Living with Children: Solution to teens leaving clothes on floor


QUESTION: Getting my daughters, fifteen and thirteen, to pick up their clothes from the floors of their rooms requires constant nagging from me. I’m at my wit’s end. Please help me out with this. It’s driving me slowly insane.

ANSWER: Speaking as your therapist du jour, it is my responsibility to inform you that you may already have crossed the line. Remember, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over even though you keep getting the same result.

You have nagged at your kids about this issue for — what? Five, six years? And if you nag excitedly enough, like you’re about to go full la-la, they decide it’s not worth the risk and they pick up their clothes and keep them picked up for — what? Two days?

Okay, I’m going to solve this problem for you. Well, actually, I can’t solve your problem for you, but I can give you the solution. Whether you muster the mojo needed to carry it through is another matter.

I have immaculate confidence in the solution because it worked for me and it’s worked for lots of parents (who mustered the aforementioned mojo). Simply, do not ever again so much as politely request that your kids pick up their clothes. Don’t ever again mention it, even. Got that?

Then, the next time even one item of clothing needs picking up, pick it up and put it precisely where it belongs. That’s right! YOU do it!

And then, simply wait for a golden opportunity to bring them face to face with Reality, in the form of Bad Karma. Bad Karma is sorely lacking in the lives of many if not most of today’s pampered, enabled, indulged, micromanaged children, which explains why so much of the behavior of so many of today’s kids is so under-disciplined, not to mention the negative effect a LACK of Bad Karma has on mental health.

Speaking proverbially, if an adult “leaves his clothes lying all over the floor” in the workplace, his employer will most certainly not nag. The employer will make his expectations clear and make sure the employer understands the expectations. If violations continue, the employee may receive one more warning, and then, in all likelihood, he will be fired, thus being forced to suffer a lower standard of living.

Parents cannot fire a child, but they can lower a child’s standard of living. Along that line, the next time either of the kids asks for freedom to leave the house and socialize with friends, say, “Oh, I’m so sorry, but I am forced to inform you that in the Real World, which I am obligated to acquaint you with, you cannot do what you want to do until you have done what you are supposed to do. In this case, you do not pick up your clothes, thus requiring me to do so, which I’ve discovered is so much easier than nagging. Nonetheless, I am not able to grant your request. Sorry.” And walk away.

Yes, that is definitely easier said than done. Accountability is never easy for a parent to dispense because it’s the hardest pill for a child to swallow. But a child gains much from learning to swallow it, early.

[Family psychologist John Rosemond:, Copyright 2022, John K. Rosemond]