One Mom Throws in the Towel: Can 4 Boys Be Taught to Keep the Bathroom Clean?

Posted October 27, 2010 by

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Is it an unreasonable expectation to expect to find a towel hanging on the rod when you go into the bathroom to wash your hands? My husband says no. I say yes. In our home, with 4 boys, three who have ADHD, it is not reasonable to expect that this will occur.

Each boy in our family has his own “towel persona.” The oldest, 19, cannot remember to take a towel into the bathroom when he showers. He will grab whatever is on the rod, use it and leave it either on the bathroom floor, in a kitchen chair, or on the floor of his bedroom. The next time he showers, he will need a new towel but will not realize this until after he is in the shower.

My 13-year-old always remembers to take a new towel in with him, but after the shower he will take it into his room and hang it on his closet. The next time he showers, he does not remember to take that towel in with him, but grabs a new one. After the shower, when he finds that he already has a towel on his closet door, the old towel ends up on the floor.

The 10-year-old needs supervision while he is in the shower, so his dad makes sure he reuses his towel and hangs it on the back of his bedroom door. The reason for the supervision is because when he was showering on his own, he would turn the water on, forget why he was in the bathroom, and either shave his hair with a razor, dump decorative rocks down the sink, etch a new pattern into the tile with a nail, or fill spare soap dishes up with water and put them in a drawer.

My 13-year-old stepson seems to be the only one who knows what to do with his own towel and the towel that belongs on the rack. Since he does not live here full-time, it is only when he is here that we can expect to find a towel on the rod.

Handwashing is another story. All of the children are sent in to wash their hands before meals. This is the point at which my husband finds that when he goes in after them, there is no towel on the rod.


1. There is no handwashing going on at all

2. Whatever towel that was on the rod gets used and tossed on the floor

3. The children are content to pick up a wet towel from the floor to dry their hands

4. They use their shirts and pants.

Since nobody who lives here will take responsibility for missing towels or those left on the floor, the children have concocted a story in which my stepson remotely controls the towel on the rack, much like ‘log me in’ on the computer, and through a hole in the wall, senses when a towel is on the rack, then knocks it off from his home, 45 minutes away.

Since I cannot see the forest through the trees, my friend suggested I buy the new Kleenex-brand paper towels. With this innovative invention, one can put the cleverly-shaped box of paper towels between the towel rod and the wall. A fresh paper towel is always ready when you need it! I decided to do this recently as a birthday surprise for my husband. On his birthday, when he went to wash up for dinner, he found this handy-dandy invention with a HAPPY BIRTHDAY sticker on it! We thought all of our problems were solved! Instead we found that the box lasted two days and instead of wet towels on the floor, we now have a pile of paper towels on the floor because there were too many to fit into the small bathroom trashcan and nobody was willing to empty the trashcan.

How do you handle the towel situation (and others like this) in your home? Anyone? Anyone?!


I am a mom of two boys, ages 16 and 22, both with ADHD, bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression. I have remarried and my husband has 2 boys, ages 13 and 16. The 13 year old lives with us, and has some behavioral problems and attachment issues. There is always something happening at our house!

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