How to deal with your tween's messy bedroom

How to deal with your tween's messy bedroom
At least your tween's room doesn't look this bad, right? Image by Bill Longshaw for

Does walking through your tween's bedroom feel like navigating an obstacle course? Considering putting a "Danger - Do Not Enter" sign on your tween's bedroom door? Tired of asking, pleading, yelling and arguing about the mess?

Tweens are not known for being neat and orderly. If you are arguing with your tween about a messy bedroom, take comfort in knowing that you are certainly not alone.

Experts, however, say that perhaps it is time for parents to let the messy room argument go. (I know, it's tough, but stay with me here, parents who appreciate order and the value of a made bed.) Apparently, the best way for dealing with kids messy room is to not deal with it at all.

"If their bedroom doesn't smell bad and you're not worried about the health department getting involved, stop arguing," said Dr. Debi Gilboa, family doctor and founder of Ask Doctor G.

She suggests that parents explain that they are done arguing and will not get in the way of the consequences of a messy room, such as not having the clean clothes a tween wants to wear to an event or not helping them find a textbook needed to study for a test if it is buried under a pile of random stuff.

"We don’t do our kids any favors by brow beating them into straightening up the room, we do them more good by helping them see the consequences," Dr. Gilboa said.

Parents should step in if the room starts to smell or if there are signs of mold, bugs or anything else that could be a health hazard, parents need to step in. (I think it's entirely fair to insist on no food in the room, regardless of its state, just to avoid the bug problem.)

Fear not, though, it doesn't mean your child is going to suffer horrific consequences if it really does get that bad. "I've never seen any teenager who actually got sick because her room was unsanitary," Tanya Remer Altmann, MD, a pediatrician and author of Mommy Calls and The Wonder Years, said on

Altmann also recommended to that parents pick their battles. "If you go to your teen with a list of 20 things that you want her to do, she won't do any of them," she said. "But if you figure out a few things that are the most important to you, you may have better luck."

I have to say that this is a tough one for me. While I'm usually a big believer in consequences being the best teacher, letting the bedroom issue go isn't easy.

I also don't want her to miss out from the benefits that can come from having a neat, or at least not incredibly messy, room. In the book Habit, author Charles Duhigg found that being in the habit of making your bed daily is a "keystone habit," meaning it correlates to other good habits and can have benefits that extend beyond the bedroom door.

I want my child to value possessions and one way of respecting your things is taking care of them. What's the saying about with privilege comes responsibility? My tween is a lucky child with plenty of clothing and her own room. I feel one way she can acknowledge her good fortune to have both is by caring for her clothes and her room.

That said, I see that point that if she's taking care of things not out of choice, it's not a true sign of respect. Sigh.

Maybe it is time for me to let it go and just close the door (while opening it to perform a quick sniff test every now and then.)

Where do you come down on the issue of the messy tween bedroom? Is cleanliness worth fighting for?

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Filed under: Home Life

Tags: messy bedroom

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