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Divorced Father Seeks to Curb Daughter's Habitual Messiness

DEAR ABBY: My 16-year-old daughter, "Katie," leaves her nice clothes, wet towels and debris strewn around her room. She stays with me half the time, and her mother the other half. She's involved in activities and Advanced Placement courses in school, so when she gets home, she studies or needs to sleep. I remind her to pick her things up off the floor, but she rarely does it.

I keep going back and forth on the correct way to handle this. Should I just leave them and allow Katie to live in a mess until she gets sick of it, or straighten up ahead of time so when she comes over her room is tidy, and maybe she'll realize it's how the place should always look? She's a sweet, loving and considerate kid, but, frankly, she gets very dramatic -- especially when she's hormonal -- which makes it hard for a rational conversation. Thank you for any help you can offer. --FRUSTRATED FATHER IN FLORIDA

DEAR FRUSTRATED FATHER: You and your ex-wife may be divorced, but you need to be on the same page when it comes to parenting. Ask her if she allows clothing and towels to be left on the floor of Katie's room and, if not, how she handles it. Even if it doesn't bother your ex, you should still remind your daughter that when she gets to college, she'll be a more desirable roommate if she keeps her living quarters tidy, and that it would be better for her to acquire the habit now. Be sure she knows you are saying it to help her, not to be an ogre. It's your house, and you should be making the rules.

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