Today I am going to cover a daunting task. The twelve year old’s room. Take a deep breath with me. Often a disaster area of their own making, my particular twelve year old’s room is crammed with books, Lego’s, clothes, a terrarium with a snake in it growing at an alarming rate, and did I mention Lego’s? There are intricate battles set up with Clone Troopers and rebel forces against Darth Vader’s army all over the floor, and stacks of books read or to be started soon all over his night stand and spilling into the open sock drawer below. There are usually blankets cascading off the bed and several bottles of Clean Well sanitizer (the best one if you ask me. No alcohol, just good antiseptic thyme oil.) The sanitizer is for after he plays with his snake. I insist.
The clothes that he washes don’t always get or stay folded because while I am trying desperately to teach him to be organized and clean, I am also teaching him independence. The two don’t always work well together in the bedroom of a twelve-year-old boy.
The first thing I do before venturing into my oldest son’s room is to take a deep breath. Nothing will get accomplished if I go in there tense and demanding cleanliness. So I inhale a positive attitude and exhale any words of judgment silently as I knock and enter.
Always ask how they are, what they are doing and be engaged with that, while at the same time trying to maintain tunnel vision so as to not be distracted by the possible hazmat site around you. After several minutes of engaging them with the activity they are doing which is probably NOT cleaning up their room, you can ask them to do a few things to make said room more tolerable.
“Hey buddy, can you stop doing that for a little bit and A) fold your clothes that you just got out of the dryer and put them away, or B) clean up everything you can for 10 minutes and then you can keep playing with your Lego Star Wars battle ship?”
Some kiddos have caught on that they can putz around for 10 minutes and not really get much accomplished. For them, the A option might work better.
I have found with children of all ages, to come into the room and say “clean up your room!” is overwhelming, and they don’t know where to begin, or they think if they clean up half the floor, it is good enough. I still have to be very specific; with my preschooler as well as my middle schooler.
Sometimes I stick around a little and help out; doing - as well as tossing out ideas to help him decide where to put things and good tidbits about easier ways to fold clothes or quicker ways to sweep up errant Lego’s.
You know your kiddos; with a little patience you can provide examples and help them (and their future spouses) bless you instead of hating you!