I remember Weary Willy who was having conflicts with his teenaged son over this very same issue. The boy refused to wash his clothes, or bring them to the laundry room on washdays. His room smelled like a locker room. The boy didn’t have any problem with the clothes on the floor, and saw no need to change the situation. Willy was tired of how the room smelled. He went around and around with his son for several weeks with no results. Finally, he came to class one day and exclaimed, “There’s nothing I can do. I can’t control my son and I can’t make him clean his room.”
He was right! Willy had finally realized that he couldn’t control his son. However, he could control himself, and his behavior. We brainstormed about things that Willy could do to resolve the situation. Willy could have cleaned the room, but he rejected that idea. He could close the door, but the smell of old wet clothes was strong and Willy wanted the clothes removed. Finally Willy thought of a solution. The next week Willy came to class and could hardly sit still. He was so excited that he couldn’t wait to tell the class how he had solved the locker room smell problem. It was so simple; he sprayed the room with canned floral scent. Now, his boy didn’t have a problem with locker room scent, but flowers were “girl stuff” and an insult for a 15-year-old “man.”
Willy no longer had a problem, but now his son had a problem. The son had to choose between picking up his room or having his father spray it with floral scent every day. Whichever path the boy chose, Willy’s problem was now resolved because he had taken control of his own behavior and given up trying to control another person. However, the story had a happy ending as his son wisely decided to start washing his clothes, rather than have his father spray his room.