A Chore Checklist for a Teenager

By Kathryn Walsh
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The sooner your teen learns there's no fairy who loads and unloads the dishwasher, the better. Part of preparing your child to be a responsible adult is instilling a solid work ethic now, and pitching in teaches your teen about responsibility and teamwork. Necessary chores and the frequency with which they need to be done varies by household, so while some chores are appropriate for all teenagers, every family's chore list will be unique.

Everyday Chores

Your teenager can handle all the duties necessary to get herself up and ready for school each day, including preparing her own breakfast and cleaning up after she's done. You may also put her in charge of preparing her own school lunch. A teen can set the table, help prepare dinner and clear her own dishes after the meal. She might also be in charge of emptying the dishwasher each day. If you have pets, you might put your teen in charge of feeding, walking or cleaning up after them.

Occasional Chores

Some chores need to be done only on a weekly or as-needed basis. You may put your teen in charge of cleaning the bathroom each weekend as well as doing touchups, such as cleaning the sink, every few days. He can handle vacuuming, dusting and straightening up living areas. You may ask him to do all his own laundry, but if not, he can at least separate his laundry before it's washed and fold it and put it away once clean. If your teenager can drive, you might make running errands or grocery shopping one of his chores.

Outdoor Chores

If you have a yard, put your teen to work in it. She can shovel snow, rake leaves and help with weeding and watering plants. She can also wash cars and, under the tutelage of an experienced adult, may be able to handle simple car-care tasks such as changing the oil and washer fluid. In a rural setting, the majority of your teen's tasks may be outdoors if you need daily help caring for animals and land. Whether you live in a single-family home or an apartment, taking out the garbage and recycling is a manageable task for a teenager.

The Bedroom

If your teenager has his own bedroom, you may want to dictate how clean it is, or you may opt to let this be one of those battles you choose not to fight. To keep the peace between siblings who share a room, you may require a few daily bedroom tasks, such as making the bed and putting dirty clothes into a hamper. But if your teen bunks alone, consider the compromise proposed by HealthyChildren.org. Insist that he keep the door closed when he's not home, that he do a thorough cleaning once a month and that he accept that you won't participate in keeping his room clean.

Setting Chore Rules

Set reasonable expectations and help your teen meet them. Post a chore list or chart on the refrigerator or help your child set up chore reminders on her phone. Your child needs enough time in the day for extracurriculars and school work, but she should still be held accountable for completing her chores. As an adult she'll have to work full-time and still have to take care of her home, so letting a busy teen out of chores does her a disservice, writes Fred Provenzano, Ph.D, of the National Association of School Psychologists.

If you and your child's other parent live separately, communicate with one another to ensure you're giving your teen an equivalent amount of chores. This way she won't come to resent one parent for giving her more work than the other.

Whether to tie allowance to chore completion is a decision for each family to make, agree Provenzano and KidsHealth.

About the Author

Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.