Getting your tween or teen to help with chores can seem like a battle you’d rather not fight right now, but it’s worth it, really it is!
Despite their protests, helping around the house is good for them -not only because their help makes getting all of the jobs around your home done but also because it teaches them important life skills, encourages their independence, and develops self esteem.
I have a tween boy and teen twin girls and while eliciting their help with the chores may not be my favourite part of parenting tweens, thanks to the rolled eyes and overly dramatic sighs whenever I remind them what needs doing or ask them to help with something, they are also at an age where they often feel a sense of pride at taking on responsibility for more grown up responsibilities.
What Sort of Chores Can Tweens and Teens Do?
Given time and support tweens and teens can do almost any task asked of them, but the following responsibilities list provides a great place to start.
1. Looking After Themselves
In our home all of our kids, regardless of age, are expected to be responsible for tasks related to looking after themselves and their belongings. These are the first jobs we ask of our kids as we feel it is important for them to master these skills, and to feel the sense of independence and control such responsibilities derive. As children get older they can take on more and more responsibility in this area.
Tweens and teens can:
- Pack their own school lunch
- Prepare themselves a snack
- Be responsible for knowing their school timetable and the gear they need for school each day
- Do their own laundry (all or part of the job)
- Keep their bedroom tidy
2. Looking After Others
We regularly ask our older children to help with younger siblings. But even if your tween is the baby of the family, encouraging them to help others is a great way to develop empathy and understanding, plus it helps to strengthen sibling bonds.
Tweens and teens can:
- Be responsible for a pet
- Help younger siblings
- Help older family member
3. Helping Around the House
As my children have gotten older and become more capable, they have taken on more jobs around the house. This not only lessens the burden on the adult family members but also teaches them vital life skills.
Tweens and teens can:
- Cook a meal – starting out by helping you, then being responsible for part of the meal and then finally work uping to cooking an entire meal for the family on their own
- Clean up after a meal
- Clean the bathroom
- Mow the lawn
- Be responsible for the trash
- Clean windows
- Vacuum/Sweep/Mop floors
How Do I Get My Tween or Teen to Actually Do Their Chores
1. Start Early
In our family everyone is expected to help, regardless of how old they are. Doing these jobs is part of being in our family and since our children have grown up with these expectations they are more accepting of new jobs as they get older.
2. Make Sure Everyone in the Family Pitches In
If your older child feels like they are the only one expected to do chores (while younger siblings do nothing), they are going to the throw the ‘it’s not fair’ line at you. Sure your tween/teen can do more tasks than our 6 year old, but in our house even the four year old has jobs to do.
3. Work Up To It
Don’t suddenly present your child with a list of jobs a mile long and expect them to tuck in and finish them without complaint. Instead, ask them to take on one new task at a time. Once they are confident with that task and it has become part of their routine, then introduce the next one.
4. Teach and Support Them
While your child may have seen you vacuum a million times, that doesn’t mean they automatically know how to do it. Take time to explain how things work and why things need to be done a certain way. Work up to the more difficult tasks and help your child develop and practice the skills they need to do the job before you hand them the reins.
Once they are on their own, you need to give them the space to do things their own way… so work on accepting that it might not be done the way you would do it. Instead focus on being pleased that it is done and that your child is learning along the way.
5. Make Chores Part of the Family Routine
Try to make the chores fit within the flow of your family routine. Make sure your children have enough time to do the jobs they need to do. Use a chore chart or a planner if that helps – having tasks and timing written down will certainly reduce the need for nagging!
6. Say Thank You, and Mean It
I can’t tell you how grateful I was when my girls washed our huge sliding glass doors. It was a job I had been putting off for months, so when it was done I was genuinely thankful and made sure my girls knew that I appreciated the work they had done.
Should I Pay My Tween or Teen For Doing Chores?
There is no denying money is a powerful motivator for many older children. If your tween or teen is at all like mine then they are always saving for the next ‘big thing’. There are many ways money and chores can be combined but it is worth taking time to think it through the system that will work for your family before you go ahead.
We choose not to equate chores with pocket money (allowance) because we believe that helping around the house is just part of being in our family, not something our kids should be paid for. Our kids do get a small amount of pocket money each week so they can learn how money works, and practice saving and spending.
But… we also think that earning something through hard work is a valuable lesson, so to balance both views we offer small monetary bonuses for extra chores. These are things that our children can choose to do or not do, so we need to be prepared for them not to be done, but it can be a fabulous way to help your kids save for something special, and for you to get some of the jobs done that you may have been putting off!
There is no doubt tweens and teens can be cranky and difficult but, for the most part, if you ask them to do jobs that are age appropriate and meaningful to them, and give them the time and support they need to do them, they will usually step up to the challenge and relish the chance to be responsible and independent.