Most teens go through periods when they complain about or “forget” to do the household chores you’ve given them. Doing chores not only teaches teens about being responsible, but they also learn about family relationships and working together for a common good. Helping your teen develop a positive attitude and work ethic is essential for their own future success.
Clear Expectations and Clear Consequences
Tell your teen exactly what chores they need to do and in what time frame, such as by the end of each day, or by the end of the week. Be specific about what tasks they are required to do and how you want them to do it. Write it down so it’s perfectly clear.
For example, they are expected to help with the dishes immediately after dinner, or they must take out the garbage by 10pm, or their dirty clothes need to be in the laundry by Saturday morning.
Then be clear and specific about the consequences for not completing their chores. You can also write these down. You may revoke privileges, like take the car keys or their phone for a day (or when they get home from school). Cut back on time spent on video games or social media, or don’t allow them to go out with friends on the weekend, until their room has been cleaned.
Calmly Enforce Consequences
When your teen refuses to do their chores, don’t lecture them, or get drawn into an argument. Calmly tell them that they made the choice to lose that privilege when they made the choice to not do their chores. They will probably claim that they forgot. Let them experience the consequences of forgetting their responsibilities, and they will most likely remember the next time. They may say you’re not being fair. Remind them that you gave fair warning in advance.
When your teens do complete their chores on time, you can give them extra privileges, like another hour with video games on the weekend, or an extra half-hour added to their curfew on Saturday night. Be sure to tell them that you noticed when they completed their chores and you appreciate their help.
Give One Reminder
Don’t fall into the habit of nagging and reminding your teen to get their chores done. Tell them in advance that you will remind them once. If they still do not complete their work, don’t tell them again. Wait for the deadline to pass, and then simply inform your teen that they will now have to accept the consequences of not doing their chores on time. You can be a little flexible with the time frame if there are extenuating circumstances, like finals to study for, or extra practice for a sports team, but make it a reasonable extension of the time, not a total amnesty period.
Don’t Give In
If you have a normal teen, they will probably test your resolve. They will continue to neglect their chores and wait to see if you will continue to enforce consequences. Don’t give in. Keep telling your teen what the consequences will be, and keep enforcing them.
If they don’t get their dirty clothes into the laundry by Saturday, don’t wash their clothes. Let them do their own laundry. If they don’t help with dishes, they don’t get their phone tomorrow. If you have to complete a task because your teen didn’t – and it couldn’t wait, like walking the dog – then make the consequences more severe – like two days without the car or phone, rather than one day.
Teens can learn about the value of money by being paid for doing chores, but don’t pay them cash for everything they do around the house. Promote the idea that everyone in the family has a responsibility to help make the household run smoothly, like helping with dishes, taking out the garbage, or feeding the cat. Make it clear to your teens that if they don’t want to help you by doing chores around the house, then you will not help them – by giving them the car keys, driving them to a friend’s house, or paying their phone bill.
Do give cash payments when your teen takes on extra work around the house. If your teen babysits, does yard work, helps paint the house, or does the laundry while you’re at work, pay them for those extra tasks. These can be occasional chores or a weekly work schedule for which you give them extra money.
Teens learn about the value of money when they are the ones who have to work for it. Don’t buy everything for your teen, and don’t give them money every time they ask for it. Of course, you will buy them the things that they need, but if there is some item that they want, or they’d like some spending money when they go out with friends, let them earn the money by doing chores.
When Teen Behavior is Out of Control
If your teen refuses to help around the house, and refuses to follow any of your rules, then you should consider getting them into therapy, especially if they are becoming increasingly angry, disrespectful, or aggressive. Your entire family will benefit from family therapy as well. Therapy can help you to develop strategies for working with your teen’s problematic behavior, and help your teen to address their emotional, psychological, or behavioral issues.
If your teen has become violent, towards others or themselves, is getting into trouble with the law, using drugs, or becoming excessively defiant, consider sending your teen to a rehab treatment facility, a residential treatment facility, or a therapeutic boarding school. These are behaviors that require stronger interventions.
Therapeutic boarding schools provide therapy and a safe, structured environment where teens are held accountable for their actions. Teens live in a family setting where they are responsible for daily chores. They earn school credits and participate in social and physical activities. They participate in individual, group and family therapy and get help for their behavioral, psychological, or emotional problems.