right, and sometimes we have to miss out on something if we procrastinate.

ETA: Ooops! Sorry for the missing text. Fixed it!

ETA2: Mira, you'd be surprised? Well, I have a nearly 12 year old boy who cleans his room, bathroom, washes his laundry (folds and puts it away), and also dusts and vacuums the house, and cleans the dog's area every Saturday without protest. My 10 year old also cleans his room, the kitchen (including mopping the floor), does his own laundry (folds and puts it away). This is on top of their daily chores of keeping things straightened, taking out the trash, and doing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen after meals. Again, without protest. They do it because they know that they cannot go outside, play games, or do anything fun until the work is done. As their parents, we model this behavior by doing our own chores on the same day. Saturday morning is when we do chores in our house. We're all family and have to do our share to keep the house running!

I see a lot of moms here have just thrown up their hands and given up on requiring their kids keep their rooms clean. But you don't have to. Just change the way you're trying to get them to do it.

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answers from Washington DC on

My parents tried every trick they could think of to get me to clean my room. Rewards, punishments ... NOTHING worked. Heck I'm still a bit of a slob ... not like I was then ... but DEFINITELY not neat and tidy.

Anyway ... my parents finally gave up and just closed my bedroom door so they didn't have to look at it. I wasn't allowed to be messy anywhere else in the house, but my bedroom was my space and how it looked was up to me.

I just never put the same priority on a sparkling clean house as others in the world did/do. And the people who know me know this about me and love me anyway. My house isn't unsanitary or disgustingly filthy ... but as I said neat and tidy it ain't either.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Wichita Falls on

Yes it is unreasonable. You have let him get away with it up to now, he needs a warning that things are going to change. Spell it out now. Give him a short but reasonable time period to correct the issue and let him know what the punishment will be and how it will increase as the situation is not resolved. HOWEVER: know that if he has never kept his room clean on his own before, you cannot expect him to change overnight.

Example: Month 1) All items left lying around the house become mine and you will have to work to get them back (get his mess out of the rest of the house)

Month 2 ) I will not wash any laundry not in your hamper, you will have to wash it yourself if it is left on your floor.

Month 3) Your bed will be made every morning, if not then....

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answers from Minneapolis on

I think its unfair to punish him as its been acceptable until this point. From now on, no phone, friends, Xbox, whatever until his room is clean first. Or room is clean or additional chores, whatever you deem as punishment.

My kids have learned that if their dirty clothes are not sorted and in the laundry room, they will have to wash them themselves - regardless of other activities they have going on. My 17 yo son was out scout with the dog and got muddy paws on his jeans and went home and washed a load of clothes - I was so proud of him! :)

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answers from Cleveland on

Just read a great tip, take the laundry basket out of his room and put it in the hall or bathroom then walah! no more dirty clothes laying on his floor.

he's 13 why does it matter if his room is clean or not, he wants to be a pig let him. so i disagree with you meddling period.

BUT if you insist on a punishment no don't tell him and Yes make it a BIG one make sure he feels it or it won't work.

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answers from Dallas on

With teens I tend to choose my battles, and rooms are NOT a battle worth fighting. My "fight" on the rooms only extended to when they requested to go do somehting, I would say "as long as your room is clean". And absolutely, positively no guests if it is a mess. I always felt like if they were falling into place in other areas (school work, sports, church activities, etc) - that it just wasn't worth it to fight for a clean room too. They need to learn how to juggle all that themselves eventually, and if they are comfortable being a slob and not being able to find their stuff, fine with me, as long as their clothes were clean, matched and not wrinkled too badly. I would shut the door. I did use it often as bribery, but in a way that it seemed to be THEIR choice.

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answers from Los Angeles on

NO. You don't have to spell out the punishment before hand. If you did, you'd have to have a family law book for your family. Even in the democracy we live in with enough law books to fill a semi-truck and trailer, we give judges discretion to make the "punishment fit the crime".

Its completely fair to set the punishment to fit the disobedience. Its also fair to set the praise and reward to fit the good deed/performance and obedience.

Good luck to you and yours.

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answers from Dallas on

It's really YOUR room. It's in your house. You can play it out however you want to.

I don't like clothes on the floor but they get picked up about once a week.
I would genuinely like there to be clear egress for fire safety. Other than that, I shut the door. I have a few more months of one at home. I can live with mess. I'm going to soak up all the goody out of this relationship I can!
This is gold.

Have you seen college age kid's rooms lately? That's no mans land. It doesn't belong to you or them and they just don't care, life's too short!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Unfair. As long as there is no old food to attract bugs, close the door and let him be. It is reasonable to tell him you will only do laundry which is sorted and placed wherever you want it (basket, laundry room). It would also be reasonable to have him do his own laundry . I do think spending a day or weekend cleaning it up together so he starts with a clean slate is a great idea.

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answers from Chicago on

The rule in my house is if it is not picked up it goes in the trash. My oldest knows better now after only a few times, and is pretty good about keeping it picked up.

The youngest is only 2 but she is learning this rule too. Although I have not actually thrown her stuff away, just put it out of site for awhile.

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answers from Detroit on

I think making him clean the room is the only consequence necessary. I suppose you could say that only clothes in the laundry basket get washed. Or, 15 minutes of clean up before bed each night, or immediately after school. Set up a schedule for the best time to clean. Have a cleaning party. How many pairs of shoes can a boy have?

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answers from Atlanta on

If you are going to punish, you have to spell it out as to exactly what that punishment will be. It has to be a biggie something like, "Anything I find on the floor that doesn't belong on the floor will be taken." And then of course you have to do it.

Why doesn't he clean his room? Has he had to clean his room before this point and now refuses? Or has he not had to do it before? Kids need to see us doing our chores and they will follow suit and should be expected to help. That said sometimes they get this age and won't do anything. For one thing, they are usually under the impression it's actually Their room. Well it is, but it is not. And they need to hear that even though they have this as their room they need to realize they are being given this and that you pay for them to have it therefore you have the right to expect it clean. OR you could just let it be and let him live in filth. You have to decide which one you're going to live with. But if you decide to go with punishment you have to stick with it every time.

If you decide you want the room clean and the chance it stays clean, you have to start with it nice and clean. I'd help him clean it and organize it and maybe do something different or extra in it, like change the furniture around or get more shelves or different curtians or something. Say to him it'd be so much better if things were clean and I expect you to want it clean. (if he doesn't care there probably isn't a whole lot you can do except use it as leverage which isn't pretty.) Get it all together, everything in it's place and a place for everything. And then say how great it looks, etc. Then if things start getting bad again, I'd tell him there is a choice, either I pick up your things off the floor and get rid or them or you pick your things up off the floor and put them away. And whenever he wants to do something even if it's a project or being on the computer or going outside, I'd ask and see if everything is picked up if not he needs to do before anything else, if he doesn't, it gets tossed.

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answers from Chicago on

I go back and forth with this issue and we've reached a "compromise."

Her room has to be presentable for company or they aren't allowed in her room. This goes for friends. So she usually cleans her room if she has a friend over.

She must keep a path clear so we can walk to her bed and closets. If no path is clear, we will clear one ourselves with a garbage bag.

Clothes that aren't in the hamper don't get washed.

We declutter 4 times a year at the start of each season.

I figure, it's my daughter's room so she can keep it how she likes. However, for safety reasons we need to be able to walk around in it should she be sick in bed or some such thing.

Getting her to clean it before friends come over means she cleans it at least once a month. Having a friend over is positive motivation.

Dirty clothes go in the hamper because THAT'S WHERE THEY GO. I also cut my daughter's wardrobe WAY down so she has to put her clothes in the hamper or wash them herself.

This works better than punishing, believe me. I gave up trying to make my daughter make her bed. So she doesn't make her bed. Big deal. Life goes on :) Someday she'll want her place to look nice, and then she'll make her bed.

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answers from Dover on

He knows what he is supposed to do. He knows he is not doing it. I don't think you have to spell out the consequences. If you want to say, "When you don't clean your room there will be consequences' then that's kind of you to give the heads up. But, he knows he's blowing you off, so he should expect a consequence.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

At that age they have a right to some privacy. They haven't learned how to manage their belongings and can't clean a basic room then there's not much hope they'll want to take time to learn. I'd invite his friends to stop by anytime. I'd let people he likes to impress be the ones to see how he lives. This way he'll bend to peer pressure and not mom/dad pressure.

I'd close the door and let it go. I'd also let him learn from his own actions that if his hamper isn't outside his door on his laundry day that his clothes will never ever be washed again. Then when he wants to go to school and look nice to impress a girl his clothes will stink and be totally wrinkled.

These are learning situations. Don't teach him to wash his own clothes, he'll go and wash one shirt or one pair of pants then leave the rest. If he has to put his laundry outside his door or it doesn't get washed it's on him that it didn't get done.

He'll eventually learn but as long as you rescue him or do it for him he will allow you to carry on in the role you have taught him to give you.

Let him have his room to himself, do the laundry in the basket that he sets outside his door on laundry day, and let every one of his friends that comes by go up to his room to hang out. They'll stop this in it's tracks.
Had to add that I agree with the others about the room being clean all the way to start.

It's time to empty out everything in there that's not something he is using at this age.

I have this friend, I've mentioned her before, she went through a bad divorce, hubby got full custody, she got to pay child support and pay spousal support. He makes over $100K and she was a SAHM. Since she couldn't support her kids he got full everything. She got no part of their home and land, etc....since he worked and paid for it it was his....stupid judges.....anyway, she did get half of his retirement which was about $25K for her.

She's a bad housekeeper. Her kids can't clean their rooms because it's too overwhelming for them. They still have baby clothes in their drawers sometimes. I would go over to help her clean house and I'd be putting up laundry and I'd be putting stuff that I know was too small for her kids and she'd put it back in their drawers saying they could still use it. I told her the undies and stuff were at least 2 sizes too small. She said it still fit no matter what the size said.

I know these items were too small. She just couldn't let go. They constantly got new stuff and didn't have anywhere to put it because they had all their old stuff still in the way.

So take it all out. Start in the floor and take everything to a place it can be sorted over a few days. The bedroom won't work since you're trying to clean it out. I use the garage floor since it can be covered with a big sheet or blanket. The kids won't be going out and messing with it either. So what every I do stays done.

I put all the clothes that I know will fit a particular person in a box with their name on it. Then I put all the clothes that will be thrown away in a trash can with a bag in it. That way I can take the bag out, tie it shut and put it out for the trash collectors. I take what's left and look at it. I honestly like stuff but have to realize it will never be worn on anyone's body. I have to let that garment go. I like it but they don't. It won't fit me so it's time for it to go. These items were possibly a waste of money so they teach me to make purchases better for the kiddo's.

I think if you get rid of toys, clothes, decorations, books, etc....that are not age appropriate or too small that he'll have a lot less stuff to make a mess with. This is so much easier to manage. He'll also get used to having a clean room for a day or two. Then you can make a list of rules. I'd recommend these to start with.

1. My laundry is going to be washed on XXXXday. It is my job to put my hamper outside my door with my laundry in it. If I don't do this my clothes will not get washed.

2. It is my job to pick up after myself. This is MY room and MY space.

That's all I'd expect him to be able to handle at first. He has to be taught. Think of yourself as his teacher, like a school teacher teaching spelling or math. He's your student so teach he each moment of the day.

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answers from Odessa on

I think things would just start disappearing. You haven't discussed punishment, but I think he would get the idea. If you have to pick up clothes, etc. then just wash and place in a box or bag in the garage or something. When he asked about something I would reply, "Oh, I believed you didn't want that since it didn't end up where it should go. Once or twice should do the trick. Good luck!

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answers from Rochester on

I first want to second A L below. My mother's rule was if it's on the floor (unless you're sitting on the floor there with it, using it) it goes in the garbage. She actually threw out an entire board game once because I didn't pick it up...and I was 4 years old. Okay, so, I absolutely learned that lesson and kept things picked up for the rest of my life. ;)

(Actually, I remember once going to my dresser and letting a sock hang out of one drawer on purpose, because I had seen it in a picture book and wanted to try it...I got spanked.)

So, I'm not the Nazi that my mother is, but when you're done with it, it has to be put away or you don't get to do anything else until it's done.

At your son's age...he knows better. I think it's absolutely fair to punish and punish away until he gets the idea. Again, I suggest the "in the garbage" punishment....very effective.

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answers from Boston on

Why not just say "when your room is clean (clothes picked up, bed made, desk straighteneded - define what "clean" means to you) then you may_____" If I were you and this were important to me on a daily basis, I would say that when your room is clean, you may have your cell phone. And keep the phone each day until it's done. If this isn't practical (you aren't home after school, he legitimately needs to bring his phone to school etc.) then find some other privilege.

We do a deadline with our teens (both 15) - if their room is not clean on Saturday, they don't get to go anywhere or do anything. They are also responsible for cleaning the bathroom, kitchen floor, family room and mudroom. They can divide it up as they see fit. When their chores are done, they may proceed with whatever their plans are for the day.

I totally get your frustration, btw - I actually don't care about their room being clean every day. My peeve is leaving the lights on. There are two in their room that are connected to a wall switch that I can just walk by and turn off but there is an additional desk lamp that I have to walk into the room to turn off. So I started unplugging that one to see if they got the message. Nope. So then I started removing the bulb. They'd find the bulb, replace it and turn it back on. Now I just take the lamp. I've that one for a week - then the geniuses managed to plug the other lamp into the wrong outlet (the one not on the wall switch) and leave that one on so I took that lamp this morning too. They'll soon be left in the dark. How hard is it to turn off a light?

I guess my thinking is that if you have time to come on MP and vet the question, you have time to announce the new rule, right?

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answers from Louisville on

Geez - someone better punish me because my bedroom sounds exactly like your son's. mine is probably worse ...

I can't keep it clean. I've been shown, have the tools in place to help me do it but I just can't. Being a slob is who I am, no matter how mucho fight against it.

I can't fathom punishing someone for how they keep their own space. Is it really punishment worthy?

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answers from Dallas on

I get what you're saying. Both of my boys have been given tools as well, along with modeling the appropriate behavior as you have done too. However, I have learned that beating my head against the same spot on the wall is no longer worth my time. As long as they pick up after themselves in the common areas then I don't fuss about it. That way, we are ALL happy.

But to answer your, punishment does not need to be spelled out in advance. To be honest, even if you did spell it out, it probably wouldn't change the behavior, then you would get even more frustrated.

Good luck. I have boys that are 12 & 15. I've been there and feel your pain.

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answers from Austin on

I have a 13 year old son as well. He keeps his room clean but I do not require him to make his bed. I can say that if your son wants to live in his room all messy then let him. I would tell him if his dirty laundry is not put in hamper then his clothes will not be washed by you that he will have to wash them himself!! Have him make his bed on the weekends but not during school week, is the world gonna end if his bed is not made? I would let him know conseqences before you put them in place. My son usually has to be called down for dinner several times because he is on the xbox so I told him I would rip it out of the wall if it happens again and its worked so far!! I also always keep my sons bedroom door shut all the tume. Pick your battles, at the end of the day the world will not end cause a messy room!!

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answers from Beaumont on

I think this is pretty typical. I'm just now embarking on this journey but what I intend to do is if it's NOT clean at a time he wants to go somewhere or he wants something then the answer is no and he'll know why. He'll figure it's easier to just keep it clean so he can have that friend over etc. when he wants.

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answers from Sacramento on

I don't know... I feel like a teenage kid's room is their space and if they want to live in a pigpen then you just close the door. It isn't like when they are younger and they don't know how. He's just choosing not to. If they don't get their clothes in the laundry, then their clothes don't get washed. If they can't find stuff because it's buried under their piles then they have to dig for them. I draw the line on the sloppiness when it affects other people or other peoples' space.

If you do choose to punish with more than natural consequences, I would have a talk beforehand. Let him know what is important to you and let him know clearly what will happen if it isn't done. It's a bit like a verbal warning at work. You may know what you're supposed to do, but when someone sits you down and spells it out, you are aware and responsible for the consequences they've given if you don't get it done to those standards.

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answers from San Antonio on

You need to establish rules and responsibilities. Does he have things that he favors (ie: video games, TV, computer)? If so, take them away. After all, these are things you paid for. You do this task, I'll give you (1 item) back at a time. Is he looking forward to going somewhere with a friend, etc....then let him know, XYZ needs to be done. If its not, BE FIRM, tell him NO. XYZ wasn't done, so guess what? My niece and my sister's step daughter are quite the lil pigglets. I know she gets excited to come to my house, but I always check in w/my sister and ask if she has completed her chores. Its amazing how all of a sudden she gets things done. Also, one time my sister removed eveything from their room to teach them a lesson. They didnt enjoy that too much. - Teach him responsibility and consequences.



answers from San Francisco on

I do think he should get a warning. It really wouldn't be fair if you've been letting him get away with not doing these things to suddenly impose a consequence for them not being done.

I just recently sat down and typed out a list of responsibilities for my GD that she has to see to daily. Things like making her bed, emptying her lunch box and washing the containers, taking a shower before 8:00 p.m. WITHOUT being told/asked; brushing her teeth and being ready for bed by 9:00.

If she doesn't do them, she is grounded the next afternoon. Two misses in one week, and she loses a Saturday or Sunday.

So far, she's had one afternoon grounding. She was very unhappy about that; she really is a rule follower and she really hates it when it is perceived that she broke a rule. She was pushing the envelope and didn't get IN the shower by 8:00, but was in her room getting ready to take the shower. Not good enough. She was grounded.



answers from San Francisco on

If he has repeatedly chosen not to clean his room, I would take all of his things out except for his bed. Tell him it starts with the bed being made every day and until he gets that, he won't be "earning" anything else back.

If he has electronics : Those should stay out of the pic for a few weeks until room is fully up to par in your eyes.



answers from Kalamazoo on

At this age, I would start going in there and cleaning it, making sure to touch/go through many of his things and drawers. If he doesnt do it himself, then you or mom are going to be coming in, or going in when hes not there. Or just shut the door. Its his room, if he wants to live in a dump, its his problem.

And yes, I think he should know beforehand what the consequence will be if he doesnt clean up.



answers from San Francisco on

Once a week he has a day to clean up his room.....if he leaves anything on the's going in a plastic bag and put away. (if it's school books..toss them back in).

PS....teen age boys and girls can be little pigs...that is until they meet someone they want to impress (unless it's another little pig)...if that happens you and dad need to develop a plan B.


answers from Beaumont on

Yes it is unfair. Giving directives without a consequence is pointless and why he has ignored you. There is no consequence.
You must figure out a logical consequence. "If your room is not cleaned then you will not be allowed to go to ___________(whatever it is that he is wanting to do). Period. Simple and then stick to it. Do not argue, do not continue the discussion.

It is how I got thru the teen years with mine. One loved to go to the mall. Well she was not going until her room was cleaned to my satisfaction. This was all done in a pleasant manner. If I got any back talk or anything angry then there was also a consequence for that. It is teaching them normal boundaries and respect. You can be unhappy with what I am expecting of you but you will learn a respectful way of expressing it. That is a different issue tho. Do one thing at a time. If you are worrying about his room start with that.
Good luck and remember when anyone is not doing what you ask it is because you have not implemented a logical consequence.
I hate all those rewards and charts. It is a simple interaction. This is what is expected and this is what happens if you don't do it. You do not need a reward because the reward is intrinsic in that they get to do what it is that they want to do.
Good Luck!



answers from College Station on

I think its time for some natural consequences.
Let him have his room however he wants. BUT- he has to do his laundry. If the clothes stay on the bedroom floor, guess who's wearing dirty clothes to school. Or, if you don't want to give him his own laundry, it doesn't get washed if its not in the basket. He will learn when he has to wear dirty clothes to school. Mine did.
If he misses school work because he can't turn homework in- guess what- he doesn't get good grades.


answers from Chicago on

My teen year too were like H M. ... I plan to be the same as my mother did with my son.



answers from Portland on

Rather than punishment for being messy you need to get in his head and figure out how to encourage him to learn the routine of making his bed each morning, right when he gets out. Putting the clothes in the hamper right away when they come off. Doing a quick pick up of the surfaces and floor daily so it's not so challenging like it is when it's really messy. These routines can be encouraged if you write down the expectations for the morning, afternoon and evening routine and check that they have done the routine before leaving for school, playing after school and going to bed. No yelling, no punishment, just teaching new skills. It works, even for old people like me! I just set up a new item on my evening routine that reminds me to set up my coffee maker at night so I don't have to do it in the morning and wake everyone up with the coffee grinder. Seriously, there are people who need written down routines and most of those people are creative thinkers.

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