Chore busting without the struggle
By Angela Switzer
Recently, grocery shopping during a fundraiser for the high school band, I was struck, not only by how hard- working these teenage band members were, but by how happy they seemed. Bagging groceries, helping customers out, thanking shoppers for their donations, they seemed to be having a blast!
Why is it then that teens are notorious for messy rooms and the flat out refusal to lift a finger around the house? Many parents find themselves giving up on their teens during this stage and learn to tolerate the cyclone effect of stuff strewn everywhere.
Breaking down the phenomenon of teen apathy, let’s look at what’s happening during this stage of life. Teens are busy. They are not as centered at home as they used to be, since they’re out in the real world—going to school, seeing friends, attending practices, etc. When they are home they are busy with homework or sleeping. They are tired-the last thing on their mind is an orderly environment.
Quite frankly, good habits start early. If parents want their teens to do chores and take pride in their living space, they have to instill good habits early on in life.
When children are young, parents have a choice. They can help their child learn to help out by taking the time to set a routine that involves putting things away every time. In addition, making it a priority to involve a child in communal work, especially around meal times, instills good practices and creates a routine. Some parents take the short cut and instead do everything for their child, robbing them of valuable lessons in the long run.
What if work were a privilege, something that was fun—remember Tom Sawyer and that white washed fence? A way to help ease the tension and help children learn to clean up is to make the chores fun. Remember the clean up song? It’s amazing how a simple song seemed to put a happy face on the task. Similarly, teens also like to have fun.
Routine cleaning may not be fun. Parents can continue to teach their older children new more complicated skills rather than focusing on the messy room or bathroom. Learning a new skill like changing the oil in the car or doing laundry could jumpstart a teen’s enthusiasm. There are numerous projects around the house that teens may be able to conquer and have fun in the process.
Teens are so much more capable than they are given credit for. They may be intrigued by the idea of going grocery shopping – or at least going to the store to pick up a few items. Instead of cleaning the kitchen, they may prefer to cook the meal. This is a changing time. Parents need to be creative and challenge them to learn new skills for independence.
In addition, with a little creativity, harmony is possible. Parents may want to strike a deal with their teen. If he mows the lawn, Mom does the laundry. If he washes the car, Dad cleans the bathroom. A team effort is always more enjoyable.
Although parents may think they’ve totally blown it and that their teenager will never learn to live in a somewhat organized manner, they should not fret. Most teens do not clean their rooms or do their chores, and yes, they do leave their shoes blocking major walkways, and generally fail to do their part around the house. Sometimes though, it’s best to focus on the important things in life. Is the teen respectful, hardworking, and is he someone to be proud of? Parents should remind themselves of these positive attributes and maybe let the booby-trapped room go.
Just remember, for the most part, teens are taking note. The important thing is that they know how to complete various tasks around the house. They may have a lapse in interest in chores, but things change when no one is around anymore to pick up after them. Strangely enough, many a disastrous teen has grown up to be a responsible adult living in his own, yes, neat and tidy house.
THINGS YOU CAN DO:
Teach children good habits early.
If you want them to set the table for dinner every night, make it a habit from an early age.
Stick to a schedule.
If the whole family commits to spending Saturday mornings cleaning, then likely your child will do this consistently every week.
Avoid the power struggle.
Yelling at your teen for his messy room is not such a good idea.
Offer your help as a starting point. Sometimes teens just need a jumpstart. Say, “if you bring your laundry down- stairs, I’ll start the first load for you.”
Change your wifi password and only give it out when your teen has done his chores. Bribery? Well, yes, but…