Can you offer any suggestions for getting mess-loving kids to keep their rooms halfway livable?

Parental philosophy here is divided into two camps. Some consider a youngster’s room his domain. As long as the door is shut — ideally, a steel-encased door with a 12-inch external deadbolt — the room is out of sight and out of mind. Other parents believe a youngster’s room is hers up to a point. That is, “It’s her room, but it’s my house, and I don’t want part of my house below city health code.” The philosophy you prefer determines what action you’ll take.

The “closed-door” tack requires lesser effort. Basically, the room just exists. You count on Sandy to eventually develop some desire to keep his turf presentable. Sometimes this happens; other times it doesn’t until a youngster has his own place. In the latter case, here are added suggestions: Do not enter the room to pick up clothes, bed sheets or other items that need your laundry, tailoring or general parent service. Sandy can a) bring the clothes to the laundry room himself, b) wash all washables himself and c) repair and mend his own possessions. This is the price tag for keeping the room the way he wants.

The “It’s his room, but it’s my house” mentality takes more of your energy, but it usually results in a better-kept room. First step: Set up room inspection times, say 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday and 11 a.m. on Saturday. If conditions initially are too deplorable, you might want to set up daily, maybe hourly, inspections. Second step: Decide what the cost will be for a messy room. “Messy” is one of those loose terms that kids like to argue about, so maybe you’d best clearly define messy or unlivable or trashed.

Some standard costs could be: No leaving the room until it’s cleaned. No leaving the house until the room is cleaned. No TV or other privileges until the room is cleaned. Money deducted from allowance until the room is cleaned. See a pattern here? 

There’s a bright side to living near a kid’s room. If you run out of storage space in your garage or shed, you can always park the lawn tractor in his room. He’ll never know it’s there.

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