A chore chart may have worked when your kids were younger. But now, we’re guessing, you need something other than star stickers to incentivize your teens and young adults to help out around the house.
We’re with you: It’s only fair that they chip in and do tasks. Less video games and Hulu binges and more yard work and cleaning, right?
But, how do you get them to do just that without feeling like you’re nagging, or worse, starting an argument?
We turned to the pros for some advice. It turns out that re-framing the conversation can go a long way.
Here’s 5 tips that will help put your kids to work for you this summer.
1. Switch up your language:
Drop the word “chore” and replace it with gratitude, says Nathaniel A. Turner, of The Raising Supaman Project, who writes about parenting and family in his book and on his blog. Turner says he taught his son at an early age that washing dishes was a way to express appreciation for those who worked to buy the food and prepare the meal. Cleaning the house was a way to express thanks for those who worked to pay the mortgage and utilities. Separating clothes and doing laundry was an acknowledgement of the sacrifice that others made so he had clothes to wear and wash. “When you focus on the word chore, you immediately create an unintended result—you present imagery of a job, a tedious task, a foreboding obligation,” Turner says. “Rather than focusing on the activity, I suggest focusing on the desired outcome—gratitude.”
2. Be a project manager
You’ve got a teen driving and need more room in the garage. Or, you’re turning the basement into a movie room. Perhaps you’ll be hosting a foreign exchange student in coming months or just need space to host out of town family and friends. Take it upon yourself to be the project manager, and decide a day when everyone can carry out the project together, deciding which of their belongings need to go to storage. If you all work together, you can accomplish the home project more efficiently. Once you clear out the space, and box up the belongings, continue with a call in to Closetbox. That way, instead of making trips back and forth to a storage unit, Closetbox will come pick up your belongings and take them to the secured storage site. The Closetbox team will return your items whenever you need them back, too.
3. Give them a choice
Jamie Jeffers, a parenting blogger at Medium Sized Family, says her young teens know the expectation is to help around the home. She’s noticed they don’t seem to mind working when they see their parents working alongside them. Jeffers says one thing that helps: Give them a choice on what type of task they’ll be doing. For example, when her family is doing yard work, she’ll frame a question for her teen: “Would you rather mow the lawn or pick up sticks?” Then, she says, she’ll take whatever job her child doesn’t. “People notice when you work alongside them, and they resent it when you don’t,” she says.
4. Explain you’re preparing them for ‘real life’
When you’re asking your teen or young adult to help around the house, explain that you are helping prepare them so they can get a job, become independent and move out of the house, suggests Meredith Sagan, MD, a holistic psychiatrist in Santa Monica, Calif. “As a parent you may want to say something to your teenager or young adult like: ‘The reality is that real life requires you pitch in and help on any team you are on. If you want to earn money so you can buy a car or other things you want, you need to learn to be ‘on the job.’ This training starts at home by learning to have a great attitude. If you can’t do this at home, you won’t be able to do it anywhere, and the consequence will be that you’re not in charge of your own life.” Then, you can tell your child that if they’re not ‘on the job’ in the house by participating in chores, there will be a consequence, like taking away their car keys.
5. Instill chores as an expectation
Amy Carney, a mother of five, four of whom are teenagers and parenting blogger, says her children are expected to bring value to the family. “In order to be valuable to the family team, this means you are expected to help out where needed,” Carney says. “This is even easier in the summer because our kids have way more downtime, which means more time to accomplish things around the house for the greater good of the family.” Since none of her kids are driving just yet, they know that chores have to be done before they’ll be driven anywhere—and that’s incentive enough. Her children get an allowance at the beginning of each month, but it’s not tied to chores. “They know they receive it because they are a valuable member of the family who helps out where needed, whether that be doing laundry, dishes, cleaning or taking out the trash,” Carney says.