One of the toughest parenting tasks is to get your kids to do their chores. Let’s face it; teens are so busy these days – schoolwork, sports practice, church groups, friends, plus the ever present cell phone – it is any wonder that chores are just not on their radar? A ten year old just doesn’t see taking out the trash as a priority. And it gets even harder with teenagers. Sometimes trying to teach a teen to clean is like teaching a pig to sing – it wastes your time and just annoys the pig.
Yes, I know it’s tempting to just shut the door and don’t force your teen to clean up and do their chores. It is easier – yes. But you are doing them a disservice. In just a few years, these folks are going to be out on their own in their own dorm rooms or apartments. And you don’t want to have their roommates and future spouses giving you the stinkeye, because you didn’t make the effort to teach them to clean up after themselves. Trust me.
A Technique that Works to Get Teen to Clean Up without Nagging
So, what’s a parent to do? I think most parents have discovered that nagging and lectures just aren’t effective to get our teens to clean up. Why not try a totally different tactic? Simple appreciation.
One of my managers had a sign in his office that stated this principle perfectly. It said:
Actions that are recognized and rewarded will be repeated
What a great saying! But read it closely. Notice that it doesn’t just say positive actions. It means any type of action – positive OR negative.
If you reward your child for whining by giving him what he wants, that negative action will be repeated. If you reward your daughter by ignoring her breaking of a rule, that action will be repeated also. Similarly, if you allow a child (or a husband!) to slide by on an assigned chore without consequences, that action will be repeated as well. They get what they want – not to do the chore. And it makes it easier for them to do it again the next time.
But what if you come home and thank your son sincerely for unloading the dishwasher, compliment him on how nice the front lawn looks, and tell your daughter how proud you are that she has kept her room clean for the last few days, how likely is it that these positive actions will be repeated? It’s a pretty small investment for something that might just pay off.
Motivate your Teen With Small Rewards and Surprises
You might even take it a step further. I’ve been known to reward chores done well with surprise rewards of candy bars, liters of their favorite sodas, or other unexpected treats. Everyone likes a little surprise now and then and you’d be surprised at how much more cheerfully kids will do their chores when you just show them a little appreciation. You can’t do it every time, but those once in a while surprises will help to keep them motivated.
I hope this helps you teach your teen to clean. I want your kids to grow up into awesome adults – great roommates, great spouses, and great housekeepers. We don’t want them to struggle with the anxiety and shame about our messy homes like many of us have struggled with. Check out this post on How Does Your Clutter Affect Your Children and you’ll see what I mean.