Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Stepdaughter Must Clean Up Her Own Mess

DEAR HARRIETTE: I live in a large house and clean it all myself. After the holidays, I walked into my stepdaughter’s bathroom and saw that she had left towels on the floor like you would in a hotel to let housekeeping know they are dirty. I could not believe my eyes. She is nearly 30 years old, and she does not know how to clean up after herself. Should I tell my husband about his daughter’s horrible manners? -- Not Your Maid, Atlanta

DEAR NOT YOUR MAID: Rather than telling your husband about his daughter, start one-on-one with her. Engage your stepdaughter in a positive manner, and ask her if you two can have a chat. When you have her undivided attention, tell her that you need her to support your household by keeping things tidy. Point out that you clean your home without the aid of any hired help, so you need everyone who lives there or who spends time there to pull their own weight. Let her know that you noticed towels on the floor in her bathroom. Ask her to take a different approach in the future: Either hang them up, or put them in the dirty clothes hamper. Better still, invite her to wash them.

Next, go through a list of chores that you want her to be responsible for fulfilling while she is in your home. Be kind and positive, but also very clear. Follow up with your husband by telling him what occurred and how you chose to handle it. Ask him to support you in your efforts to keep the house clean.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My son has gotten into the habit of blasting workout music even though he has perfectly good headphones. We have a few pieces of exercise equipment in the basement, and I got him headphones so he can lift weights while keeping the noise limited to the basement. The last thing I want to hear in the morning is heavy bass and rap music. My son refuses to budge and says this is how he motivates himself to get fit. What can I do to restore my sanity while keeping my son happy? -- 7 a.m. DJ, Pikesville, Maryland

DEAR 7 A.M. DJ: Set ground rules at home. Celebrate your son for his commitment to fitness as you let him know that he cannot play music audibly until after an allotted time that works for you, whatever that is. If he suggests that you are impeding his fitness progress, give him the option of working out at a gym or at home wearing earphones. Until he owns his own home, he must abide by your rules, including respecting your desire for peace and quiet in the early morning.

Your job is to teach and remind your son about respect and boundaries. His job, in his mind, is to push the boundaries. Push back, and do not budge. Define consequences if he ignores you.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)