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  • Caroline Mitchell

BRAINWASHING A 13-YEAR OLD BOY

“Your house must look amazing”. I get that comment all the time from my clients. That’s when I look them in the eye, take their hands in mine, and tell them that my house is not a model home. I have children who live there, and they are less interested in keeping me sane, than in jumping from one game to another, and leaving a wake of debris in their path. They would leave their crap all over the house if I let them.


Remember when you sang the tidy-up song with your kids when they were toddlers? Even though you were using your high-pitched happy voice they knew that tidying up wasn’t really that fun. In fact, they found it very confusing, if I can be quite frank. Sorry to tell you this but by time they get to double digits they are well aware that keeping the house tidy is about making MOMMY happy, not about making THEM happy.


Thankfully, or perhaps not so, my son is a classic 13 year old. He will do just about anything (and by anything, I mean EVEN practicing the piano without my asking) if it means he will have unfettered access to video games after school. So, with him, I use computer access as a carrot. It’s already working. He keeps his bedroom WAY tidier than his 11-year old sister does. He can make his bed in 10 seconds flat. And, he folds (e.g. crumples) and puts away his clean clothes lick-a-di-split. He does not, however, manage to get his dirty clothes into his hamper (see picture). But, I still have time on that front.


Bottom line, although he wouldn’t mind living in a disorganized environment, he is being forced to participate in the process of keeping his personal space tidy. By the time he finally leaves our home, he will be brain washed into having a natural tendency to make his bed, put away his clothing, and (oh God please say this will be true) take dirty dishes/glassware from his bedroom to the kitchen…maybe even into the dishwasher.


Go ahead. Be mean if you have to. Choose a good daily carrot. Habits are hard to break. And, you can force habits on your children. I promise. You just have to give yourself enough time. Let’s say 5 years or so, to start.