Living with a messy teenager - and how to deal with it

The smells, the squalor and the crusted dinner plates under the bed - just why are teenagers so messy? It's a mystery - but at least we can make it easier to cope with.

Just what happens when a child turns from cheery kid to morose teenager overnight? Well, apart from the obvious hormonal changes, it can seem like there's an almost instantaneous slump in their ability to tidy up after themselves.

Whether they leave old sports kits and bits of computer equipment all over the place or their bedrooms are so vile you're scared to enter, there comes a point when you have to intervene. And while you might think you're doing them a favour, they will probably see it as an invasion. Cue shouting, sulking and stamping.

So how do you keep the place fresh while keeping the mood light? Here are some DOs and DON'Ts.

1. DON'T violate their privacy

It's your home, so you may feel you have a right to enter their bedroom at will and tidy up after them. But for teenagers, their bedroom is not only a place to sleep but an escape from an emotionally challenging world, and they will often see you poking around in there as a violation - not to mention an implied personal criticism (even if it's justified!).

So even if the rest of the house is kept spotless, allow them their little space for chaos, unless it becomes actually insanitary. And by insanitary, we don't mean a bit dusty - we're talking allergen-bearing mould, insect-attracting plates and mouse-encouraging crumbs.

2. DO avoid focusing on their mess

There's more to your relationship than a tidy room, so try not to focus your daily interactions on their failure to clear up. If, instead, you encourage them and praise them regularly, then the occasional request to tidy won't feel like such an imposition.

When you are actually focusing on it - requesting them to tidy or bring some plates into the kitchen, or hang up their towels, for example - don't be naggy' about it. Just keep calm and request it almost as if it's an afterthought, or when they're on their way past anyway, so it doesn't feel like a rebuke. For example, if you're calling them down for dinner, just say, "Oh, and can you bring those mugs down while you're at it?"

Chances are, they'll obey before they've even thought about it. And even with crusted-on food, a quick dash of Original Fairy Liquid or super-powerful Fairy Platinum Dishwasher Tablets will make light work of cleaning them. Which means you can afford to be a bit more relaxed about it...

3. DON'T let things go too far

Okay, so we've said relax, but when it gets to the point of attracting insects or rodents, or affecting air quality or the rest of the house, it's gone too far! You might not be nagging them, but you do need to quietly keep an eye on things.

Remember, while teenagers rarely actually care about mess - they've got more important things to worry about, in their minds - they do care about other things, like being image-conscious or avoiding embarrassment.

Obviously we would never recommend shaming your teens - that way lies lifelong resentment - but there's nothing wrong with gently drawing a direct line for them between the fact that they are going out with friends, say, and they don't have any clean clothes. Or the idea that they have friends coming over, but their bedrooms are full of damp, mouldy sports kits and ants. How embarrassing. They'll soon get the picture.

In a laundry emergency, there's nothing better than Bold 3in1 to sort out smells, keep things soft and thoroughly clean even the grimiest of washes.

4. DO consider bribery

Yes, ideally you should be training them to clean up for its own sake, but let's be realistic: teens are not exactly easy to train. So sometimes you might need to take the easy way out and reward them with extra going-out money, phone credit, extra online time or whatever they value most.

Frame it as a reward rather than threatening to remove privileges, to make it a more positive experience, and the chances are they'll be motivated to finish the job if it means they get more of the things that matter to them. And if you make it a regular thing, rather than a one-off - a fiver to do the hoovering, for example - you'll help instill good habits for when they leave home.

You'll also help teach them how to effectively and safely use the right products. Stock up on staple multi-taskers such as Flash Spray Wipe Done and Viakal Limescale Remover, and they'll soon see how satisfying it can be to see grime disappear.

A double win!