As a parent, you’ll inevitably encounter the age-old battle to get your teen to clean up and take on responsibilities around the house. You may think you’re ready for this battle, but teens present a unique challenge. You have a child who’s at the awkward age where they create some impressive messes and their level of defiance can be off the charts at the same time.
Aside from the benefits of teaching your teen about responsibility, what’s so bad about a dirty room, anyway? Dirty clothes, piles of who-knows-what and dirty dishes are staples of the standard teen bedroom. These staples are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, mold, fungi and a variety of pests. This alone should be enough to motivate you to find ways to get your teen to clean, and we’ve got ten tips to help you get started.
No Surprise Attacks! Give Them Fair Warning to Keep Things Calm
Asking your teen to take care of a chore out of the blue can make them defiant from the get-go. If your teen is texting on their phone, and you stroll into their room and say, “You need to get your room cleaned up before you do anything else,” you’ve broken several of the teen-vs.-parent rules right off the bat. The result is an inevitable confrontation.
When you assign specific chores ahead of time, your teen won’t feel like you’ve attacked with no warning. Be mindful not to assign too many chores, but don’t let them off the hook too easily. Limit those in-the-moment requests by discussing what’s coming their way ahead of time and use a calendar or post a cleaning schedule.
Set a Good Example With Some Flexibility
Many teens can be inflexible about their independence. But the teen years are a time to teach valuable life skills like self-discipline and a good work ethic, too. Offering flexibility keeps those defensive walls from shooting up. When they feel like they have control and freedom, you allow them to make decisions on their own.
Tell your teen he can play games on the computer as soon as he’s completed his chores. Then, leave it up to him to decide when it’s time to get to work. He’ll learn about time management, feel more independent and it takes some burden off your shoulders. You also set a good example with your flexible approach.
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Put Your Teen on Commission
Some parents pay their teens an allowance for doing chores, while others think compensation doesn’t teach them anything valuable. But there is a third alternative. Sometimes, an approach based on compromise can go a long way toward helping your teen learn life lessons and getting her to clean.
Consider paying your teen for extra chores around the house. Babysitting younger siblings, mowing the grass, or washing the car could be some of the commission-based jobs. Cleaning her room, doing the dishes, and helping with meals can just be part of being a productive family member. Which leads us to…
Don’t Be Your Teen’s ATM
If you purchase most of the things your teen wants, or give him unlimited privileges, he won’t have any incentive to get his chores done. Don’t let him go without the basics, of course. You can buy him shoes and stuff for school, but don’t just give him a steady supply of cash or unlimited freedom.
Give Them Clear Consequences
Set the rules from the start and make it clear what will happen if they don’t do their chores. Whether it’s no allowance, fewer privileges or no phone, make sure the consequences mean something. If he chooses not to do his chores, follow through with the consequences. Nagging may seem like a natural approach, but trust us, that never works. Instead, stick to your guns and let your teen figure out how to avoid the consequences.
Give Them Only One Reminder
The goal is for your teen to complete chores without being told to or reminded over and over. Hopefully, you won’t have to remind him to clean his room when he’s 25! You will have to remind your teen to get busy on chores, but if you do it only once, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress and teach them a valuable lesson.
Since you’re only going to remind him once, make it count. Watch your tone to minimize potential conflict. State what he should be doing and the consequences of not doing it. Here’s a good example: “If you don’t get your room finished today, you won’t get to go to the game because all those dirty clothes are a health hazard.” You stated your case — now it’s up to him to make a decision.
Throw a Party!
A cleaning party can bring a little fun to otherwise tedious chores. Pick a weekend day and plan things out just like a regular party. This works best if it involves the whole family. Map out what needs to be done, how long the “party” will last and most importantly, what kind of fun everyone can expect.
If you’re working in the yard, why not combine the clean up with a cookout? When everyone knows there are burgers and chips at the end of the line, they shouldn’t mind working up a hunger. These parties usually work because it’s a group effort, there’s a clear itinerary and there’s a nice reward when it’s done.
We all know younger kids enjoy it when you make doing chores a game. But even with your “grown-up” kids, humor is a great way to take some of the sting out of those dreadful chores. Most of us have heard the phrase, “Humor is the best medicine.”, so find ways to give your teen a dose for what ails him.
A dad we heard about got creative and started sticking candy wrappers, socks and discarded water bottles he’d find in scattered around the house in some pretty funny places. His teens would find a dirty dish in their underwear drawer, empty chip bags in their backpack at school and even dirty socks in their lunchbox! Everyone had a few laughs, and his teens got the message.
Pick Your Battles
Piles of papers, scattered DVDs and dingy windows aren’t unsanitary, just annoying. Focus on getting your teen to clean the things that matter. Instead of telling them to clean their room, ask them to gather all their dirty clothes and put them in the laundry room. Better yet, teach them how to wash their own clothes and let nature take its course. (Teens typically like to dress to impress!)
If your teen is in one of their “moods,” resist adding fuel to the fire and ask yourself if the chore is that important. Even if it is, could it wait just a bit longer? You want to win the war on dirt, grime and germs and teach your teen life skills, but you don’t have to win every battle to come out victorious in the end.
Good is Good Enough
Just because you’re a master cleaner with a great work ethic doesn’t mean your teen is (yet.) Just like when they were taking their first steps, give them an ‘A’ for effort when you’re starting to get your teen to clean. You didn’t punish them when they were learning to read. You helped them along, worked on their ABCs and otherwise gave them the tools they needed to learn.
Give your teen the same support with some cleaning education. From how to organize a closet to tips for cleaning a bedroom fast, there’s plenty of cleaning articles with tips, tricks and how-tos. We’re sure you have your favorite cleaning methods too, and your teen can undoubtedly benefit from your experience. Just don’t go overboard and take the reigns away from them. Remember, good is good enough (at least for starters.)