DEAR HARRIETTE: I'm living with my father for the summer so that I can be closer to my job. Every day, I clean the living room and bedrooms. But no matter how much I clean, the next day it always seems to be even dirtier.
I don't understand why my father does not understand the concept of cleanliness at his age! I don't know whether he's too lazy or just does not notice it. How can I appropriately insist that he clean up after himself? -- In a Mess, Jacksonville, Fla.
DEAR IN A MESS: What was the state of your father's home when you first arrived? If he was messy from the start, it may mean that your father is comfortable in the amount of disorder that is usually present. Some people like mess, others are oblivious to it or still others aren't motivated to do anything about it.
Your father truly may not notice that he's living in messy quarters. Should you say something? Well, you might diplomatically point out to him that while you are living there, you intend to do a certain amount of cleaning every day. Ask if he is OK with these tasks. Ask next if he would be willing to do a few things as well.
Be proactive by suggesting particular tasks he might be willing to do to help keep the house in order. If he agrees but doesn't follow up, gently remind him. You may be successful in getting him to do a few things.
Be careful not to fuss with him or to behave disparagingly. This is his home, and he is doing you a favor by allowing you to live with him.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am always stuck baby-sitting my younger brother and sister. I wouldn't mind it so much, but they simply do not listen to me. They don't respect my authority, and when I'm nice to them, they take advantage.
I try not to scream too often, but sometimes I just can't take anymore. My mom constantly screams at me for screaming at them, but she does not see what happens when she's not around. How can I get her to understand why I'm so frustrated with my younger siblings? -- Reluctant Sitter, Grand Rapids, Mich.
DEAR RELUCTANT SITTER: In a calm moment, talk to your mother about your concerns. Explain to her that you want to baby-sit your siblings properly, but they don't respect you. Ask her to support you by telling them that you are in charge when she isn't around. It would be helpful if she would take away privileges when they do not obey your directions or treat you disrespectfully.
Meanwhile, you need to work on staying calm. Children follow directions far more readily when the authority figure stays in control. That includes not raising your voice, giving clear directions and sticking to them.
One way to improve rapport with your siblings is to think of fun activities they will enjoy. If you plan things for them to do that seem like adventures -- even if they are in your home -- your brother and sister will be more inclined to be engaged and to enjoy your company. When children are bored is when you have the most difficulty with them.