Teen Refuses To Do Chores (This is Why)

As a parent of two teens, I spend most of my time running around after them. Picking up and bringing them wherever they need to go. So how do I make sure they are doing their fair share?

This is how it works in our home. Teen refuses to do chores You need to be realistic about your teen. If you haven’t started this initiative early on then don’t expect this to happen overnight. Be patient, every task needs to be learned.

  1. Understand your teen and their limits
  2. Do chores alongside them initially
  3. Ask. Don’t demand.
  4. Pre-arrange chores
  5. Follow through on ultimatums.
  6. Teach by example.

Getting your teen to do chores is no easy task. It is easy to get irritated or disheartened when it just doesn’t happen. They can either completely ignore you or it can go well at the start and then waiver. The key is consistency. Be firm, patient and remember that you are the adult.

Understand Your Teen and Their Limits

Teens have a lot going on in their lives. They are trying to fit in. Trying not to do anything that might draw negative attention to them and also dealing with becoming an adult.
Growing up is hard to do. So from their point of view, you nagging them to clean their room or take out the trash is very low down in their list of priorities.

If you haven’t introduced chores up to now, it is going to be even harder for your teen to focus on why this is happening.

You have to ease them into it. Start with maybe one small chore – such as making their bed – every day, and gradually increase responsibility as time goes on.

If you decide one morning that you have had enough and go in all guns blazing, with a list of chores as long as your arm, your teen will do what they do best. They will go into shut down mode.

In relation to this, you may also be interested to read my post, teen won’t listen – a Mother’s top tips

That will be the end of chores and anything productive. Ease into the workload and try not to expect too much too soon.

Do chores alongside them initially

This probably seems pretty obvious right? But all chores need to be learned. If you don’t teach your child how to do chores correctly, then how do you expect them to know how to fulfill the task? I have several examples of teens not knowing how to do basic tasks.

We had a teen stay with us recently who had never threaded a needle, nor never polished a pair of shoes. When I asked him why he had his leather shoes in the sink he replied he was washing them. He had never seen a tin of shoe polish before. A friend of mine, her son was recently moving to college and she had to show him how to change a duvet cover – at 19 years old.

But this is not the teen’s fault. If we don’t allow them to do chores well then we can’t expect them to automatically know. So starting off, set small tasks that are achievable and do the chore alongside them. This could be as basic as changing their weekly bedding, vacuuming, emptying the dishwasher (or how to load it correctly!).

Are teenagers children? The Law state by state, is another one of my posts that may be a good read!

But working alongside your teen they will get the sense that you care a lot and want them to learn. Life is not all about grades, they have to at some stage become independent adults and if they can’t even bring out the trash, well then how are they going to cope with more complex issues?

Ask. Don’t demand.

It’s one of the hardest things as a parent of teens for me to try and stay calm. To have to repeatedly ask for a chore to be done is exhausting and of no benefit to either me or my teen. If you try and get your teen onside (easier said than done!) then chores become less of a chore. If they see that we are all working for the greater good then there possibly will be less animosity. Nobody really likes being told directly what to do.

I know I certainly don’t. But if you’re asked ‘nicely’, you’re more inclined to do the task. Would it be possible for you to carry your laundry upstairs? If you’re going upstairs, could you possibly bring the basket? This sounds a lot better than “Bring that laundry to your room! For the hundredth time!” My teens don’t react well to orders, and I’m sure they’re not unique. They think we are constantly having a go at them, nagging them, and truth be told, most of the time we probably are.

So we need to take a moment, stand back and be more aware of our tone. I try, and sometimes it’s hard, to just suggest or ask without an edge for a chore to be done. It doesn’t always work but given time the feathers relax, and harmony reigns again.

Pre Arrange chores

I am a great one for a ‘To-Do’ list. It’s always easier to manage my time if I am clear about what has to be done and by when. I put this into practice with my teens. Then they are very clear on what has to be done and more importantly by a deadline. To implement this, you could introduce a chart on a fridge or somewhere visible. A chore that has to be done maybe 3-4 times per week is good to start and as they get used to it introduce more.

I have two teens and the typical jobs that they do regularly are moving laundry upstairs, bringing their dirty laundry downstairs to the utility, emptying the dishwasher, setting the table for dinner, and changing their bedding. There are none of these chores that are very involved but they are jobs that I no longer do. So if they don’t do them, they have no clean clothes, they have smelly bedrooms, and they would have to eat with their hands! Which, I know you might say, most teens wouldn’t be bothered by any of the above, however, it becomes very apparent when they have friends over or they want to go somewhere special and have nothing to wear!

But if your teen is point blank refusing, I’m afraid you’ll have to become quite firm.
Without getting into an argument, explain very clearly to him or her, that without their help, other things will not get done.

No rides to friends houses, or the mall. No little treats or rewards. There has to be give and take if we are all living here together.

You may also be interested to read my post how late should I let my teenager stay out?

Chores must be completed by everyone. They are not, as I regularly used to say – less so now thankfully – living in a hotel.

Follow through on Ultimatums

This point follows on from the last quite well if you have a prepared prearranged list in place with the possibility of a reward. If the chore is not completed then the reward does not happen. And you must absolutely hold your ground on this. Teens can smell parent weakness in a heartbeat and if they think they can get out of doing something they’ll leap at the chance.

If you have promised a treat for a week of chores well then those chores must be fulfilled. If you cave this time they know you will cave every time and the whole point of doing the menial tasks will go out the window and you will be back to square one.

Stages of Development

In an ideal world, we all would have our children doing chores from an early age. And in actual fact most of us do. When they are little all they want to do is copy and mimic and help us to do everyday chores. But something happens along the way and our daring little toddlers become surly teenagers with bags of attitude that don’t want to do anything.

It’s hard to sometimes grasp how exactly this came to pass but hormones and growing up and finding their place in the world is a tough station. We need to be very patient with them. We need to not compare them to when we were their age. Times were different and we weren’t under the spotlight like they are.

But we need to never give up. They are our children and we would do anything for them. And one of the most important things we can do for them makes them independent. That begins with the very simplest of tasks. If you can get your teen to do one task consistently you are succeeding! Don’t give up and don’t give in.

Tara Cunningham

Tara Cunningham is a Mum and Graphic Designer. My children's education has always been very important to me. I feel that if you are willing to put in the time they will appreciate the effort. I hope that you find our thoughts and ideas useful and interesting.

Recent Posts