Written by Pat Pughe-Parry Pat Pughe-Parry
Last Updated: 01 September 2018 01 September 2018

How do you cope with your teenager turning your home into a dump?

There is a fine line between invading your teens privacy and you having to live with most of the family crockery and cutlery, all food encrusted, in their bedrooms along with weeks of dirty laundry and other unmentionables.

As ADHD parents, and many who don't have ADHD, we are frequently aware of our own inability to be tidy and organised so we:

In our Parent Training Courses we emphasise how important it is for children, even from very young, to do chores and they shouldn't be bribed or paid to do them. They are part of the family and every family member needs to have a role to play. It makes the children feel part of the family unit and it teaches them good life skills for when they become adults and have families of their own. Even if you have domestic help it should not be their job to tidy up after the children. Making their own beds, putting their dirty laundry in the basket, picking up toys and taking dirty dishes back to the kitchen are basic tasks that everyone needs to do.

As parents we sometimes forget that it is our home and we are quite within our rights (and responsibilities) to establish the boundaries. Armchair mess

Things do change when teens enter that hormone induced fog which lasts for several years. Those helpful angelic children turn into slovenly brats who are experts on everything. To exert themselves to do anything that they are told to do becomes a major battle ground.


For your sanity accept that this is a phase. You do not have to win every argument. It is an essential part of the growing up process that they start to think for themselves and push the boundaries. You want them to grow up as thinking, independent adults who can live their own successful lives when they leave home - preferably before they are 25!

Unless they are Trust Fund children they are going to need to earn a living and when they get into the workplace their work colleagues and bosses will not tolerate slobs.

How to survive the teenage yeas

  1. Parents must agree basic boundaries for:
    1. Chores
    2. Screen Time
    3. Laundry
    4. Level of ACCEPTABLE tidiness (this differs from family to family)
    5. Curfews
    6. Friends dropping in
    7. Schoolwork and extramurals
    8. Music noise levels
    9. + others deal breakers in your family.
  2. Call a family meeting (this becomes a weekly essential)
    1. Tell the children / teens what these boundaries are and that they are NON-NEGOTIABLE! This is your home.
    2. Ask them what consequences they think are appropriate. It is a good way to teach them about consequences especially as folk with ADHD struggle to understand consequences.
    3. You have the final decision on the consequences and you must be prepared to implement them every time a boundary is crossed. This is much harder than you think so make sure you are 100% sure about your boundaries and the consequences.
  3. Type a list of the Boundaries and keep them visible. Laminate if necessary.
  4. If you have the space, put up a Whiteboard with the weekly chores eg. Cooking, Shopping, Mowing the lawn, Washing the car, Laundry etc.
  5. In their bedrooms, have a shelf that is just high enough off the ground for the vacuum cleaner to be able to pass under. Get cartons (no lids) and label them: Dirty clothes, Clean Clothes, School, Kitchen, Garbage and "Haven't a clue!". Whoever does the vacuuming places whatever is on the floor, on the chair, on the bed into the respective box. Once a day all kitchen items have to be returned to the kitchen. All dirty laundry must be put in the family laundry basket .... or they go to school in dirty clothes or civvies.
  6. Lunchbox not in kitchen - no lunch and no tuckshop money. No negotiation, no arguments. - YOUR HOME
  7. When the boxes overflow, confiscate the contents. No negotiation, no arguments. - YOUR HOME
  8. DO NOT snoop in their cupboards. Trust between teens and parents is fragile. You want them to respect you so be open with them. If you suspect they are hiding something and you want to check make sure they are present.
  9. In shared living areas you have the right to expect your teens to respect your space. If they don't remove their junk, confiscate it. No negotiation, no arguments. - YOUR HOME.

Once these basic boundaries are in place it is much easier to have a more harmonious environment. Decide on the things that really freak you out and let the other irritations wash over you.