Have you ever asked your teenager to do something only to (a) get into a heated argument about it, and (b) end up having to do the task yourself? Have you often felt that it would be easier - and a lot less painful - to simply go beat your head against a brick wall rather than to ask your teenager to do a simple chore? If so, you are not alone.
There are many reasons why adolescents lack motivation to do what moms and dads want them to do. Here are the main reasons:
1. Grow-ups need to be kind and firm while holding adolescents accountable—once they have agreed upon a plan. It is just as easy to be kind with friendly reminders as it is to use unkind lectures. Actually it is easier, because everyone feels better and the job gets done without a power struggle. Understanding that it is easier and more effective is the hard part. Where did grow-ups every get the crazy idea that in order to make adolescents do better, first they have to make them feel worse.
2. Kids aren't allowed to explore the relevance for themselves of what you want. They are "told", but they don't explore. How many parents "tell" their kids what happened, what caused it to happen, how they should feel about it, and what they should do about it? It is much more effective to ask "curiosity questions".
3. Moms and dads are more interested in short-term results than long-term results. For example, “I'll make you do your homework now—even if it means you will never do your best because you are too busy rebelling.”
4. Moms and dads don't allow their kids to learn from failure — an excellent motivator. One of the best ways to help kids learn to be responsible (motivated) is to be consciously irresponsible. Allow them to fail and then be empathetic and help them explore the consequences of their choices through curiosity questions: What happened? What do you think caused that? How are you feeling about it? What could you do in the future if you want another outcome? How can I support you?
5. Moms and dads don't help kids learn time management skills through involving them in the creation of routine charts. The key words are "involving them."
6. Moms and dads don't know how to say, "I love you, and the answer is no."
7. Moms and dads don't teach their kids problem-solving skills through family meetings and individual barnstorming sessions.
8. Moms and dads expect adolescents to "remember to do their chores" as though it were an indicator of responsibility. Most responsible grow-ups were not necessarily responsible adolescents. Even though adolescents are "more" motivated to follow a plan they have helped create, they will still forget because it is not high on their list of priorities. This does not mean they are irresponsible. It means they are adolescents. A friendly reminder doesn't have to be a big deal. Use your sense of humor and remind with your mouth shut. Point, use charades, or write a note. If you have to say something, ask, "What was our agreement?"
9. Moms and dads give their kids too many things and then wonder why they fail to be appreciative and instead just want more, more, and more.
10. Moms and dads nag and invite resistance.
11. Regarding motivation to do chores, homework, manners, coming home on time, etc.: Adolescents are too often “told” instead of “invited” to brainstorm and come up with solutions that works for everyone. Adolescents are much more motivated to follow a plan they have helped create.
12. Adolescents feel "conditionally loved" -- "I'm okay only if I live up to your expectations, get good grades, and excel in sports." This hurts, and some adolescents get revenge by failing. Others may become approval addicts.
There are lots of reasons why teenagers refuse to do chores around the house. You can solicit your teen’s help and get cooperation if you keep these top five “reasons-for-refusal” - and their solutions - in mind:
1. It's boring. Solution: Develop relevant chores with good paybacks. Think beyond dishes and laundry. What does your teenager do well? What does he like to do? Researching a family purchase on-line or buying groceries with use of the car may appeal much more and produce less stress for all involved.
2. The request wasn't attractive. Solution: Put on a smile and compose yourself before asking. Use positive words. Forgive the past. Frame the request in terms your teenager finds agreeable as opposed to confrontational.
3. They don't think it is important or worthy of their time. Solution: You will have a better response if you link their chores to something they value. A request to clean up a bedroom is far more likely to generate a positive outcome if the teenager has asked to have a sleepover first.
4. You asked too many times. Solution: Too many times equals nagging and nobody likes to be nagged. To avoid repeating yourself, consider improving your presentation skills.
5. You forgot to ask their permission. Solution: Would you demand from a friend? Probably not, if you wanted to remain their friend. Children like to be asked and shown respect.
As your awareness and communicating skill grows, you will notice increased help and a positive response when you ask your teenager to do chores. Here are some tips:
1. Being a family is a cooperative effort. Tackling a chore such as sweeping the deck and cleaning up the backyard helps adolescents understand that they can give back. Teaching shared chores is a real kindness you can do for your child. Assign tasks for each family member, always remembering to say thanks and praise your adolescent for a job well done. Parents need to remind themselves to be grateful and appreciative of their children’s efforts.
2. If you can’t stand how your son consistently leaves his towel on the bedroom floor after his shower, tell him. But don’t load on other chores at the same time. Start with one thing. Say, “if you keep throwing your towel on the floor, you’ll have to stay home Friday night,” and leave it at that. And make sure the chores you assign accommodate your children’s schedules. A school night after a sports practice and a test looming the next day is not the best time to expect chores to be completed.
3. Keep chores gender neutral. Many families are stuck in stereotypical role assignments (e.g., kitchen chores for daughters, taking out the garbage and mowing the lawn for sons, etc.). Instead, teach your son to cook and do laundry; show your daughter how to wash the car and rake leaves.
4. Let your adolescents have input into which tasks they feel they can complete on their timetable and according to their level of skills and abilities.
5. Once you give your adolescent a new chore, assume he or she does not know how to complete it. If you demonstrate the right way to do a chore, such as making a bed—for example, showing where clean linens are kept, how to tuck in sheets and put a pillow into its case—it will probably get done more or less the way you’d like.
6. Pay, if a chore is particularly difficult. If it goes above and beyond what’s usually asked, most experts agree it is perfectly appropriate to pay your adolescent to do it.
7. Test scores, relationship ups and downs, or preparing for college admissions can send the best-natured adolescent into a funk. But, just as adults can’t shirk their duties because they’re having a bad day, adolescents should be expected to follow through on their regular chores even when times are tough. Actually, a chore can give an adolescent an anchor when things aren’t going well at school or socially. Taking the dog for a walk has nothing to do with an A or a B, and can serve as a welcome distraction.
My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents