Do you ever feel like you’ll never get your teen to clean his room? After reading this article, you might think I’m such a mean mom, but for my kids at least, this method is actually a very practical way to make sure my kids keep their rooms (mostly) clean.
If you want your teenager to clean his room (and keep it that way!), here’s a plan for you.
Disclosure – my children’s rooms are not perfectly clean. I wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong impression ???? But my kids know what I mean when I say it’s time to clean your room.
Affiliate links are present in this post.
Why it’s easier for some teens than for others
Some teens will naturally keep their rooms neat. The rest of them really don’t care and don’t understand why mom and dad make such a big deal about a messy bedroom.
But these are young people who are perfectly capable of balancing 6-8 classes, homework, after-school activities, and plenty of other commitments. Keeping a room clean isn’t too much to ask.
I think the appreciation for a clean space grows over time as a person starts to buy her own things and take more care over how they’re maintained. So don’t be surprised if your teen hasn’t developed this skill yet.
He or she can still keep the bedroom clean, even if it’s because of a house rule and not because he likes it that way.
Is it fair to expect your teen to clean up his room regularly?
Um, yes. I wouldn’t even include this question, but some people genuinely ask it. If he lives in your house, you have every right to set reasonable expectations.
Plus, if you allow him to live in squalor (or you clean it up for him) what’s he going to do when he leaves home?
Sometimes we figure if we’re so busy and we let the kitchen cleanup slide or our own bedrooms need some help, how can we expect our children to keep their rooms in order. It’s that mommy guilt that gets me every time – how can I ask my kid to clean up when I’ve dropped the ball?
Just say no to mommy guilt! It’s a major stressor for us parents that we don’t have to keep.
First, realize that most children are nowhere near as busy as their parents. You, as the parent, have way more on your shoulders than your child does.
So while you may need to make some temporary compromises in your own cleaning standards, those compromises don’t automatically extend to your child unless he’s living through an extra busy time as well. In fact, I’d even suggest that your teen should be pitching in to help pick up the slack that you’ve dropped.
Help your teenager to declutter
Less stuff in the bedroom means less work – what teen would say no to that? Just make sure he understands that it’s his choice what stays and what goes.
Take stock of the room and help your teen think through how to keep it neat(er)
Does he need a new wastebasket?
When’s the best time for him to bring his dirty dishes to the kitchen?
Would he like a bulletin board to keep some of his papers visible and easier to see?
Does he need to add extra wall storage?
What can help her keep her room in better shape?
Does he know where to start when he’s told to clean up? Maybe he’s just looking at the mess and not having a clue where to begin. Help him develop his own plan and his own habits so it’s easier for him.
Just like adults can get overwhelmed by a mess, so can teenagers. Help them work through their rooms – first the trash, then the dishes, then the laundry…
Laundry – teens who do their own laundry save their mothers tons of cleaning time!
Set standards and follow through
Once you’ve helped your teen do a thorough clean-up (or she’s done it herself), set standards and expectations of what it means to have a clean bedroom.
Cover things on your priority list like:
- dirty dishes and food
- making the bed
- clothing on the bedroom floor
- dusting / vacuuming (yes, teenagers can dust!)
- changing sheets
Decide when these things need to be addressed (daily, twice a week, etc.) and plan to inspect as needed. Type up your expectations for bedroom upkeep to avoid any pleas of misunderstanding. (Check out this printable bedroom cleaning checklist for kids!)
Now, you don’t have to nag (besides here’s why nagging doesn’t work) and you should have very little maintenance to do in your teen’s room.
Mean what you say and be ready to back it up with actions
This is the most important piece of all. All your words will fall on deaf ears (and rolling eyes) if you don’t back up your requirements with consequences. What this looks like will be different for each kid and each family.
Here are some examples of effective consequences:
“No cell phone until your room meets standards.” This may mean he goes to school without his phone for a couple of days.
“I’ll take you to your friend’s when your laundry is done.” And that might mean it doesn’t happen today at all.
“No, you can’t go to the movies tonight because your room wasn’t clean by yesterday’s deadline.” Stand your ground and don’t be swayed by the protests that result.
Clean ≠ tidy
A room can be clean (no dirty dishes, dirty clothes in a hamper, no garbage, etc.) and still be un-tidy. You need to set your own standards as to what is expected of a “clean” room.
For example, maybe you’re ok with papers scattered on the desk (or the floor) but you draw the line at an unmade bed. Or maybe you don’t care so much about the bed but you want papers to be orderly.
Regular maintenance and inspection
Checking in on the room regularly is critical to the success of this method.
Maybe Wednesday and Saturday are room cleaning days in your home. Maybe you pick Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Whatever days you pick, work this into your routines and make sure to inspect. A quick peek should be enough to see if your standards are being met.
Don’t expect perfection
Kids are going to get sick and life is going to get busy. Maybe you get a little lax in your inspections. Maybe you end up tidying up for her once in a while. You don’t have to be a drill sergeant.
But you can still go back to basics when life returns to normal. Plus, it doesn’t really take all that long to clean up a bedroom, once a teenager has some practice and a good to-do list.
If your teen still won’t keep his room clean…
If all else fails, tell him you’ll pay his sister out of his allowance to clean up his room when he’s not home. That might get him moving!
The best parenting book I’ve ever read
I got some of these concepts from a book I read recently. It’s called Have a New Kid by Friday by Kevin Leman. If you’ve struggled between being too permissive as a parent (and finding your kids are turning into terrors) or being too controlling (and having your kids rebel or shut down), this book has some great advice for you.
By the way, you can listen to the audiobook version for free when you try Audible for 30 days.
We’ve been putting Dr. Leman’s ideas into play in our house and the change is already obvious!
- If one of my kids doesn’t do a job I’ve assigned, I just assign it to another kid and pay him out of the first kid’s allowance. The job gets done, I’m not nagging, and the first kid vows to Never Let That Happen Again! My kids have started fighting over the chance to do each other’s chores. #notevenkidding
- I’ve stopped reminding my kids to finish getting ready for school in the morning. If they miss the bus, I’ll be happy to drive them to school later although I’m sure they’ll be mortified to have to turn in a note that explains they were late because they were playing with the dog or fighting with a sibling. They know I mean business and they don’t want to risk it.
Continued reminders only frustrate kids
I learned I’ve actually been frustrating my kids with my efforts to gently move, remind (nag), and threats that they’re going to be late or they’re going to forget something.
It’s much kinder and more effective to say things once and let the consequences happen. Who knew?
Still think I’m a mean mom?
Sometimes love doesn’t look the way you’d think.
I’ll bet we can all agree that being a parent is just about the hardest job in the world.