A few months ago I realized everyone had gotten a little lazy about chores. One morning the kitchen was left a mess from the morning routine, once again. I saw a need to impress upon my kids how having a clean house, or a dirty one, makes us feel. So I decided to create a COMPARE & CONTRAST PARTY
. I left the kitchen dirty. Then I created a party out on the patio. It would be the first thing they saw when they walked up the drive after school. It was colorful, had table decorations and great food. As I suspected they were all surprised and delighted. Then I walked them in to see the kitchen. I asked them to describe their feelings when seeing the two scenes. After spending a minute on that we then cleaned the kitchen. It didn't take long. Then we were out enjoying our party. While outside we talked about why we clean and what kind of attitude we should have about our home. Something that could have turned into a battle was instead a positive experience for all of us.
Cleaning is a valuable life skill that sometimes kids are resistant to. (Imagine that!
) Having ideas to help teach them is part of a good parental game plan. SUSAN KUCHINSKAS
has written an article Top 10 Ways to Get Teens to Help Out
(of which I am quoted for one idea, thank you Susan
) that have some good ideas. I am also including my additional 10 ideas. You are bound to find something that works for your family from both. 1. GET THEM TO ROLE PLAY
Do a role reversal experiment. For some time before the experiment take notes about how your kids respond to chores. On a given day tell them you are going to be them and they can be you. When they ask or tell what chore you are responsible for then answer with some of the things, word for word, that they say. Do not exaggerate because they will recognize it is not them. Be authentic to who they are. It may show them how hard it is to get "them" to work and how hard it is to be the "chore motivator." (Side note: you will also get a view of what you are like - though this may be slightly exaggerated - in how you ask for work to be done.)2. GET THEM TO BE SELF MOTIVATED
It's not always a bad thing to let a teen put off a chore deferring to their "I'll do it later." Give some freedom in the time table, tell him he can have it done by the end of the day. Letting them accomplish it in their own time frame teaches them to motivate themselves. They become confident in their self management and you can acknowledge them for doing so. If they say that they are going to do it and then don't they lose the luxury of "doing it later." Make it known that the next time a chore needs to be done then it will be done in your time frame and that usually equates to "now". Most likely they will move in the direction of autonomy and doing what they said they would do "later".3. GET SOME FACE-SPACE
It is likely that your face, words and attitude are associated with chores. So disconnect your presence from the work. Write on a board, leave a sticky note or email directly what needs to be done. Give the specifics of the job so that you don't have to describe it to them in person. The written word gives them something to refer back to. Also, tell them to let you know when it's done. This way your face is connected to compliments about their performance. (Side note: Do not only email your child chore related text. They need to get "I love you" emails as well.)4. GET OUT OF THEIR WAY
Kids like elbow room. Give them independence in an appropriate way. Write out the process of the chore on a card. Hang it from a lanyard so they can wear the checklist (or refer back to it) while they work. Then the chore gets done thoroughly without hovering or harassing.5. GET THEM TO VOLUNTEER
This goes against logic with a teen but creating an incentive helps. I ask, "Who wants to volunteer to do (insert easiest chore)"? That chore is always the easiest in the group. Then I ask, "Who wants to do (second easiest chore)"? And so on down the list. It only takes a few times for them to figure out that they want to volunteer first and fast because whatever is coming next is not as easy as the one previous. They will start volunteering even before the sentence is finished. 6. GET THE PARTY STARTED
Let them have a party for their friends. Teens want to make a good impression and have their friends like being in their space. When preparing for their teen guests they tend to look at their house a little differently. As part of the party preparations let them make a list of what needs to be done. The list will show what is important to them and what they are willing to do. It can also make a connection to why we work to keep a home clean. Don't get caught up cleaning for what your
friends would want. This is not about you. Show your support for them by jumping right in and working for what they want. (Side note: Respond like you want them to respond to you and show them a pattern that they can follow. Don't lecture about how you are doing what you wish they would do, 'explain' by example.)7. GET THEM EASED INTO IT
Don't rush everyone into work and elevate everyone's anxiety. Don't spring it on anyone at the last minute. Chores can be tough enough without it. Easing them into it will create a more relaxed feel while working. Let them know that work will start "in an hour" and then give them reminders every 15 minutes until start time.8. GET THEM TO ANSWER THEIR OWN QUESTION
When chores are a regular routine reminders aren't needed. It's just expected. But sometimes a teen feels that if you haven't said to do chores in a while then maybe you've changed your mind and really don't want it done. (I know, the logic is crazy.)
Don't go seek them out to complain. Wait until they come to you and want something (going somewhere, borrowing the car, needing money). Instead of giving them an answer, ask a question - "Have you done your chores?" Whatever their answer is to you, that is your answer to them. And tell them so. If there is consistency in this pattern on the parent's part then they learn very quickly that they need to contribute without being told. They also can feel good about being able to report that they have done their part. (Side note: Even if you need something additionally from them before they can do or get what they want then you can still answer "yes, when this or that is also done.")9. GET IT DONE FAST
For youth it seems like chores take forever so set a time limit. Break the chores down into smaller work areas in smaller time frames. Tell everyone that they will work now and for only 20 minutes. Set the timer and say, "Ready, set, go!" This can be done several times during the day. Make sure everyone knows what needs to be done beforehand and that everyone has to work fast and furious for it to count. And don't cheat and go overtime. No one likes a chore cheater.10. GET RESULTS WITH REWARDS
Okay, this isn't my idea, it is my kids. Give them rewards for what they do - going someplace, extra computer time or having parents go out and leave the kids by themselves with treats. (Hummm... what are my kids saying?)
People will do a lot to get what they want. Give them what they want. And get what you want - chores checked off.