Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

Search This Site

Teens and Chore Refusal

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


Anonymous said...

Jennifer Vensel Jacobson Ugh, this happens all the time and my daughter is only 10!! Not looking forward to the teen years with her lol!
13 minutes ago · Like
Brenda Garza This is when I find love and logic techniques most helpful. 'Oh, don't worry about it son.' He know now that means he better worry about it!

Anonymous said...

Often it some times takes more energy to ask him to do a chore than do it myself but I still persevere

Anonymous said...

Denice Molina Egilsson
LOL!!!! Oh my!!! My son told me yesterday that he didn't like emptying the dishwasher cause the clean glasses felt weird to him. Clever boy is using his sensory issues against me. Not that he was excused from his chore, but I give him credit for being very clever!!!!! And yes, sometimes I feel like beating my head against the wall not only with my 11 year old Aspie, but with my 13 year old and my 8 year old!!!!! It never ends in my house!!
3 hours ago · Like

Anonymous said...

I have read all the information on your site about ODD. My teenage daughter was diagnosed with that when she was 16. She was in therapy for a 3 month period which did nothing to help. We have tried following the guidelines for parents dealing with issue as well. Unfortunately, she is now 18 and is not one bit better. She curses us by calling us every name in the book, she defies any authority, she doesn't care who she has to hurt to get what she wants. She has now quit school with only one month left of grade 12, didn't show up for her job so got fired and has not been staying at home for the past 3 weeks. She has so much anger all the time. She just explodes at everything and everyone, especially her dad and I. We have told her she is no longer welcome to live in our home. We will not allow her to treat us that way anymore. We won't enable her to treat herself the way she is anymore either. She will have to fall hard I think before she might get herself together. She has no where to live and no way to get around but she will have to learn that she can't treat people the way she does. She's been staying someone for the past 3 weeks so am guessing she will figure it out. We are very afraid for her but she has pushed us so far out of her life and we cannot take the cruelty anymore. I don't know much about ODD even after reading the literature. To me, it seems these descriptions could be talking about nothing more than a spoiled rotten brat. What is the treatment for this? Is it something that she can grow out of? What can we do at this point to help her to help herself? It's just heartbreaking for all of us. We are at a total loss.



carlene le roux said...

Hi Patty, i have just read your message, wow, its like reading about my 12 year old son , he has is currently in care with the child protection unit as i could not control him and i was also desparate as a single mother as i could see the potential of him getting into all sorts of trouble because of his angry and abusive outbursts and also having no respect or regard for discipline and authority, iam very distressed though as he is still not getting the right treatment and therapy to help him deal with all this pent up anger and hostility, my heart is with you , i am a single mum with a daughter of 8 and she has told me she will leave home if comes back, it is so very hard , i live in adelaide australia, and yes i completely understand as i also sometimes think it is a just alabel for basically a spoilt little brat !!!!!but there is clearly a huge problem and very little support and help, i am so frustrated .

Unknown said...

My 13yr old has a cell phone and in order for him to have it paid every month all he has to do is keep his room clean. He doesn't do it at all. We had an argument about it and he said I didn't sign a contract so i don't have to do it. Should i disconnect his phone?

Anonymous said...

Yes, natural consequences for him not honoring his verbal contract. Your word has to mean something. Integrity cannot be bought, it must be taught. Kids naturally look for loopholes to avoid responsibility, work. Parents have to decide if teaching integrity and values against the flow of opposition is worth the effort, or if they want to as many do take the path of least resistance.

Anonymous said...

It was a verbal contract. Your son needs to know that your word means something, to keep his end of the bargain. If he didn't keep his end of the bargain, it's natural consequences that he loses the privilege of the phone. Kids are not to be entitled, they need accountability and structure.

Unknown said...

Hi mum from down under. Have you considered prayer? We have a heavenly Father to guide us through this life. For you and your family. Pray and listen...You are never alone or hopeless when you are a child of God. It's never too late or too messy to get help and hope from our Creator. I will pray for you.

Contact Form


Email *

Message *