Respecting a Teen's Space and Time

A teenager's space and time must be respected.  First, let us deal with space and their right to privacy. By the time a child becomes a teen, you have likely already spent years teaching him how to clean and organize his room. As children age and become teens, their rooms need to become more and more theirs and less ours. As with schoolwork, hygiene habits, choice in books, we must let go and allow them their decisions, mistakes and successes. As a family, you must determine family values and limits. For example, you can simply always shut their door and truly let the room be theirs. Or, if your house rules include the entire house being cleaned once a week, their room needs to be as well. The teen's room needs to be picked up so that the vacuum and dust cloth can be used and the room cleaned. If the house is cleaned when they are at school, they are required to have everything picked up before they leave for school so that whoever cleans can do their job, which does not include picking up dirty clothes, bath towels, books, magazines, etc. If a room isn't ready for cleaning, the teen involved has to do the cleaning himself after school. His choice is clear: pick up and someone else cleans, fail to pick up and you clean. Or if they are involved in the cleaning process, a useful tool is: "When you have done your assigned cleaning, then you may go on with your life." Either way the room is clean by late afternoon and before the teen involved leaves the house for the evening. The rest of the time, close their door; you don't want to know. Do not let the room "talk" to you.

Every teen should have some space that she can call her own, to where she can retreat, where she can decorate to her, not our, tastes, where she can get away from others for a time, a place she calls home. This issue must not center on your paying the mortgage. Please note, it is not healthy for a teen to retreat to her room from the time she arrives home from school through bedtime. Nor should teens generally have computers or televisions in their rooms. It is far easier to supervise a computer or television in a general area of the house, a den or family room, than in a teen's bedroom. With the Internet and cable, all children need supervision. Computers, video games and television can entertain children for long lengths of time and prevent them from interacting with peers and family and from developing important communication and social skills. Help make these technological wonders a shared activity, and a supervised one, by placing them in a group area.  eens need space not total isolation.  They also need supervision. Be aware of how much time they are left alone-while you are home and when you are not, even if you are working.  Teens are more independent than young children; they are also more creative and capable of deception.

Respecting their time simply means that we need to understand that their time is as valuable to them as our time is to us.  Infringe only when necessary and, as often as possible, as a polite request.  "It would be helpful ..." and "I know it is an intrusion, but would you mind ..." both work wonders with teens.  Giving them a range of time to get something done also helps.  In the morning, tell them, "Sometime before four o'clock, you need to finish the last two loads of laundry." One of my friends reports that this works well with her daughter but that she has to say four o'clock which day. Teens are so clever.

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