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Getting Your Teen to Help Around the House

Written by: Kaleido

June 26, 2020

Have your older kids been keeping to their teen cave in the basement since the start of the pandemic? Did their big summer plans with friends fall apart due to the situation? With teenagers at home with a limited choice of activities, this is the perfect opportunity to get them involved in household chores. Granted, it might not be the most attractive proposition at first glance. But it’s a great way to learn responsibility while raking in pocket money (if you choose to)—or simply to open their eyes to something other than their Instagram feed.

Paid or Unpaid Chores?

Together with your teenager, determine the wage-earning chores and those that need to be done daily without compensation, because that’s simply part of life—a lesson to learn.

For instance, you can pay for ad hoc tasks or those for which you would have hired someone:

  • Mowing and tending to the lawn, watering plants
  • Babysitting a younger sibling
  • Painting the fence, the patio, or a room in the house
  • Cleaning the windows
  • Taking care of the family pet
  • Washing the car
  • Participating in a renovation project

As for the free labour, you could include:

  • Folding clean clothes
  • Keeping the house tidy
  • Putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket
  • Clearing the table or doing dishes
  • Cleaning their room
  • Making their bed

Keeping Things Drama Free

Giving your teen chores to do can sometimes give way to tensions and arguments. Here are three tips to steer clear of any drama and maintain a healthy relationship.

  1. Show Some Flexibility

    If you impose a strict schedule from the start or constantly nag your teen to get the job done, you probably won’t get much collaboration. Instead, let your teen manage his or her chore schedule (with a few basic rules if necessary): this will instill a sense of responsibility. Plus, you have a better chance of getting your teenager on board and that everything goes smoothly.  

  2. Choose Your Battles

    You and your teen might not be on the same page regarding which chores are priorities. If your son doesn’t make his bed every day, but agrees to clean his room once a week, it’s already a good start! There’s no point in giving your teen a hard time over details that will only create friction. The important thing is to agree clearly on expectations from the start and to work out what is acceptable and what isn’t. By establishing these finer points together, your teen will feel involved, which will in turn incite responsibility. Everyone gets what they want!

  3. Don’t Try to Control Everything

    To make this a pleasant and lasting experience, avoid repeating every task to do, and don’t constantly shadow your teen at work or start over poorly done chores while pointing out mistakes and what doesn’t meet your standards. Obviously, it’s important to provide guidance in the case of new tasks or those which require a little more skill, but remember that we learn from our mistakes and improvement comes with practice. Keep in mind that the chores will not necessarily be done exactly as you would have accomplished them and that’s ok: let it go!

What About Motivation?

If you decided some chores would be wage-earning, this is the perfect opportunity for a lesson in good savings and spending habits, as your teen will be able to make personal purchases from now on: clothing, little luxuries, entertainment, etc. Avoid paying for everything or giving pocket money he or she didn’t earn. The prospect of spending money will create goals for your teen, thus providing an incentive to do chores. If you prefer not to offer pocket money for chores, maybe you can reward this work with special privileges based on your teenager’s interests.

Sooner or later, your kids will leave the family nest and become adults (that’s right!). Although they will still have a lot to learn, at least they will have a basic set of life skills to be a little more independent and responsible. It’s a win-win!