How to get teens to help around the house

Most teens live in a state of cluttered chaos: bedrooms littered with long-drunk cups of coffee, dirty plates, takeaway cartons and festering bedlinen. So how can mums get them to clean up their act?

When parenting teenagers, housework is often a sore point – no surprise when you think that all their lives mum has cleaned up after them. There comes a time, though, when enough is enough, so how can you encourage teenagers to help around the home and get handy with a duster?

One way is to sit down and explain that it isn’t fair for mum to do everything – after all, if they’re living under the same roof it’s only right that they should muck in. When they’re adults they’ll need to look after themselves and it’s important that they get to grips with the workings of the vacuum cleaner long before they fly the nest! 

Try to assign certain tasks to each child, with ground rules that need to be followed. For example, one could be given the role of washer-upper after meals; or have to vacuum the floors twice a week, or flick the duster around on a regular basis. You can even get them putting on washing loads and older children can be taught to wield an iron.

Or give each child a room, in addition to their bedroom, that’s their responsibility to keep clean and tidy. Decide, with them, on the best day and time, making sure that you choose a time when they aren’t loaded with homework or after-school activities. 

Some families ask their teens to prepare the family supper once a week, which allows them to release their inner Nigella or Jamie – and impress their friends with their new-found cooking skills! Take a look at some simple recipes they could try.

Of course, teens being teens, they may flatly refuse to help. If so, withdraw privileges, don’t do the chores for them and make sure you don’t cave in and tidy or clean their rooms, however much of a health hazard they become! They need to learn that if they don’t help out and stick to their side of the bargain, things just won’t be done for them.

It’s not just about parenting teenagers though. Younger children can join in, too. Why not get one of them to be in charge of the bins, emptying wastepaper baskets around the home and emptying the dishwasher? Dusting is another easy chore, as long as you don’t have too many fragile ornaments.

Parenting teenagers often requires bribery. To bring out their competitive streak, offer a small prize each week to the child who has kept the tidiest bedroom, or has been extra-helpful. Some parents reward their children with money, but this can backfire. If they’re living at home, they should just understand that they need to share in the chores – after all, no one pays mum to do the cleaning and cooking! 

You’ll be teaching them some valuable life skills in the process, from helping out in the family to create a clean and tidy living environment to preparing them for the time when they leave home.

Where to next?

My terrible teenage two: A mum of 15 year old twins, blogs

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