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Daughter is a Slob

Daughter is a Slob


Q. My teenage daughter is a very creative soul who loves creative expression like art and writing. But she is also a real slob. Her room is always a mess. No matter how much I ask her to clean up after herself, the room stays messy. There are papers all over the floors from the many projects she's always in the middle of, and her clothes cover every surface. My husband suggests we take a stronger hand and thinks that she has a real problem, but every time he speaks to her it seems like she gets deflated. How can we help her with her problem while still not destroying her self-esteem?

A. There are some children who are naturally neat and organized and there are others who have to acquire these skills. By gently guiding your daughter in a way that she will be ready to listen and comply, you will be providing her with some valuable tools for life.

As we watch our offspring growing up, it's natural that their actions evoke within us a tangle of emotions and leave us feeling incompetent (What kind of mother am I? Is this how I've raised my daughter?), frustrated (How many times do I have to tell her to clean up after herself?) and even fearful (How will she ever succeed if she can't even hang up her own clothes?).

Talking to your daughter at a time when these emotions are fizzing just beneath the surface will communicate these feelings to her and may indeed leave her feeling deflated. By neutralizing such feelings, you can convey a genuine desire to work together with her on this issue, and you'll be on the path towards remedying the situation; our attitude to the problem is the most important first step in dealing with it.

How do you neutralize such thoughts? Since children have their own free will, we cannot control them or their behavior. It's important to remember that our job as a parent is to teach them lovingly and patiently – but their choice of actions does not necessarily reflect our competence as a parent (even if it may call for a different method of teaching).

If you've come to the conclusion that your daughter is a "slob" and that's what you feel in your heart, your daughter will feel that, too. In Ethics of our Fathers we are taught, "Hevei dan et kol ha'adam lechaf zechut"–judge everyone favorably. The word kol ha'adam (every person) can also imply the whole person, so that we can understand the meaning of the verse as judge the whole person favorably. In other words, rather than allowing her flaws to obscure your vision, view the person as a whole person, her weaknesses and her strengths, and you will perceive a more favorable picture.

If you can externalize the issue at hand and view your daughter as the whole person that she is – a wonderful creative young woman – who happens to have a hard time with orderliness, you will lower the frustration a great deal, maybe even eliminate it altogether. You will then be able to approach your daughter with an understanding and empathetic heart. She in turn will feel your genuine desire to help her with her struggle and may readily accept your guidance.

And finally, acquiring concrete methods to help your daughter will allow you to focus on the present and stop your imagination from predicting the worst. You may have noticed that nagging, criticizing and blaming has not brought you very far, but you may be surprised to see how much your daughter will appreciate some practical advice, not to mention what it can do for her self-esteem.

Incidentally, it may be a good idea to allow her to have one space where she can throw all her stuff in a big heap. Perhaps her bed, or a chair – think of a spot where it will least likely disturb you. This way she can have the freedom she craves and you can have the orderly room you would like. Besides, it will be easier for her to put things away if they are all gathered up in one area.

Good luck!

Mirish Kiszner is a teacher, counselor and lecturer living in Jerusalem. She’s published hundreds of articles in numerous Jewish publications. Her latest book is Extraordinary Stories about Ordinary People (Artscroll), a collection of true stories about real people.
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Motherof5 Charleston, SC August 30, 2012

MOTHER WITH A MISSION My 16 year old daughter is also a slob and we have tried everything from taking all privileges away, taking her phone to letting the room go. Nothing has worked. I always said I would not be like my mother and take everything out of her room and I mean everything except her bed but I am to the point where things are going to change today. We have 4 boys and 1 girl and out of the boys our oldest was a slob until he got his own home and now things are different but I can not wait that long for this one. We are removing all items, clothes, furniture, pictures, everything but her bed today and she will need to turn in dirty clothes for a clean set-no paper or markers or make-up in her room. I will let you know how it turns out. If anyone has any other ideas please let us know. Reply

Anonymous Canon City, CO February 4, 2012

I have to call My daughter has kept a messy room for ages. I decided it's her room and I will let her figure it out on her own, with some guidance and reminders here and there. NOW, within 3 months of allowing her "messy room freedom" she has completely trashed the entire upstairs of my home. I have to disagree with letting my child have her way and a messy room because I left my child alone to do that and she not only left her room a mess but added the hallway and the office to her mess.

I have disconnected her phone, grounded her from TV and everything. The only time she allowed out of her room is to use the bathroom, eat, and go to school...until this mess is cleaned. Reply

Anonymous Huntington Beach, Ca. February 4, 2011

slob, manners, hygeine Gosh, talk about feeling inadequate...I am embarressed for and by my daughters actions: mouth, manners in public as well as at home. She has adhd and I do break down instructions for her, e.g. wash your face, brush your teeth, brush your hair...etc.
She is a G-d loving, compassionate 12 yr. old. Her probable apathetic feelings about school must stem from her academic and social inadequacys-thus her plummetimg self esteem (my heart breaks) hence her, could care less attitude. (in addition to being lazy, lazy, lazy). She has, maybe 1 friend, kids her age simply do not like her-her social awkwardness,i.e. no boundaries and quirky traits. Yes, she is on meds and does see someone. Apologies for the lengthy biographical executive summary.
Comments on anything are heartfully welcome.
Shabbat Shalom! Reply

Puddy NY, NY, USA December 18, 2010

Daughter is a Slob, Mom Needs to Get a Grip It's her room. As long as she's messing up her own room and not the entire house, what do you care? Reply

Anonymous July 2, 2008

Messiness in remission... Something that has helped with my messiness is having little cubbies to put stuff into. If a pair of shoes has a specific little cubby, I will put them there instead of under the bed. Dividers in the drawers force me to fold clothes and put them into the drawer nicely. I also do a 10 minute maintenance on Friday mornings to make sure anything that didn't quite make it to its cubby, does. I'm very artistic, and tend to be very messy, but I don't miss the mess anymore! I hope this helps. Reply

Anonymous Largo, FL June 26, 2008

Slob- reply to Annonymous in Brooklyn I am the (adult) slob in largo.

I think that your views- if not Add etc- would be appropriate for a young child. i do not think it would work for a teen.

As an ex teacher (but had many family members who were in education, and as an ex or former teen)- the teen years are difficult enough, with extra pressure for keeping a room clean-my view; also, when I was in the army- had to be super neat- hated it; never figured what it had to do with being a good soldier (I wasn't, anyhow).

My views. Reply

Anonymous Brookly, N.Y. via May 10, 2008

Daughter is a slob It is possible that your daughter suffers from ADD, and needs therapy or medication to help her stay focussed and orderly.

If this is not the case, as simple solution that works wonders , but you have to be strong enough to go through with it, is to set a daily time limit when all her items need to be put away.

After this time limit, with no warning, everything not in place is confiscated , and she must earn it back.

This method really works, but only if you are firm and consistant. Reply

Jeff Conway, AR May 8, 2008

slob She should be held to a standard. It is not oppressive to ask her to pick up. It teaches discipline. It teaches order. I think it is a cop-out to say that she should have a place to pile all her junk. All she will learn is to make a bigger pile. It is good practice to ask her to clean up. Reply

Anonymous May 7, 2008

menchlachkeit The real problem isn't the child's own room; it's the common areas. What of the 17-year-old child who needs to be reminded to do his chores, not leave his dishes on the counter, not, take down the garbage, take a little initiative to help out a single mom upon whom everything falls if he fails?

He will step over something on the floor if it's not his.

I'm shipping him off to Israel to a yeshiva until he grows up a little. He'll have to fend for himself. Maybe he'll return with a better attitude. What do you guys think? Reply

Anonymous Milwaukee, WI via May 7, 2008

I have this issue. I am a chronic slob. But I am usually the first person to remember where things were by sight. So at least I gained that skill out of every thing.

I need a few concrete mess-busting tips. Reply

abdelwhed baghdad, IRAQ May 7, 2008

thats right thanks to who wrote this article. most families suffer from their children who persist to be careless in some subject. i also suffer from my son who is careless in school and with his room. every time it makes me angry in spite. this article is very important for every family. Reply

Anonymous Largo, FL., US May 5, 2008

Slob I am a slob, and can relate entirely to the daughter.

I also know where everything is-and have no problems.
I am also an adult, and live alone, so don't have any problems. But when I lived with my ex significant other-it was the one source of friction (she was super neat, a true neat freak) and we ended up splitting.

For the daughter-when alone, not a problem, but if marries or has a relationship with someone who is not a slob-could be a problem.
I do like the suggestion- an area where she can throw her items, etc. Reply

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Mirish Kiszner is a teacher, counselor and lecturer living in Jerusalem. She is the author of Dear Libby (Artscroll), a compilation of questions and responses for kids about real life matters that stimulate parent-child discussions through helping kids identify with other kids.
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