If your children are growing up and approaching their teen years, you may be wondering “What chores should a teenager do?” In this article, we’ll answer that question and provide some recommendations on how to go about getting a reluctant teen to be more helpful around the house. There are some really worthwhile benefits associated with having your teens do some chores around the house.
For one thing, it helps to accomplish some tasks that are necessary to the smooth operation of the household. Secondly, it helps your teens understand responsibility, and the fact that they need to contribute some time and effort to that smooth operation. It also teaches your teens how to manage their time and how to approach tasks that need to be done. This also serves as a precursor to the time when they will join the workforce and become a paid professional.
Creating a Chores List
It’s a good idea to create a chore list, because this will clearly define which tasks need to be done, and who should be doing them. Ideally, the tasks should be prioritized in order of urgency or importance, so your teen knows which tasks need to be addressed first. For instance, taking the garbage out for pickup on a specific day may have greater urgency than cleaning up a bedroom or sweeping a floor.
However, it will be necessary to take into consideration your child’s age, their school schedule and homework commitments, and their current level of ability when preparing your chores list. You probably wouldn’t assign your 13-year-old to make dinner for the whole family, nor would you expect him/her to move furniture around in the living room. The value of preparing a chores list is that it clearly shows your teen what is expected of them, and it lists those tasks that have to be done, so that nothing gets overlooked.
You can probably expect some resistance when you begin assigning chores to your teens, especially since modern teens can be highly distracted by technology like cellphones, laptops, computer games, and more. It’s important that you get across the point that any other activities your teen enjoys must fit in with their chores. This is the beginning of responsibility, and it’s an important lesson that every teen must learn to prepare for adulthood.
Recommended chores for teens
Here is a list of some chores that teens are capable of doing, and should be doing around the house, both to get things done and to teach your teen about responsibility:
- Taking out garbage – make sure your teen understands this includes emptying out all trash receptacles in the house, taking the garbage to the curb for pickup on the appropriate day, and bringing the trash cans back to the house afterward.
- Sweeping/Vacuuming – when assigning this chore, be sure to specify exactly which days it should be done on, rather than leaving it up to the child. It’s also a good idea to detail which areas need to be swept or vacuumed so your teen doesn’t try to cut corners and do the bare minimum.
- Cleaning the bathroom – this is another area you have to be specific on, or your teen will likely try to do as little as possible. Specify that you want mirrors wiped clean, the tub has to be wiped, the floor has to be swept, the toilet bowl has to be cleaned, etc. If you don’t have a checklist for mini-tasks you want done in the bathroom, you should create one.
- Washing laundry – this is a great task to set for your teens, because it accomplishes a lot of things all at once. Your teen will learn to clear out all pockets before washing, they’ll have to fold the clothes and put them away, and they’ll even get into the habit of washing their bedsheets regularly. This is a particularly useful task in preparation for adulthood.
- Washing dishes – this is a daily task that needs to be done, and if you can assign it to your teen at least some days of the week, it will relieve you of the full burden of washing them all yourself. Most likely, you’ll have a modern dishwasher in your home, so your teen will just have to rinse some dishes prior to washing, and he/she will have to load and unload the dishes. Of course, this is a bigger chore if you don’t have a dishwasher, but the same work is required in order to keep dishes clean and properly put away.
- Cleaning the bedroom – this is one of the most common chores that teens are responsible for, and appropriately so, since they are generally the only person living in their bedroom. That means that all messes and all clutter is created by them and no one else, so it’s their responsibility to clean that all up. There is never a reason for having a messy or cluttered bedroom, so this is a chore that needs to be done at least weekly, and even more often if the room gets messy faster than that.
- Outdoor work – every home needs to have the lawn mowed once a week, and in wintertime, it’s often necessary to shovel snow as well. These are great tasks for your teens to handle, because they have reached the age where they are physically capable of doing them, and as residents of the household, they benefit by having a neat, well-trimmed lawn and a driveway clear of snow. Yardwork can be one of the more physical tasks you assign to your teens, so make sure they’re actually capable of handling whatever outdoor chores you assign them.
- Meal preparation – preparing meals every evening can be a big task for one person, so if you can assign your teen to assist with meal preparation, it will relieve you of some of the work involved. It could be even better if you could teach them to prepare some simple meals all on their own, for instance, making spaghetti or cooking hamburgers.
- Pet care – if your family has a dog, it will need to be walked every day for exercise, and if you have a cat, you’ll need to change the litterbox content frequently, so your house doesn’t acquire a foul odor. Pets also need to be fed regularly, and supplied with water so they can stay healthy, and this is something your teens can definitely handle.
Motivating teens to do chores
Very few teens will willingly or gladly jump into doing household chores, because they feel that there are tons of other activities that are more important to them. That means it can be difficult sometimes to persuade them to actually do the tasks you have assigned them. One approach you can take to motivate them is to couple work chores with activities they really enjoy doing, for instance participating in a sport or spending time with friends after school. If they don’t do the chores, their privileges can be suspended for those other activities.
Another way to motivate your teens to do assigned chores is to establish negative consequences if they fail to complete their chores. You could also take the opposite approach and try positive reinforcement, i.e., rewarding them for the completion of their chores. Rewards can come in many forms, including some kind of payment issued to them weekly. The specific type of reward given can be tailored to what your teen really appreciates most—for instance, more time with their electronic devices, more time with friends, or possibly even a week off from doing chores.
This might work really well if you have two or more teens, because you can have them do chores on alternate weeks. Many parents wonder about the advisability of paying teens to do chores, thinking that it might be a bad habit to get into. In truth, paying your teens to do chores can be a very valuable experience for them. It can prepare them for real-life work, and it can teach them the value of working for money and saving it to buy things they really want or need. Whatever method you use to motivate your teens to do chores, just make sure it’s an effective one, and that it does get the job done.
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