Decide WHAT chores you want them to do and WHEN you want them done, then WALK AWAY
When it comes to getting tweens & teens to do chores, it’s helpful to have consistency, organization and a schedule. If you’re constantly changing their chores, adding new chores, impulsively throwing random chores at them (to get off the screen or out of their room, which only feels like punishment), or inconsistent with your expectations (one week you’re a drill sergeant standing over them till they’re done and the next week you’re laid back and uncaring if the chores are done) getting your tweens/teens to do chores will be an absolute nightmare in your home.
I would suggest having a CLEAR list of assigned chores for your kids. Whether you assign them permanently or they switch off every week; being very clear and consistent about who is responsible for what will help.
Next, design a schedule and STICK TO IT. Holding them accountable for the chores won’t work if you don’t also hold yourself accountable to the schedule. Define when the specific chores are expected to be done, how often they are expected to be done, and if there is a specific time the chore is expected to be done. Then WALK AWAY.
Walking away gives your kid the opportunity to take responsibility and start doing the chore, or not taking responsibility and suffering the natural consequences (getting grounded). Teens are ‘adults in training’ and NEED opportunities to grow or fail without you standing over them making sure they do what you want while bickering with them the entire time. When allowed space to make the decision on their own, they may wait a few minutes, or twenty, but (and you might resist this) it’s important to back off and allow them to feel they have come control.
If you haven’t noticed by now, tweens and teens will resist being controlled. That’s normal and completely appropriate given their brain development at this age. Your trick as the parent is to learn more productive ways of manipulating your teen so it feels to them like they have more control and independence when, in fact, you’re controlling the entire process. You’re controlling when they get to feel in control! Get it? I know, it’s genius! But it’s not going to work if you don’t learn new parenting skills.
Let me save you some time and a very big migraine regarding chores; WRITE THEM DOWN and keep them in one location in the house. Teen brain development requires repetition to develop memory and learn life skills. You’re going to get real tired, real quick of constantly repeating who is in charge of what chore and when to do said chore. It’s much easier to repeat “Look at the schedule on the fridge” when they ask you for the 134th time what their chores are. You’re welcome *wink, wink*
Discuss chores when you’re not doing chores
It should go without saying that in the midst of doing chores most of us are not doing them with a ‘Mary Poppins’ sing and dance. Chores are annoying and we’d all rather be doing something else; but chores need to be done. You may have noticed when you nag your kids about chores while everyone is in the midst of doing chores, it doesn’t go very well. Try to avoid talking to your kids about chores while you’re doing chores. If they aren’t cooperating, skip the lecture, save your sanity and talk to them about it later when you’ve chilled to a low risk level of impulsive anger outbursts.
When you’re mad, angry or in any other intense emotional state, that is NOT the time to talk to your tween/teen about chores. Kids are sensitive to our energy and moods; they know you better than you think, and they likely know the mood you’re in long before you do! Because of their uncanny skill as ‘mood detectors’ it’s best to approach your tween/teen when you are genuinely calm, patient and able to express yourself with objectivity, empathy and understanding.
Make sure they know HOW to do the chore
“Clean the bathroom” makes sense to an adult, someone who has life experience, lived with roommates and understands what it means to ‘clean the bathroom’. But kids lack that life experience and are famously known for using a parent’s vague statements against them.
For example; ‘clean the bathroom’ to a kid means rearranging the counter by putting everything in the drawer and exclaiming “I cleaned the bathroom!”. Upon casual glance it looks clean, but if they accomplished their task too quickly you know it’s bullshit; and you realize it’s bullshit when you’re in the bathroom and open that drawer. As a result, the following exchange often takes place:
Mom: “I told you to clean the bathroom!”
Kid: “I did!!”
Mom: “What did you do?”
Kid: “I cleaned it, like you said!”
Around the exhausting, tension filled, age progressing, vein popping, wrinkle inducing, voice losing merry-go-round you go.
Do your veins a favor, when you assign your kids chores, make sure they understand HOW to do the chore and what a completed chore looks like. Try doing the chore with them the first few times, make a check list, record a tutorial video or podcast episode, snap chat it to them, sing it in a rap song or multiple genres…get creative.
These three things will likely help de-stress the entire ‘kids and chores’ topic in your house, take what works, leave what doesn’t. Consider helping another parent by sharing this blog post. What doesn’t work for you may work for another stressed out parent of teens. Parents ought to support one another, we are all experiencing the same advanced aging process.
The Psyko Therapist