Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Teens and Chores: Should they or Shouldn't They?


A Parent writes:

During a discussion at book club, lawn maintenance came up. Two moms were 
shocked that some of those of us with teenage boys use landscapers. I defended I 
didn't have necessary equipment and desire a tidy yard not sure they could 
deliver or i want to battle about. Then they went on to discuss chore charts 
their kids seem to enjoy (really?). Got me to thinking about if I'm adequately 
tasking my teens. Dishwasher, garbage and their own laundry are routine must 
dos.  Other tasks are on a help as I need it basis, and they generally do them 
without guff or fees (vacuum, clean a room, trim bushes, etc).  though these 
other moms included washing/changing sheets, weekly clean their own bathroom, 
cutting and edging lawn twice weekly for $20/week allowance. I'm a stay at home 
mom and my oldest child works part time and youngest is active in sports, but 
they both have plenty of couch time. My mom was super laid back on chores, maybe 
I am a little too laid back too?


Ok, a couple of things. First why did the moms comment on families with teenage boys who didn't mow the family lawn. Can't girls mow? Boys can cook, and clean, and girls can mow! This might be a good time to do a gender stereotyping check. If indeed you have both genders represented in your children, what kind of messages do you send to each of them about what they should, can, and are expected to do in your family. Are jobs divvied up by gender? Boys do the trash, girls do the dishwasher! Food for thought. Because there is nothing that makes boys better trash emptiers, or girls better dishwasher emptiers. Mix it up a little!

Now on to the chores. You certainly do not want to raise entitled children who expect that everything they need will magically appear whenever they need it. These entitled children go on to become entitled adults and life partners. However, having said that, I am not a chore list kind of person, unless you have a teen who literally does nothing except go to school and come home and park themselves in front of a computer, video or TV screen. These teens absolutely be given daily responsibilities, if only to get them off their ass! But, if you have teens that have busy, full and interesting lives, they have long days. Up and out by 7 or 7:30 and sometimes not home till 5 or 6, and then maybe out again for an evening rehearsal/practice/job. And of course, there is also the homework thing. Do those kids need to be "taught" about responsibility. I don't think so! They are living it! This isn't to say that if you need their help for something specific that you shouldn't expect them to help out. That is just a baseline of how people treat each other. But to expect that these busy kids are going to be good at regularly doing their chores once they hit adolescence might be unrealistic. If you have a family that has always worked this way. You started having your kids do a particular chore from childhood, and now as teens they are used to integrating it into their daily routine, that's fantastic. But often, parents feel that when their teens hit adolescence, they need to get them on the chore track to teach them to be better adults, and start with a whole new set of expectations right at the time when life is getting ramped up for this kid; friends taking on a whole new meaning, school and future taking on a whole new meeting, finding a passion and achieving mastery. These are really important, and take lots of time and psychic energy.

Should you expect your teen to help out when you need help...absolutely! Do teens need a regular list chores, only if you need them too. Chores are only character building, if there is nothing else character building going on in your teen's life.

I love the idea of a financial incentive. Many times there are house projects that need to get done, cleaning basements and attics, family ironing, lawn mowing. If your teen needs some extra money, to go somewhere like a concert or buy themselves something new like a video game or expensive jeans, these projects are excellent ways of meeting both your needs.

Every family is different. There is no one size fits all here. Families value different things, and that's a good thing!

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