After too much nagging and yelling, I finally found an easy way to get my teens to help out around the house. If you’ve been wondering how to get your teens to do chores, you’re going to love this simple solution!
Reasons Your Teens Aren’t Doing Chores
Before we can fix the problem, we need to understand what’s causing it. There’s a good reason (actually, a few good reasons) nagging your teens isn’t working.
Teens get really busy! More homework, more intensive sports schedules, a busier social calendar, and perhaps a job or volunteer work on top of that – this leaves little time for pitching in around the house. They are still around enough to eat food, leave dirty dishes, create more laundry, and contribute to the general clutter and dirt that accumulates in a busy home. This is the perfect time to help them learn about responsibility, priorities, and time management.
When your teens got busy, YOU didn’t magically get more hours added to your days. Instead, your schedule likely got busier too. So, unless you’re making the switch to only using paper plates and wearing dirty clothes, everyone has to contribute to keeping the household running smoothly.
But since you’re busy too, you know what it takes to move things to the top of your to do list. We’re going to put that knowledge to work.
Hormones! Puberty is a wonderful time of growth and maturity for teens, but it’s also accompanied by mood swings and physical changes that can be confusing and difficult. Acne, rapid growth spurts, and voice changes can make your teen self-conscious and slightly depressed. So while your adult-sized child now appears physically capable of handling more, he or she might be having a hard time emotionally juggling it all.
There’s not much you can do to stabilize your teen’s hormones during this period (no pun intended). However, you CAN stop contributing to their self-doubt by finding a system that doesn’t make them feel worse about themselves.
Teens’ circadian rhythms are different. Research shows that teens produce melatonin (a hormone that helps us fall asleep) later at night than kids and adults. As a result, it’s harder for them to fall asleep early. Unfortunately, this shift occurs when most teens have to be up early for school so they end up getting 2-3 hours less sleep each night than they need. By the weekend, our teens are exhausted and just want to catch up on all that lost sleep.
It might be more convenient for you to have chores done at certain times, but those times might not work for your teen. Take their different sleep patterns and needs into consideration before you hold them accountable to your expectations.
How to Get Your Teens to Do Chores
Yes, there are many legitimate reasons it’s difficult for your child to pitch in. It’s also difficult for you to do everything you do, but you do it. How do you get things done?
For me, something goes immediately to the top of my to do list if it’s going to cost me more time or money if I ignore it. I pay bills on time to avoid late fees. I take a few seconds to rinse dishes right away so I don’t have to spend minutes scrubbing dried on food from them later.
So how do you apply those same consequences to your teens? I did it with one of those penny candy jars placed prominently in our family room.
I explained to my kids that they would be fined $1 (to be placed in the jar) each time they:
- Don’t complete one of their chores
- Don’t put something away where it belongs
Simple rules, simple consequence.
Does it work? It sure does!
I made $5 the first day and then NOTHING for almost 2 weeks. The kids figured out how to get stuff done when they realized I was really going to enforce the penalties.
Important point: When they don’t do a chore on time, they owe the $1. The fine doesn’t get them out of the chore. It’s a penalty for not completing it on time. They still have to do their chores! (Thank you to the reader whose comment made me realize I hadn’t made this point clear.)
Frequently Asked Questions
As soon as I explained the system, my kids had questions. This is what they wanted to know:
Where do they get money to pay the fines?
I don’t pay my kids an allowance. They have household responsibilities because they are part of our family.
However, I do pay my kids for certain chores that are above and beyond normal daily maintenance. We have a list of these extra duties on a dry erase board in our family command center. The kids can request to do these at any time.
Since I started our fine system after the holidays, my kids used gift money to pay their first fines. When that runs out, they will have to earn money from doing extra chores to pay off their debt to the jar.
What if they don’t have enough money to pay the fine?
Immediate extra chore. For their regular responsibilities, they have the luxury of finding the best time of day in their schedule to complete them. When they fail to get it done, even with that flexibility, then they lose the privilege of setting the schedule.
If they incur a fine and can’t pay it with cash, they must immediately put in the time to earn it.
What if I don’t have exact change?
This created the only bit of prep work on the parental side required for this system to work. I had to get cash to make change (I keep it in my night stand so I don’t accidentally spend it).
I didn’t want to rely on IOU’s or worse, my memory, to collect the fines.
Who gets the money from the jar?
This was my kids’ first question. I think they were hoping it would go towards a family fun activity or gadget. Nope! That money goes to me to pay bills.
My rationale is this:
- When someone forgets to change the laundry and it sits in the washer too long, we have to run it again (more water, electricity and detergent).
- When someone forgets to put away the volleyball and it sits out in the rain, it gets worn faster and we need to purchase a replacement sooner.
- When the kids don’t wipe down the table and counter after they eat breakfast and make their lunches, I do it and my time has value to me.
What happens when I can’t pinpoint who should get the fine?
My kids were very concerned that they might be fined for someone else’s mistake. For example, since my oldest daughter has a favorite blanket she curls up with in the family room, if it’s left out I assume she did it. But what if someone else uses it and denies leaving it out?
My decision may not work for all families, but it’s what I imposed for mine. If this happens in my home, we hold a family tribunal. The family votes on who the guilty party is. If one isn’t established, EVERYONE pays $1.
Why? The tribunal is to give my kids a voice and a chance at justice. But life isn’t always fair. There MUST be an imposed fine, otherwise the kids will always blame each other to get out of paying.
Bonus, this system forces the kids to work together rather than bicker. It’s cheaper for one of them to pay the fine than for all of them to pay the fine so they work out those details outside the tribunal system.
That’s it! Put a jar, box, or basket somewhere that’s easily accessed by everyone in the family. Explain the rules and then follow through with the fines. No yelling, no threats.