How to Retrain Your Teenagers to Do Housework

With their increased abilities, teenagers have the capacity to be effective helpers around the house 2. The trick is getting them to cooperate with your chore plan. If you’ve let your teenagers get away with shirking their responsibilities around the house, you will need to retrain them to do housework and chores. As with many things connected with teenagers, motivating them to help with household chores may be challenging. There are ways to encourage a helpful attitude in your teenager, though.

Determine which household chores and tasks you want your teenager to begin performing. As you assess the household and the work that needs doing, consider your teenager’s schedule with school, extracurricular activities, homework and possibly an outside job. Ensure that the tasks you plan to assign will fit into her schedule.

Make a list of the chores you will assign to your teen. Include a description of each chore on the list, as well as the frequency, to make your expectations perfectly clear.

Discuss the new chore plan with your teenager. Approach the plan in a matter-of-fact manner as if you are problem-solving with your teenager. You might say, “It’s been difficult to manage the housework lately. A lot of things aren’t getting done well and I’m having trouble fitting everything into my schedule. The family really needs your help and I’d sure appreciate it if we could work on getting chores done as a team. What do you think?”

Provide additional incentives for your child to cooperate with your chore plan. You might say, “With your help around the house, I know that I’ll feel less frazzled and stressed. As long as you’re helping, I’ll be able to give you rides when you need them, and do other things for you 2. This is how we can help each other. Does that make sense?” What you’ve just created is a “two-way street” -- your teenager helps around the house and you continue to help your teenager.

Reassure your teenager that you have taken into consideration her schedule and responsibilities so that she will be able to manage the duties you want her to do. Show your child your list of chores, along with the details so she knows what you expect.

Listen to your child’s reactions. Even if she’s complaining or objecting, hear her out so she feels heard. Consider any issues or objections she raises (she may have points you didn’t consider). Respond to her comments and negotiate a chore plan that is mutually acceptable.

Revise your list of chores according to the negotiations you just hammered out with your child. Have your child sign the paper, then sign it yourself to indicate your agreement. Post the chore list in a central location -- on the refrigerator, perhaps.

Monitor your teenager’s compliance with the new chore system. It’s likely that your child will need some reminding and nagging, especially as she’s getting used to the new system. If she doesn’t comply, exact a consequence by removing your help or services that you would ordinarily do for her (rides or laundry, perhaps). If she does comply, give her effusive praise and positive reinforcement to encourage her to continue to perform.


The authors of “Smart but Scattered Teens” recommend assigning chores that apply to your teen’s daily life when instituting a new chore system. Laundry, cooking, cleaning the bathroom and pet care might be good chores to assign.