Kim writes:  How can I stress the importance of organization to a teenage boy?

Dr. Todd writes:  Hi Kim, I would start with a low key discussion that will have a few layers.

First, I would want to know what your son thinks about being organized. Listening to his point of view will be an important way to start this. What does being organized (at school or home) mean? Is it important? Why or why not?

Then I'd move the discussion to a general "lesson" that you want all of your kids to learn: That is it important to take care of your things. This is not a special lesson for him, but for all your kids. Taking care of your things and keeping a room "reasonably" neat is a good habit for everybody and as parents, it is a lesson that you want your kids to learn. It helps items not get lost or broken, it keeps clothes looking good after they've been washed, and is a positive reflection of you as a person.

The final part of this discussion should start with mutual problem-solving. The problem is that you would like his room to be neat and I'm guessing that he is okay with is being rather messy. Say, "Let's see if we can find a good solution" and see what ideas you both come up with. Being willing to meet him somewhere in the middle can help a lot. Once you come up with an idea that you both can live with, it's not a bad idea to write it down, for future reference. Also, it will be smart to set a time for a room inspection (e.g., once a week). Let him know what privilege will be lost if his room does not meet the inspection.

If all of this is decided ahead of time (and written down), it makes it much smoother when consequences have to be enforced.

These are a few good steps to get started, I hope they are helpful!

Dr. Todd

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