Giving children regular chores and responsibilities around the house is important for many reasons, and maybe more so for teens and tweens. However, if your teens are anything like mine, you will find their reluctance to chores increases as they enter adolescence and their attentiveness when doing them deteriorates. Truthfully, the older our kids have gotten, the more reminding they need when it comes to chores. Which is, of course, frustrating as you’d assume it would be the opposite.
The good news is, this trend is very normal. The research and literature show that teens tend to become more forgetful while their attention span shortens for such tasks. As parents, we should expect that they will require more support and encouragement when it comes to household responsibilities. So how do we get our teenagers to help out around the house when their resistance to chores is peaking? Here are some strategies we’ve found helpful in our home.
1. Make sure you have their full attention
I know if I ask my boys to do a chore while they are up to something else, especially if they are on their phone, there’s a good chance the task will not get done. Establishing eye contact first is a must.
2. Ask only one thing at a time
In Maggie Dent’s book, From Boys to Men, about raising boys, she goes even further, suggesting we keep our requests to 10 words or fewer! I’ve been testing this idea for the past few months and I do think it works.
3. Give them a time frame
Instead of expecting them to drop what they’re doing, providing a time frame can be helpful. For example, ‘before dinner, can you please fold your laundry?’ This allows teens to know we’re respecting their autonomy and time-management skills… though sometimes they will still need reminding! (Remember to keep reminders pleasant.)
4. Don’t do everything for them
It’s important for them to have responsibilities and to learn basic living skills. Even if you know they’ll do something badly, it’s still important they give it a go. A couple of months ago I had a mini freak out about how our 17-year-old will technically be an adult in just a year — how on earth will he be able to live on his own when he can’t even do his own laundry?! The next day I set out to teach him how to wash his own clothes. It hasn’t been easy. He inevitably messes up my laundry machines, leaves dirty clothes in the sink and needs lots of reminders, but I feel good knowing he’s learning a life skill.
5. Lend a hand
Keeping chores regular is important, but if you see that your teens are really tired or stressed, it’s okay to step in and help them out — the same way you’d help a friend if they were feeling overwhelmed. I sometimes offer to do the dinner dishes when I can see it’s just too much for them that night (even though I’ve been cleaning the house all day and it’s the last thing I want to do!). On the flip side, if you’re really tired or overwhelmed, it’s okay to ask them to help you with one of your chores.