I am a 17 year old female living with my parents, a brother and sister. Everyday when I get back from school I enjoy my alone time in my room as I get tired of being around people the whole day quite easily. For some reason it is common in my family to simply walk into each others’ bedrooms without even knocking first. It really annoys me when it happens as I could be changing clothes, sleeping or doing something I’d prefer no-one catches me doing.

I haven’t brought it up with my family yet as I am unsure how to phrase it. If I ask them to knock first it may make them think that I am doing something I shouldn’t be doing or hiding something from them.

Given the above, I want to know: what is the best way to ask my family members to respect my space by knocking first without sounding guilty of wanting to hide something?

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to IPS! What nationality/country are you and your family from? There may be cultural nuances that may affect your answer.
    – BFG95
    Aug 15, 2018 at 21:44
  • 2
    Also, what ages are your siblings? Persuading a 30yo and a 3yo are considerably different tasks. Aug 16, 2018 at 0:02

3 Answers 3


What is the best way to ask my family members to respect my space by knocking first without sounding guilty of wanting to hide something?

First of all, a necessary premise: everybody has something to hide, and that's OK. And this does not mean that the hidden thing has to be illegal or immoral: someone may want the freedom to put contraceptives or that one brand of cookies in a drawer without parents knowing, some other person may need some time alone to secretly write poetry or to read that one book they're publicly mocking (Twilight, 50 shades of X, you name it) etc. Having some space and time which is exclusively personal, as opposed to infancy times when everything is shared with parents, is an important step during growth and it is vital during adulthood. This is to say that guilt is not a necessary and automatic reaction from your side to people inferring that you have something to hide. Click for a bonus SMBC comic to illustrate the concept in politics!

As for "how to ask": if you are afraid that suddenly asking them to always knock may be weird, start by setting timeframes in which they have to. Find a way to signal that you want other people to knock in a certain moment (a "Do not disturb" sign or any other thing on the handle of the door, simply closing the door...). Then, comunicate to your family that you want them to knock when they see it.

Hey, you really make me jump when you come into my room without knocking / last time you didn't knock I had put my t-shirt on for two seconds / I was sleeping when you entered my room without knocking, and I want to avoid these circumstances in the future, so starting from now can you knock when you see X?

I take from your explanation that you may be an introvert. If they inquire on the reasons of this new boundary, you can explain that you need time alone to recharge, just like you did here. Chances are you took this feature from somebody in your family and your parents are already familiar with this behaviour.

The next week/s or so of implementing this system, remind everyone that forgets to knock - insist, if you have to. Remind on the spot, do not let it go quietly. Depending on your personality and the circumstances, you can also ask the person to go back the door and knock -- my brother did it all the time and, as harsh as it sounds, it may be an effective way of dealing with the issue with those of your family more prone to overstep the new boundary (in our case, our mom).

Also, warn beforehand that you're going to put the sign on:

I'm going to my room for a while, if you need something just knock, ok? I'll put the sign on to remind you to do it.

Rinse and repeat. And repeat. And repeat. It's a new boundary, it takes time to be accepted and embraced by everyone in the family - it really depends on what are your customs as a family and what is the personality of everyone. Just be confident that this is your right.


First, you shouldn't feel guilty or awkward to ask for a private place. As a young adult, you're starting your own life, where your parents don't tell you anymore what you should or should not do, give validation or opinion about everything, … It is therefore your right to have a personal place where you can hide your stuff and do your things (including legal and non-guilty things you don't want to share, like knitting, drawing landscapes or listening to lovely heavy metal music) where no one will disturb you.

As I have been in the same situation a few years ago, I would recommend you talk with your family about your wish to private space and establish clear rules. The solution I came up with is open-closed door. If you don't mind be disturbed, leave the door (wide) open. If you want to be quiet, close the door (or leave it ajar if your pet go in and out).

If the door is closed, ask them to knock and wait for your signal to enter, or don't enter if you don't allow them. If they enter without knocking, point it out gently but firmly (I used to say "knock knock") and ask them to go out and do it again. This will mark the mistake and create the habit to knock first.

I wouldn't recommend to give moments of the day when they can/can't enter, since depending on your mood you may want to have more quiet time than what was planned.

In my case it worked pretty good after a few weeks, the time everyone get used to these new rules. My mother had a hard time dealing with it, since she is very extrovert and hates secrets, she didn't really get the point of all that business. But with some time and patience it eventually went fine.


You are not a little kid any more. You are entitled to privacy. The rule ought to be: if the door is closed, knock first. Put a sign up if you must, but try persuasion first.

Start with your mum - she was your age, once upon a time, and understands better than most what being 17 is like. Bring up the slightly exaggerated idea that you are worried what would happen if for example someone were to burst into your room while you are getting dressed and how embarrassing you would find that. No doubt, she will have a quiet word with the rest of the family and tell them to cut it out and knock first. How effective this will be depends on the family dynamics.

You then follow that up with keeping your door closed more and more, and yelling at those who don't knock first.

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