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 while it can be tempting to nag your teen when they're not making an effort, 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 out on Tuesdays if they know you'll remind him a dozen times. And they aren't likely to leap into action the fifth time you've told them 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. Try these strategies to 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 they can use electronics or enjoy other privileges once their chores are done. Then leave it up to them to decide when to get to work. They'll learn to manage their time better when they are able to make small choices on their own.

Pay a Commission

While some parents 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 making some chores expected (and uncompensated), but paying your teen for extra chores that you might otherwise 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 family member.

Establish Clear Consequences

Make it known what will happen if your teenager doesn’t do chores. Whether you simply don’t allow them to earn any money or you take away privileges, make sure your teen knows it's up to them to decide their 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 one.

You can offer an “If…then” statement to remind them of the consequences. Try saying, “If you don’t get the bathroom cleaned before bed, 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.

1 Source
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  1. Exchange Family Center. Parenting tips: Supporting your teen in “adulting”: Tips for parenting your teen and teaching them how to be independent.

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.