How to Encourage Teens to do Household Chores

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 that their reluctance to chores increases as they enter adolescence and their attentiveness when doing them deteriorates. For example, Quin, who is now 14, had always been reliable and diligent with his chores. He was the only one of our kids who would regularly wash and dry his lunchbox everyday after school in preparation for the next morning. If we asked him to hang the laundry on the line, it was hung up earnestly, without wrinkles. These days we have to regularly remind Quin to wash out his lunch box and his other chores are often done haphazardly. 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. (N.B. We don’t pay for chores around the house. We see them as a shared responsibility and contribution to our family.)

So how do we get our teenagers to help out around the house when their resistance to them is peaking? Here are some strategies we’ve found helpful in our home:

  • Make sure you have their full attention. For example, 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.
  • Only ask 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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 Easton will be 18 in two years — 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.
  • Keep the reminders pleasant. When teens need reminding to do their chores it’s best to do it in a light-hearted way, no matter how annoyed you are about saying something for seemingly the hundredth time. Maggie Dent says she relied heavily on post-it notes when her boys were teenagers. She’d post them in bathrooms, inside lunch boxes, in their closet, etc. Psychologist Lisa Damour has said to avoid nagging, you can ask ‘would you like a helpful reminder?’, so they understand you’re trying to help them remember.

If you have other tips or methods that work for you, please share below!

Courtney x

P.S. This is an excerpt from my Tweens & Teens e-course. If you’re interested in learning more about the adolescent years, I’m hoping to run this e-course again later this year, so please sign up for my newsletter and I’ll be in touch when registration opens.

P.P.S. Read more here about kids and chores.


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