This has been a question I’ve been asked a few times.  Thought I’d share our thinking.

Our kids share.  Our daughters are 15 and 13, and our sons are 17 and 11.  We believe having them share has strengthened their relationships – especially the girls.  The girls are opposite – one is neat (the oldest) and the other is creative!  They have different perspectives on neatness and design/decorating.

We asked them once if our house was serving our purposes as a family and they all said “We want our own room”.  So I asked if we could share why they don’t have their own room and then we’ll discuss it – fair deal.  I shared with them that we see the bedrooms predominately for sleeping and we have arranged the house with rooms for activity which they can share with each other and use whenever.  I shared that one of my most precious memories is walking into the family room and seeing each of them busy with a creative project – all doing their own thing – but all together.  They would be talking and laughing together, or listening to an audio story together -but the important thing was, they were together.  We felt that the reason they wanted a room by themselves was for a desk each – which mean they would spend their afternoons in their room, doing whatever on their desks.  We didn’t think that was the best and pointed that out to them.  Then we shared about the opportunity to talk as you go to sleep and how that strengthens a relationship.  They changed their minds – they could see our point.

People often bring up the privacy issue – my children have always just dressed in the bathroom.  They started to do this of their own accord when they were young, and it has simply continued.

As for emotional privacy – If they want time out by themselves they ask me for that and I usually say yes (unless it is going to be a pity party in which case that isn’t helpful anyway!!)  If I’ve said yes, I simply tell the other sibling that they need to go and get their things for the next hour or so because their sister is going to have some time alone.  This works for both time alone the child wants and discipline approaches too.  There are also other rooms in the house that a child can go to for space – my room, the guest room, outside, up a tree house!   Some time to yourself is important but not hours and hours a day – I believe that sets you up for false expectations later in life.

As for one being messy and one being neat.  I have considered this as a real life training ground.  My husband and I have different approaches to tidiness – I’m more creative he’s more tidy!  There has to be give and take – it is the way of relationships.  So my girls both have to give and take out of respect for each other.  But they also have to be gracious that each other is different and learning.  Tolerance.  They have also worked together to come to decisions on things in their room such as decorating.  Co-operation.

As for having the space in your home – if you say “Well, the oldest has learnt to be tidy she can get her own room” what are you going to do when the Middle child learns to be tidy – reward her the same way – do you have enough rooms?  Will that mean an extension on your house so eventually everyone can get their own room?  I can’t see that this is a good concept to base your decision on.

We do have a big house, and there are plenty of rooms for everyone to have a room of their own – so space is not the decider – the opportunity to build and strengthen relationships and learn character along the way is.  For us, this has been an intentional decision to have our children share rooms, followed up by intentional training when selfishness raises its head.

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