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Mom of Teens: Creative communication

Posted October 5, 2010

According to my daughters, they suffer from an extreme case of memory loss. I call it selective amnesia since they mostly “forget” things related to doing chores or straightening up the downstairs in our home. I can’t count the number of times we’ve had the following conversation.

Me: “Why are all these clothes and shoes still in the living room and dining room? I called you right after school to remind you to take your things upstairs and put them where they belong.”

Either daughter (take your pick): “Oh yeah, I got distracted and forgot.”

Our downstairs is one big open area. The only closed portion is the half bathroom, which serves as the guest bath. But they leave items in there as well. There are several excuses, I mean reasons, why their stuff is always downstairs. First, they do their homework at the dining room table. Second, one of our computers and one TV are also downstairs, so it makes for a “convenient” area to just drop your stuff and get into your evening. However, it's frustrating to walk in after a long day at work and see their stuff scattered all over. What if someone stopped by? That’s not how I want people to be greeted when they step inside my home.

So this past Friday I got the most brilliant idea. There is a ceiling fan in our living room that can be seen from 95 percent of our downstairs area. I taped a gigantic note to one of the pull strings for my distracted and forgetful children. It read: Get ALL your belongings out of here. Put your stuff where it belongs – which is NOT in the living room, dining room or downstairs bathroom. I’ll post a picture of it on my blog for anyone who wants to see it in full color.

I arrived home on Friday to nothing. No clothes, shoes, brushes, purses or socks. That made me very happy. It was the same message they’d heard over and over. The only difference was the way it was delivered. Was it effective? Absolutely!

What was the lesson here? Sometimes we need to get a little creative if we want to get through to our teenagers. When the old ways stop working, spend a little time figuring out a new way to communicate your message. It might prove to be well worth your time!

Marietta Taylor is the mom of two girls ages 15 and 14 and has been married for 17 years. The family moved from Chicago to Raleigh in 2003. The first few years were a wild ride and were the inspiration for her first book, "Surviving Unemployment Devotions To Go!" Read more about Mari on her blog and website. And find her here monthly on Go Ask Mom.

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  • mrschizzy Oct 6, 2010

    I did something similar with my stepson once. We only have 1 bathroom in our little house and the shower has 3 knobs - hot, cold, and a knob to turn the shower on. The only problem is, he didn't seem to ever remember to turn the shower OFF when he was done, resulting in the next person getting drenched on the head as they leaned in to turn on the water to get their shower started. My husband and I both pleaded with him angrily to turn it off and he always "forgot" too. So one day I wrote the following note in big letters: "Before exiting the shower, ask yourself 'Did I turn the shower off?' Thanks, Management". I taped the note to the bathroom mirror right across from the tub/shower so that he couldn't help but see it when he opened the shower curtain to step out of the tub. It worked like a charm! I left it up for a month and his habit changed.