Tidy up your room!

By DR MICHAEL LOWRY [email protected]

Dr Michael Lowry is an experienced parent and educator, who regularly visits his Algarve home in Tavira. His work over many years in universities has led to increasing interest in, and understanding of teenagers, their problems and feelings. He has published widely in professional journals, and has delivered presentations at international conferences.

Welcome to my column on parenting teenagers. Over the coming months I will be sharing with you a selection of problems that parents and carers have offered me whilst I was writing my book Teenagers: their care and maintenance in captivity which is available direct from www.lulu.com or from major online retailers. I welcome examples of readers’ problems, though cannot enter into correspondence on these.

My fifteen year old son will not do as he is told. His room is a mess, and when I try to get him to tidy up, he just grunts and goes out. I am very frustrated by this increasing problem.

This is a typical scenario, and one that has no quick or easy fix to it. First, I note that your son won’t do “as he is told”; this suggests several things. First, he probably doesn’t see the same urgency as you in the situation, and is rebelling at being “told” what to do. What you see as a problem is to him not a problem.

Further, the response you get (grunt) is an attempt on his part to avoid dialogue. Your needs are that the standards you expect are met by your son, whereas his, on the other hand, are elsewhere; for example going out with his peers. For him to comply at least in a small way, requires a perceived benefit on his part: put simply ‘what’s in it for him’? Are there, for example, things he wants that only you can provide, perhaps money or privileges? In a situation like this there is unlikely to be a total compliance, so you might try setting yourself lower level goals to begin with and then building on these. If he tidies up (a bit at least) then you will give him his pocket money or other desired outcome.

At fifteen, your son is technically practically adult, and at the same time he is being bombarded by a myriad of personal, physical and emotional changes, all of which will vie for space in his life. He is in a sense prioritising, which is no comfort to you, or countless other parents of teenagers. I deal with these issues in my book, which along with a number of self-help exercises should be of benefit to you. Be prepared for a slow start, that way you will be less disappointed. This is very much about setting ‘realistic’ rather than ‘ideal’ goals.

Dr Michael Lowry can be contacted by emailing [email protected]