Reply To: Should I tidy up after my 14-year-old son?

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I agree with the others that you should not do it for him and agree with you that it’s a skill worth learning. Myself and three kids all have the ADD form and none of us looks forward to or finds it easy to keep from getting distracted while cleaning. I started consistently involving them in chores at 2 and our house has looked like children were cleaning it until the majority had passed the age of 16. Now at 22, 18, and 16 the house and the bedrooms are all tidy. There was little indication that the teaching was having any effect until each individual reached their late teens. I don’t think it’ll take nearly that long for your 14 year old to get it. He is much further along on the developmental readiness curve. It also helps when they begin to care about what their visiting peers think.

I found posting a step by step task list for cleaning any particular room to be very helpful, even for myself. These are in each respective room, usually on the back of a door. Helps for when you don’t know where to start or what to do next. When making the lists I’d put the most visually impactful things at the top of the list. Helps make one feel like it is not hopeless. For instance my daughter’s bedroom floor used to be covered with mostly bedding and clothes both clean and dirty. The first items on her list were: 1 make bed; 2 put dirty sheets in laundry; and 3 put dirty clothes in laundry. That alone would make her room look 50% better. Tedious sorting type tasks were near the bottom. Anything that was prone to distract them was dead last. For instance one son would have books strewn everywhere. Theoretically easy to put away, with a big visual impact, however if picked up he would thumb through and start reading and cleaning would be at a full stop. Also If they didn’t get to the items at the bottom of the list, in that session, the room would still look better.

You can find lists to edit at

Control Journals

and scroll down to detailed cleaning lists

or google “cleaning checklists” or have the kid type up the first draft

When a child was resisting or avoiding the cleanup of a room, I would ask them to pick a time for the two of us to work on it together. Then we would set a timer, for a teen 30 minutes. We’d go through the list either both working on the same task or alternating. Same task if they didn’t get how to go about it or if the task was time consuming. When the offer of helping them didn’t eliminate the resistance I would have a conversation with them about responsibility, preparing to live on their own (think roommates), mice, noxious smells, germs, trips and bruises, fire safety, making their friends feel more comfortable… Whatever I thought that particular child might respond to and if the child was belligerent I would wait until a calm moment when we were both well fed before having the conversation.

If I still got no where, I would tie the chore to something they wanted. “When the room is clean then…” I’ll give you a ride to xx, you can use the “insert electronic device”, get your “insert some item they use in spare time” back, you’ll get your allowance… If you have an obstinate minimalist hermit, that is happy with their own daydreams then these strategies may not work until they discover something that floats their boat. That has happened from time to time in our house.

Good Luck,