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Stop asking your teen to do their chores. Try this instead.

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

What do you do if getting your teen to do chores feels like an everyday battle?

“Charlie, can you pick your socks up off the ground?”

“Yeah, I’ll do it later.”

“I mean now, before you have soccer practice.”

“Yeah, mom, I said later.”

Getting your teen to do chores around the house can be a challenge. Although it may be tempting to give your teen a nudge until the task is done, research shows that nagging is rarely a good idea. Here’s how to raise a responsible teen capable of tackling both the dishload and a world of responsibility.

Why nagging doesn’t work

When you set up 5 blaring alarms for your 9am wake up call, are you more or less likely to wake up the first time? Nagging can make us dread tasks even before we start to do them. This can lead to a relentless cycle of repetitive reminders, incomplete chores, and frustration for you and your teen.

Beyond dread, nagging sets up a power war between parents and teens - and there are no winners. Your teen is navigating a new sense of autonomy and nagging can make your teen feel as if you don’t trust them with this newfound responsibility. With incessant nagging, you risk pushing your teen into a behavior of defiance to take back their sense of control. This means they intentionally refuse whatever task you ask them to do. That’s when small things like asking your teen to put their socks away results in a big fat no. Power-seeking kids want to resist authority no matter the task and this can be exacerbated with nagging.

Instead, try allowing your teen to develop an intuition for the responsibility by empowering them.

Think like a boss

In the workplace, the worst bosses micromanage. Great bosses entrust their employees to take on certain responsibilities. They mentor their employees to help them grow and manage new roles. Adopting this empowering mindset can be helpful when approaching teens and chores.

Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford University and author of How to Raise an Adult explains:

“At work we call it micromanaging versus empowerment. If I monitor every single tiny step of a person’s work in the office, they call that micromanaging; if I give someone a lot of rope and let them take risks and make decisions, they call that empowerment. If I’m empowering my employees, why would I not also empower my kids?”

Empowerment stems from allowing your teen to show you what they’re capable of being responsible for. If you give them a task, let them take risks, make decisions, and make mistakes. Then, guide them towards independence as a good boss would do. Beginning at age 12, the prefrontal cortex, or the decision making part of the brain, begins to mature and develop. Allowing them to exercise this part of their brain can be instrumental in their emotional development and delineates a child from a teen.

Here’s what it comes down to: nagging ≠ empowering. Often, parents use chores to gauge the preparedness of their teen for “the real world,” but parents need to remember to let their teen mature and flourish on their own timeline without micromanaging at every stage. Raising an empowered teen is raising a responsible teen.

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