How to Get Teenagers to Clean Up After Themselves

Living with a teenager may present a variety of challenges for parents. If your teenager leaves a path of clutter and mess in his wake, your task is to teach him to clean up after himself so he stops expecting others to pick up after him. This life skill is an important one -- your teen needs to know basic maintenance and upkeep to keep a home livable, neat and orderly.

Create a list of your expectations. Teenagers need clear communication about what you expect regarding household responsibilities. If you expect your teen to rinse dishes and load them into the dishwasher, wash his own clothing and put it away, clean up after himself in the bathroom and pick up his clutter throughout the house, write these tasks down on paper so you can communicate them clearly to your child 1.

Present your expectations to your teenager to communicate the responsibilities you are giving your teen. As your teenager reads the list, provide additional information or answer questions so your teenager understands your expectations completely.

Talk about the consequences of not cleaning up after himself so your teen understands what will happen if he leaves responsibilities undone. Make the consequences relate to the tasks whenever possible. If your teenager does not wash his own clothing, he won’t have clean clothes. If he leaves his clothes on the floor, they may mysteriously “disappear.” If you need to spend time cleaning up after your child in the kitchen or bathroom, you might dock his allowance to compensate you for your cleaning time. If your teen leaves clutter around the house, you might confiscate his belongings for a specific period of time.

Monitor your teenager’s conduct around the house to ensure that he’s abiding by the house rules of cleaning up after himself. If you notice any tasks undone or done improperly, act quickly to show your teenager that you will follow through with the promised consequence.

Refuse to argue or discuss the consequences if your teenager fails to comply with the house rules. Anger and harsh exchanges are unnecessary when making your point. Instead, exact the consequence in a calm and matter-of-fact manner to teach your child a lesson about cause-and-effect. If he leaves his sporting paraphernalia in the living room, you will pick up his items and he won’t have them for three days. He’ll quickly learn to put his things away where they belong when threatened with losing them.

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