A Teenager's Room is Their Castle.
Last week I wrote about one of the ways children cope with a sense of powerlessness. For teenagers this often manifests itself with a strong territorial attitude towards their bedroom.
The Beach Boys knew what they were doing when they sang ‘In My Room’. If a teenager is lucky enough to have a room of their own, or even part of a room, it’s no surprise that they want to use this space to express themselves - it’s virtually the only canvas they have. When I was around fifteen, my parents were kind enough to let me decorate my bedroom in any way I chose. It was the seventies, so I chose a stylish blend of coffee and chocolate with white gloss woodwork which I felt worked beautifully with the dusky pink carpet already in situ. Oh how I loved it - pretty much in equal measure to how disgusted my folks were with my interior decor chops.
Like all teens, I was ‘encouraged’ to keep my room tidy. Teens these days tell me how frustrating they find it to be given free rein on the one hand, but also be expected to abide by what they see as arbitrary rules, “If they’re cool with it being my space, surely it’s up to me how tidy I keep it?!”
I think this tends to turn into a battlefield when there is no discussion or explanation over and above, “Because I say so.” It’s one of my most hated phrases. As adults we wouldn’t take that as sufficient reasoning to comply - unless we were in the forces or similar, so had signed up to that sort of thing - so why do we feel it’s good enough for our children? Whether we point out that they are part of the community of the household, and that bonds are strengthened by everyone pulling their weight or if we suggest that a clear space gives more room for clarity and ideas, some evidence of thought process over and above blind obedience can often help.
Really it’s about mutual respect - for each other as people and for the decisions we make and the values we live by. A short conversation can go a long way to positive contributions in both directions. Yes, our youngsters need boundaries but negotiation is always going to be more fruitful than giving out and rebelling against hierarchical orders.