I’m quickly approaching a time where I have teenagers in the home.
I vividly remember being one myself not too long ago. My main chore in the house was the dishes. I had to hand wash them. Ugh.
Other than that though my mother did everything so, all-in-all, I would say I had a fairly good deal.
As my girls get older though it frustrates me when I’m running around the house trying to get stuff cleaned up and they are on the electronics or watching television.
Therefore, today I am looking for creative and unique ways to get them to help me. Here’s what I’ve come up with.
How to Get your Teenager Helping Around the House
1. Zone Cleaning
This is a ‘before pic’ of one mother’s attempt to get her teens to clean. The after, which you can see over at Catholic Sistas, is much better.
The basis of what she does is this: she already had her own list of things that needed to be done each day and each week in each room. Instead of doing it all herself, she gives them a “zone”. The zone changes weekly.
At first, she had to sit down with each of them and say, “Here’s how this works in this room” but after a while, they have the list and know what is expected of them.
She talks about how they still have lazy moments but are very territorial of their “zone” each week. She notes that it is all getting better and it is less stress on her and that sounds good enough for me!
2. Cleaning Swoops
This, obviously, shows a little one helping. And if you have a little one and teenagers in your house- what fun! I’m a tad bit jealous.
Anyways, Alison over at Pint Sized Treasures came up with the swoop idea and it sounds like a winner as well. She has a few times a day that she chooses where she tells them, “Time for a clean swoop!” and they get to work.
I could see this being a lot of fun so long as the kids let you. If needed, at first, you could give them specific tasks. Turn on some music, set a timer, and get to work.
We actually did this last year when we were living at our other house. My husband didn’t like it because the house didn’t get super clean in the fifteen minutes we worked but it sure got a lot cleaner than it was.
Naturally, the more you do this, the cleaner your house will get.
3. Lead by Example
Jody Allen over at The Stay at Home Mum made a good point- one that I have thought about quite often. If I cannot keep the house clean, how can I expect them to?
In the world of personalities (don’t know what that is? Take the test and find out more about yourself here) I am a campaigner and, naturally, I look at that situation like this: I’m struggling because I am trying to take on an entire household by myself. If I had help, it wouldn’t be as bad.
Therefore, I choose to talk to my daughters and explain that the house is dirty because momma is worn flat out. Let’s work together to get the house cleaner so we can all feel better. And then we implement one of the other ideas. I give them options. If needed, I will work a little extra to ensure that they see me setting a good example.
4. Have Set Expectations
In addition to soon having teenagers of my own I also teach older teenagers. I promise you it is equally as challenging to get fifteen students to clean up after themselves after cooking.
My saving grace during the first year teaching came from a paper that set clear expectations for everyone in the group. This way if I noticed the dishes didn’t get done (and no one explained why) in the gold kitchen, I could look and see that it was Joe’s job. His grade would reflect his effort.
Like my paper system and the Zone cleaning- setting clear expectations is important. For the swoop method you could say “I need at least fifteen minutes of cleaning and putting things away. If you find you have more time after put away, please sweep and mop the kitchen”. For zone cleaning, have a written list. In methods explained later I will be sure to address this issue.
The key here, as with many things in life, is balance. Let them know that your expectations do not change but if life happens, they need to come talk to you in order to come up with a plan B. Knowing that they can come to you and you will not be a drill sergent is important but equally so is letting them know that what you expect must be done. One way to do that is to have sensible consequences.
5. Have Sensible Consequences
Before you begin, you need to be realistic. Is making their bed critical to you or do you realize that you are not home enough for them to get the satisfaction of seeing their bed made before they fall into it? Setting realistic expectations falls under the lead by example category but it also helps you to be able to be firm in your consequences and not waiver.
Another thing to do before you begin your journey is to know what your consequences will be. It is to your advantage not to come up with them on the spot because having a game plan allows you to be consistent. I would suggest something similar to what we were taught to do with my daughter who has emotional issues due to cerebral palsy.
Our plan of action is this: first, she gets a reminder. If that doesn’t work, we add marbles to a jar. When she gets to three marbles she loses electronics for the remainder of the day. Each day is a fresh start though because we all deserve fresh starts.
What if that doesn’t work? I heard a good one recently from Web MD– tell them that you are hiring a house cleaner and the money for cleaning will come out of their allowance/gift fund/etc…
Just remember- stick to it!
6. Divide Chores Three Ways
Although I disagree completely with the title of this post, the She Knows article by Joanne Kimes divides things up into a way that I have at least thought about doing…
You have them divide their chores up three ways: first, they must offset their mess. This could be done by swoop cleaning. Second, they must have regular, unpaid chores. I call this being a part of the family. When they leave home nobody is going to pay them to clean their own house- why should they now?
The third is where it benefits the parents- create a bulletin board that has a chore and the price it pays. They only get paid though if both their regular chores are done and the paid job is done and done well. Again, have that expectations discussion beforehand.
You could take this a step further and work on finances as well- making them put up ten percent of their earnings and donate ten percent as well.
7. Premack’s Principle
This one is also one that we started a few years ago with homework. The concept is honestly as simple as setting a schedule and sticking to it.
Here is how our homework schedule goes: She gets home and is allowed thirty minutes to do whatever she wants. She can watch television, get on the computer, call a friend, go outside. You name it, she can do it (within reason).
Once her thirty minutes is up though, she must start her homework no matter what. The other key to doing homework- she must sit there until it is completely done.
Obviously, there was opposition at first but after a while, she understood that it was what we expected of her and it became easier, her homework time became shorter and the lives of everyone in the household was better for it.
Likewise, you could set a specific time to do clean swoops or a time when everyone cleans with music on. Either way, figure out something that works for your family and stick to it.
8. Get Them Started
I can remember during my teenage years when my mother would be vacuuming at 9:30 in the morning on Saturday. My room was right next to the living room and I thought I was dying. Sadly, now I clean at 9:30 on Saturday morning (though I opt for our van).
Anyways, if she wanted me to clean it probably felt like pulling teeth. Again, another thing I am dealing with now. The epic eye roll.
I’ve never, ever thought about getting them started. The stay at home mommy recommends this idea. Open the window, put the vacuum and a dirty clothes basket in the middle of the room, define what you expect, and turn on some music, then leave.
Show them that you believe they can do it on their own. Let them enjoy their quiet time in their space.
9. Remember, It’s Their Space
One of the best ways to get a teenager to take charge is to give them responsibility. Let them determine how they want their room to look.
If they clean and they like a wall filled with pictures of friends- let them do it. Maybe they want new bed sheets they saw in Pottery Barn Teen. Try to get it for them. This way their space truly becomes a reflection of them and of your household!
10. Do the Unthinkable
I was glad to find this Wall Street Journal article by Sue Shellenbarger because, again, I have done something similar.
In the article, a mother asked her teenager to clean up and they set a deadline. When the deadline came and went- the mother went to the extreme and took everything, even clothing, out of her bedroom and put it in the attic.
She had to do chores in order to earn her stuff back (yes, even the clothes). My husband and I stuffed them in a closet and they got a toy a week back so long as the room was left clean.
It really is a rude awakening. The mother in Shellenbarger’s article is understanding and the rules bend a little when their daughter is busy with activities.
11. Get to the Root of Things
I hope with all my heart that if you are reading this that you have a pretty good relationship with your child. If not, now is the time to reconnect. Take them out for a cup of coffee.
Ask them how it feels when you ask them to take care of their area or help around the house. Ask for ideas on how to work together. You might find out that part of their problem is they are busy.
Honestly, as a teacher of teenagers I am amazed at what they do. I have a student who makes straight As, is in two college classes, is a cheerleader, the treasurer of her junior class, and holds down a part-time job of over twenty hours a week.
Ladies and gentleman, this is our future and I think that’s pretty awesome. Don’t you?
So, think positively and talk positively to them. Find out what’s going on in their life and work together to create a schedule for cleaning that works for the both of you. If that doesn’t work, see number ten.
One last piece of advice and one that is equally hard to swallow- sometimes it’s best to just shut the door. Most people understand what it’s like to live with a teenager. Even if they don’t have one themselves yet, they were once one.
Love your kid for who they are and do your best to get them to do their best. That’s all that matters.