“Please make your bed.” “Could you load the dishwasher after dinner?” “Would you help me clean up the garage?” How many times have we pleaded with our teenagers to do a chore and then found later that it never got done, or it was handled so poorly we have to finish the job? Surveys indicate that barely 20% of parents are happy with the amount of housework done by their teenagers.
Kate Kelly, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Parenting a Teenager and Organize Yourself, says a lot of teens tune out their parents’ demands, or they simply refuse to learn the task. According to Kelly, and other experts, there are two kinds of chores: self-care, or taking care of one’s own things—such as tidying up one’s bedroom and bathroom—and family-care, such as taking out the garbage or cleaning up after dinner. But no matter what the chore is, many teens see them all as repugnant.
#1 Explain the Job
Once you give your teen a new chore, assume he or she does not know how to complete it. Says Kelly, “When my daughter was a teenager, we left her alone for a couple of days, and it turned out she had no idea how to run the garbage disposal. What a mess!” If you demonstrate the right way to do a chore, such as making a bed—for example, showing where clean linens are kept, how to tuck in sheets and put a pillow into its case—it will probably get done more or less the way you’d like.
#2 Use the Team Approach
Being a family is a cooperative effort. “We do so much for our kids,” says Kelly, “from driving them everywhere to helping with homework. Tackling a chore such as sweeping the deck and cleaning up the backyard helps teens understand that they can give back. “Teaching shared chores is a real kindness you can do for your child,” Kelly says. Assign tasks for each family member, always remembering to say thanks and praise your teen for a job well done. Kelly adds, “Parents need to remind themselves to be grateful and appreciative of their children’s efforts.”