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How on earth do you get teenaged foster children to tidy their rooms?

(34 Posts)
stressstressystress Mon 20-Jul-15 09:38:00

as above, any advise very welcome.

13 year old girl will just not keep her room even reasonably tidy for a day. I can sort through and get it back to normal and within a day she has pulled stuff out and living in chaos. I have done the sorting with her and made a routine to follow so she knows what to do and has no learning issues.
On other occasions i have done it myself but now she doesn't want me going through her stuff.

she has a wash basket but mixes dirty and clean cloths on the floor, doesn't empty her bin or bring food plate/cups down, never puts anything away where it belongs, just dumps it on the floor.

It is so messy and smells.

First day of holidays here so i have taken her phone off her until she has tidied her room, cue shouting, crying, sling doors and throwing things around the house.

Is this a reasonable sanction? what else can i do?

with my own teenagers i just used to let them live in filth, but then no one was coming round every month to look at where they were sleeping!

scarlet5tyger Mon 20-Jul-15 10:27:24

I don't have experience of teenagers but temporarily removing her phone sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

Could you have a word with her SW on their next visit and explain/ask for advice? Then if they see a messy bedroom on the following visit you can explain that you've tried "their" advice this time with xxx results...?

Twopots Mon 20-Jul-15 12:50:41

I would make sure the mobile stays downstairs every night and she can have it back every morning provided the room is tidy, once it's a routine it will be easier, good luck x

stressstressystress Mon 20-Jul-15 15:43:41

Thanks scarlet, social worker visits tomorrow so will discuss then.

She is tidying up now after a sit down protest of watching cartoons for four hours, i have been perfectly pleasant to her and just pointed out she is only making herself miserable . The problem is she is always trying to drag me into conflict so any discipline is really hard .

That is a brilliant idea Twopots esp with the summer hols and not rushing out to school, she should have time for a quick tidy every morning and then hopefully it will be habit.

feel so much better for posting

MyPreciousRing Mon 20-Jul-15 18:04:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FannyFanakapan Mon 20-Jul-15 18:43:01

CHange the WIFI password. Give it back once their room is tidy. Untidy room = no wifi.

(This only works if their phone contract is not unlimited data, or contract where they can go over. )

Otherwise, taking the phone away is fine, until they say No, you cant make me.....

ALso try carrot approach - trip to ALton Towers on X date if your room is tidy every day by 10am.

stressstressystress Tue 21-Jul-15 10:46:56

Eating ban will now be in force, but she steals food so that is an issue.

wi-fi is a bit tricky as have other children on other devices so sticking with the phone for now.

carrot idea is good but we go to alton towers and outings like that regularly anyway, perhaps we do too much, but outing keep me sane! will have to think of another carrot, perhaps a day out on her own with me, doing her nails or something . need to think more on that.

yesterday she filled a bag with rubbish and picked up a lot of things from the floor, put them on the bed and then at bedtime put them back on the floor!
She is yet to come down this morning. Its going to be a long holiday!

Gymbob Tue 21-Jul-15 10:52:36

I have the same problem with mine. she is 15. I try to be understanding as she lived in a house before she went into care, just like how she likes to keep her bedroom.

it's a constant battle. she actually likes wearing dirty clothes, as it makes her feel comfortable. she likes a dirty room for the same reason. I have to sneak in and rummage for dirty clothes as the smell goes into the rest of the house. she also has no respect for my house, and make up is trodden into carpet and smeared on walls.

pocket money is given when the room is clean and tidy each week and it must be tidy before she goes out. no food upstairs, although that rule is broken constantly, no devices in room on school nights. like you say though, within minutes of entering a clean and tidy room it is chaos!

you have my sympathy sad

Gymbob Tue 21-Jul-15 10:54:53

mine also steals food sad

MrsBueller Tue 21-Jul-15 11:03:55

Sorry if I am massively stating the obvious but the chaos is comfortable. It's way too big a step to expect her to go straight from mess to tidiness. She needs to gradually adjust to new habits. Expecting her to completely tidy up is asking a lot. You're setting her up to fail right now.

And if her birth parents were messy like this then asking her to completely go against them is bigger than the mess. It's not just about doing things differently but actually forcing her to somehow question her own parents and allow in the thought that they were wrong. That's a big ask for what I presume is an insecurely attached child.

Not a foster parent, but I am a former food-stealing child of hoarders. I would suggest the following:

1. Make a safe space in her room where she is allowed to be messy.
2. Make a safe space for her to hide food, eg a Tupperware with her name on.
3. Make gradual changes. Tidying your room is a big deal if you have always lived in squalor. (I am now 30-something with a professional job and I still repeatedly trash my own house. I have to work really hard to curb the automatic impulse to make a mess.)
4. Understand that you are asking her to psychologically separate from her parents and to change the adjustments she has made. I don't think you quite get what a big ask this is. Nothing else is familiar, is it?
5. I think you might need to accept her as she is (smelly clothes etc) for a bit before she will feel secure enough to change.

Sorry if I'm speaking out of turn.

Gymbob Tue 21-Jul-15 11:07:37

she has been with me 10 years!

You're not a foster carer you say?

MrsBueller Tue 21-Jul-15 11:16:13

No, but I've been your foster child, thought that was clear from the post.

Gymbob Tue 21-Jul-15 11:25:28

as you said, you were massively stating the obvious. lots of foster carers are looking after very damaged children.

I don't want advice on this matter actually, I was replying to the op who does.

thank you all the same.

BertieBotts Tue 21-Jul-15 11:35:17

Do you think it's overwhelming/unclear/she doesn't WANT it to be tidy? I wonder if it would be fair to give her some absolutes but say she's allowed to keep it however she likes other than that.


Clothes only get washed if she puts them into a laundry basket/hamper. You won't go rooting around to find things she wants clean.
No smell - because it affects the rest of the house and a smell often means something rotting/unhygienic. If there's a smell you expect her to find the source of it and remove, or you will do it, which means that you'll have to go through her stuff which you don't want to do as it is her private things.
Bed must have sheets/duvet cover on at all times to protect mattress. If you change the sheets, then I'd also say bed has to be clear to facilitate this. If she changes them herself then just reminders on how often it needs to be done.
Carpet is clear to prevent stains. (Would waive this perhaps if no carpet or you plan to replace carpet anyway)
Clear path to anything that you/SW need to access e.g. laundry hamper, bed. Maybe clear path to window (fire safety).
Cups/plates/etc must come back. Again if noticed missing you'll go in to retrieve them.

I think it is fair for her to expect privacy, but with that comes responsibility - if you put it to her that way, that of course you'll stay out of her room and her things as long as she's willing to work with you, then it's logical and the guidelines are clear. It doesn't feel as strict as "You must have a clean and tidy room at all times" but it's also reasonable and essential from a minimum standard of living point of view.

BTW, you can block devices individually from wifi if you want to do that - it's in the router settings page. Google "netgear router settings" or "BT router settings" or whatever make of router you have. But sounds like keeping the phone would be simpler. It also makes it easier to keep phones out of bedroom at night.

stressstressystress Tue 21-Jul-15 11:46:18

mine has been with me for 6 years, when she was small i did the cleaning and tidying and so she has lived in a clean and tidy environment for a long time.

It is a year since her bedroom was gutted, repainted, new furniture the works. i have had to take make up away as she was smearing it on clean clothes and bedding.

I can't afford to replace everything she trashes, clothes, bedding, furniture, belongings, she has to start taking some responsibility

The last big clean was about 6 weeks ago when everything was removed, sorted/cleaned and put back where it belongs. we also made a chart of the steps to go through in order to keep it tidy.

Her social worker has spoke to her about and i have too, she says she decided to ignore us both.

If i posted a pic of her room on another board saying this was my neighbours house people would advise report to ss as no child should be left in that filth, it is that bad. we are not taking about a few bits of paper and books lying around.

Cassimin Tue 21-Jul-15 11:48:23

I am a foster carer and while you have my sympathies I'm with mrs bueller. You could have a lot more problems than a messy room. It could be a psychological problem.
I have learnt not to stress myself out over some things. But I suppose I have had a lot of experience as my own children are very messy!!

Gymbob Tue 21-Jul-15 11:55:54

I agree that there comes an age where they need to take some responsibility. We are supposed to be teaching life skills!

If a friend is coming round, will she voluntarily tidy it, or isn't she bothered? Mine isn't bothered and they will sit amongst the mess, but strangely, she went round to her brothers and tidied his bedroom for him and ticked him off for the state of it. I was shock at that!

stressstressystress Tue 21-Jul-15 11:56:57

yes i like your absolutes Bertie, i would be very happy with that.

at the moment she has to jump onto her bed from the doorway as every bit of floor is covered!

And yes we do have a lot more problems Cassimin, this seems one of the easiest to address and in my opinion it is a health hazard.

and thanks for the wi-fi tip, i didn't know that at all

Gymbob Tue 21-Jul-15 11:59:01

cass, don't know about the op, but mine does have psychological problems. it's all part of it I'm afraid. and yes she is being cared for in that department.

CateringCalamities Tue 21-Jul-15 16:34:41

The wifi tip is fab, never heard that before - will be using that in the not to distant future tonight as we have constant battles regarding internet with our 11 year old!!

BertieBotts Tue 21-Jul-15 18:51:37

smile Also any computers on Windows 8 you can add parental controls to turn off the internet at a certain time - v. handy!

Wifi settings can be a bit technical but there are how to guides on the net. If you can work out mumsnet, you should be able to do it.

I think that it can be helpful to make distinctions between what is actually necessary and what is just desirable. Because desirable for one person is not necessarily the same as it is for another, and if she's kicking back saying well, what does it matter if my room is a tip? Well, no, it doesn't matter to anybody else whether or not it's organised. That's totally up to her. But it does matter if the household runs out of cups because they're all in her room, or if she's breeding some kind of health hazard, or if she runs out of clean clothing, or if she breaks her neck trying to escape a fire. Those are life skills, IMO. Learning what is a priority and what is a preference, and how to differentiate.

MrsBueller Tue 21-Jul-15 22:56:55

The problem is that you are coming at this with the view that she has to change and "take responsibility" as, to you, it is so obviously right. Clearly she has a need to be messy and until you address that need it's a tall order to insist she changes according to your standards. All behaviour is communication. Simply insisting you are right and she is wrong will not work.

But what do I know, I'm not a foster carer...

MrsBueller Tue 21-Jul-15 22:57:37

And if I was stating the obvious why is it not computing that chaos is comfortable and cleaning up is not?

MrsBueller Tue 21-Jul-15 22:59:13

It's an attachment issue; you're asking her to completely separate from her parents and how they did things.

hides thread in frustration

Gymbob Tue 21-Jul-15 23:06:14

but you are entirely correct mrs bueller!

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