I am visiting a relative right now, and was surprised to see my nephew’s messy room through an open door. My nephew is an outstanding guy in every way. And yet…that ROOM! It brought back memories of my own daughters’ rooms, which looked the same in their adolescent years…in between times when their dad and I went to war with them over their messiness. So what’s going on with this? I found an excellent article from Psychology Today, describing the phenomenon first, and giving wise advice next. Says psychologist Carl Pickhardt “Usually beginning in early adolescence (years 9 – 13) as a function of personal disorganization brought on by more growth change than the young person can easily manage, this state of internal confusion and external disarray quickly attracts parental attention. So to begin with, parents need to understand that early adolescents are honorably disorganized. Their life in childhood has begun to fall apart…. And they don’t know where they grow from here.”
After helping the parent understand how adolescent internal chaos leads to external disorganization, I expected Dr. Pickhardt to advise just closing the door and letting your son or daughter be. But NO. He recognizes that the messy room can become an environment that is hard for the teen brain to work in, or (more critically) a battleground for a power struggle. If so, it may be unwise to relinquish what he calls “a supervisory role” for the parent. He advises: “Remember,if your child knows you will keep after the small responsibilities, like cleaning up a messy room, he or she also knows this shows you will be keeping after big stuff like obedience to major rules. So cleaning up the messy room is in fact an issue to keep fighting for.”
He even goes on to give specific answers to these objections: “Just close the door and keep out and the mess won’t bother you,” and “This is my room and you can’t come in without my permission.” Read HERE for suggested responses and more ideas from Dr. Pickhardt.