Train your teen
If your kids know this, they’ll be okay to unleash on other housemates.
A lot of parenting has to do with socialising children: teaching them the basic rules of life, including how to get along with others. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, as any mother who’s had to remind her children to brush their teeth every single day for – literally! – years will tell you.

I shared accommodation in a series of communal houses when I was in my late teens and early 20s, and I was often surprised at how other people lived. The usual irritations went down – there was always someone who wriggled out of household chores, and divvying up the monthly joint phone bill when Telkom was the only option frequently resulted in near-fisticuffs – but it was the little day-to-day things that some of my housemates did that drove me (and others) dilly: the things their mothers should have taught them.

Here are a few of the things that, by the time your kids are in their late teens, if they haven’t learnt yet, they probably aren’t going to. (Pity their future housemates and/or partners!)

Clean up after yourself. ‘What did your last slave die of? Hard work?’ This was one of my mother’s favourite refrains all the time my three siblings and I were growing up.

It took her half a lifetime to teach us to take dirty coffee cups back to the kitchen, hang up wet towels, brush away toaster crumbs (‘And not onto the floor!’) and put the milk back in the fridge once we’d used it. But I’m grateful she persevered.

Put the toilet seat down. There’s nothing to recommend ending up with your bum in a bowl of cold water – yet I’m constantly amazed at how many adult male visitors use my loo and then leave the toilet seat up. It’s just plain bad manners. (And, for boys, if your aim is off – wipe up after yourself; if you don’t, who’s going to?)

Switch off lights, heaters/aircon and taps when they’re not being used. By now, being water- and electricity-wise should be a way of life.

Knock before you enter. Unless you live by lock and key, a closed door is a firm signal to keep out. And if knocking elicits no response, go away and try again later.

Respect others’ property. Shakespeare said, ‘Never a borrower nor a lender be,’ but life doesn’t always work like that. If you use something that belongs to someone else, look after it; if you break or damage it, replace it or pay for it.

If you use the last toilet roll/bar of soap/drop of milk/slice of bread, replace it. And if your household has a running shopping list, add it to the list.

Remember that not everyone likes your music. Youngsters who drive around polluting the airwaves in cars ‘powered by sound’ need their ears soundly boxed. As do people who think everyone they live with also loves Korn/Rummstein/Marilyn Manson played at full volume.

Take financial responsibility. Life is expensive. Don’t shirk your financial load – if you’re not paying, someone else is.

Don’t leave notes.
It’s tempting to write a message (‘Wash your damned dishes!’ ‘Close the bloody windows!’) when someone you live with is unrelentingly sloppy, but bad-tempered notes usually just create more bad feeling. Choose an appropriate time and have a quiet word instead.

Has Tracey left out any vital lifeskills for sharing your space?

Read more by Tracey Hawthorne

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