Getting Teenagers to Do Chores Without Nagging

Teenager mowing the lawn
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Chores can be a major source of contention in many families—especially when teenagers are involved. Whether your teenager always promises, "I'll do it later," or they flat out say, "I'm not doing that," getting young people motivated to get to work can be a challenge. And it can be tempting to nag your teen to get up and get moving when they're not making the effort. Nagging isn't a good idea.

Nagging isn't a good idea. Constant reminders are likely to make your teen less motivated and less responsible.

Your teen isn't likely to remember to take the trash on Tuesdays if he knows you'll remind him a dozen times. And he isn't likely to leap into action the fifth time you've told him to do something if the first four times weren't effective. It's important for kids to have chores. And chores are a great way to teach teens to be more responsible. Here's how you can get your teen to do chores without nagging.

Assign Chores Ahead of Time

Asking your teen to do a spontaneous chore can lead to an argument. If you see your teen watching television on Saturday morning and you suddenly ask, "Can you please clean the garage now?" you're likely to be met with resistance.

When possible, make your expectation clear ahead of time. Assign regular chores that you expect to be completed routinely such as emptying the dishwasher and cleaning the bathroom. Make spontaneous requests to complete extra chores as infrequent as possible.

Offer Some Flexibility

The teenage years are the perfect time to learn valuable life skills, such as self-discipline. Offering a little flexibility and freedom around chores gives your teen an opportunity to practice these skills. Tell your teen he can use his electronics or enjoy his other privileges once his chores are done. Then leave it up to him to decide when to get to work. He'll learn to manage his time better when he's able to make small choices on his own.

Pay a Commission

While some parents want to pay an allowance for all chores, others think kids need to chip in and help out without the expectation of being paid. Sometimes, a middle of the road approach is a good way to instill valuable life lessons while still teaching responsibility.

Consider paying your teen for extra chores that you might hire someone to do.

Babysitting younger siblings, mowing the grass, or raking the lawn might be paid a commission. Cleaning his room, doing the dishes, and helping with meals are just part of being a good citizen.

Establish Clear Consequences

Make it known what will happen if your teenager doesn’t do his chores. Whether you simply don’t allow him to earn any money or you take away his privileges, make sure your teen knows it's up to him to decide his fate. If they choose not to do their chores, follow through with the consequences without giving them reminders.

Avoid Buying Everything

If you purchase everything your teen wants, or you give them unlimited privileges regardless of how much work they put in, they won't be motivated to do chores. Cover the basic necessities, but don’t hand over spending money or extra privileges just because your teen asks.

Offer One Reminder Only

The goal is for your teen to eventually be able to complete all of their chores without requiring any reminders. After all, you won't be there to nag them to clean their room when they're 30 (hopefully not, anyway). But if your teen needs one reminder in the beginning, go ahead and give it to them—but stop at just one reminder.

You can offer an “If…then” statement to remind them of the consequences. Try saying, “If you don’t get the bathroom cleaned before bedtime, then you won't be allowed to use your electronics tomorrow.” Then leave it up to them if they are going to do it.

If they choose not to do their chores, follow through with that consequence. Avoid lecturing or shaming them, but instead make it clear that they can choose to do their chores in the future if they want to retain their privileges.

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3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. (Office of Human Capital Services, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Positive Parenting Strategies for the Teenage Years. A WorkLife4You Guide (.pdf). LifeCare® Inc.: 2011.

  3. Exchange Family Center. Parenting Tips: Supporting Your Teen in “Adulting”--Tips for Parenting Your Teen and Teaching Them How To Be Independent. Durham, NC: Exchange Family Center.