A teenager’s room is like their whole house, squished into a much smaller space.  This is where the teenager does pretty much everything – sleep, work, socialize.

Given how present the room is in a teenager’s life, it is important to let the teenager have ownership of the room.  This often means redecorating – maybe several times over the teen years because of the swiftness with which teenagers develop and evolve.  It’s good to let this happen, within your family’s financial and physical boundaries.

A friend wanted to paint his room an extremely deep purple as a teenager.  His dad said no, but let him put in a very, very purple carpet.

A teenage friend wanted to paint his room black.  Yes, black.  He and his mom agreed to paint it gray to look like a stone wall and putting up a few gargoyles.

These were both good compromises because the teenager was involved.  Another adult friend came home one day as a teenager to find that her parents had completely remodeled her room.  They had done it out of kindness, and she was able to admit years later that she actually preferred the room to her previous one, but at the time she felt like a visitor, a guest in her own room.

Teenagers have ownership of so few spaces – they need to feel ownership in their own room.  It is, in many emotional and physical ways, their cocoon and their sanctuary.  Let them fully own it while they’re living in it!  You’ll get it back eventually.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. I do want my teenage daughter to have ownership of her room….but what about keeping it clean? It bothers me when I enter her space to find it a complete mess…bed never made, clothes all over the floor, candy wrappers everywhere… Do I just stay out, or do I create some rules for cleanliness?

  2. My advice on the subject is to say, in as cheerful and tactful a tone of voice as you can, and at a time when the two of you are enjoying each other’s company, that you would be delighted to “help” her clean her room if she would like some help. After that, stay out of it–it’s really not worth a power struggle.

    I’m not the Ph.D. here, though, so Dr. Rayne’s advice may be different and better. 🙂

  3. This is a great question, Nanci. And yes, you let her keep it a mess.

    Now there is one caveat here: The mess must be contained. That means the door has to swing open and closed, there must be no smell, your things and kitchen things can’t ever be swallowed by the mess, and the room cannot be a bug-production center.

    But unmade beds and clothes all over the floor are totally her prerogative!

  4. i have gone in and picked up laundry in my kids room. they are with me week on and week off. i have to do their laundry… it’s an apartment building with shared laundry – so it’s not quite as straightforward as private laundry

    yes – i know all the consequences deal – but they need clean clothes

    i have on occasion gone and stood in the doorway and told them to clean up and stood there and directed them on the items to clean up and straighten out

    i’m not a clean freak, but i require that all breakable items be off the floor, that at least every couple of days dirty clothes be tossed in a basket, and that garbage be picked up off the floor and put in a wastebasket

    i don’t ever put the lean on them for more than 5 or 10 minutes at a time – often less – a regular 2 minute forced pick-up keeps me sane and them co-operative

  5. Absolutely, Cadbury – it’s all about what works best for you and your family.

    My thoughts on whether teenagers need clean clothes? My thought is that it’s up to them to decide that and take action or not. That probably doesn’t apply to a 12 or 13 year old, but it most certainly does to a 17 or 18 year old. Somewhere in there the switch happens. And yes, having to take the laundry out of the house certainly makes it much harder to organize the teenagers doing their own. But it’s still a skill that they’re going to have to have in just a few years, so why not start now? They’ll probably have to go to a laundry mat then too!

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