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PARENTING ON THE RUN: Teens and Chores: It’s a Family Affair


By Julie Mitchell

“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.”


Readers' Comments

Sandra Kemp, MS 11/10/08

Our kids have an allowance (not much, just $1 per day); they have daily chores (dishes, set table, feed animals) and weekly chores (clean room, bathroom, vacuum, fold clothes) that are divided up to be done. If they complain they lose 25 cents; if they don't do them and have to be told, they lose 25 cents; if they don't get up with their alarm clocks are aren't ready to walk out the door to catch the bus on time, they lose 25 cents; if they lie to us they lose 50 cents. There used to be a lot of complaining, but then we just would walk over and write "minus 25" on their chart, look at them, if they kept on we'd write "minus 25" again.... the complaining has stopped. Believe it or not, most weeks our 14 year old son and 11 year old daughter only lose about 75 cents each!

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