Papa's New Bag Of House Rules

How can you teach your teenager how to take responsibility and help out around the house? By channeling your inner teen, of course! Authors Joanne Kimes and R.J. Colleary with Rebecca Rutledge, PhD explain how in this excerpt from Teenagers Suck: What to Do When Missed Curfews, Texting, and "Mom Can I Have the Keys?" Make You Miserable.

How to teach responsiblity to Teenagers

Sulking Teenager

Remember those times your teens did everything they were supposed to, when they were supposed to, without being told they were supposed to? Of course you don't, because that never happened.

Take the words "How many times do I have to tell you . . . ?" directly out of your vocabulary. They are an auditory illusion. You will swear you can hear yourself saying them, yet they will never be heard. So box them up like third-grade art projects and store them for safekeeping. You won't be needing them again for awhile. The sad fact is that laying down the law is yet another Parental Bottomless Pit. During the teenage years you'll be doing it more often than paying the pizza man.

This doesn't mean you should abandon rules. In fact, this is when you need rules more than ever. Just don't expect them to be followed, and when they are followed be prepared for them to be accompanied by one of your teen's BFFs: the argument, the scowl, or the ever-present eye-roll. So why set rules that won't be followed? Simple. You may think the rules you set down in your household are for your teens, but really they are for your benefit. Rules give parents the illusion of structure, of empowerment, of control during these uncontrollable years. This is denial in its most healthy and beneficial form. Go for it.

Remember how you survived your own adolescence? It was by having your head so far up your own butt that you barely realized there were other people living on the planet at the time. It was all about you. And now you have come full circle. Your teenager's adolescence is, from their perspective, all about them. You will survive it by making it, whenever possible, all about you. You can do this. Time to channel your inner teen.

You can do this! Practice by rolling your eyes. You can do this!

Chores & Responsibilities

At first blush, it looks like a match made in heaven: you want your teen to do things, and your teen wants to do things. Perfect! But upon closer inspection you actually a match made in a much hotter, pitchfork-infested place. You want your teen to keep their room clean, dump the trash, walk the dog, clear the table, and rake the leaves. Your teen wants to chill, go out, chill, sleep in, and chill. At this point there may be only one thing you can agree upon: someone is making someone else's life a living hell here.

You're thinking, if they just did what they were supposed to, you would leave them alone. They're thinking, if you would just forget about that "do what they're supposed to" stuff and skip straight to the leaving them alone part, that'd work. (By the way, this may be the only time you may hear them using the word "work" in a sentence.)

Parents make excuses all the time for why their teenagers don't help out: "Susie's major responsibility is her schoolwork," or "oh well, of course I have to remind her, but she does feed the dog." Study after study, statistic after statistic tells us that children and teenagers who participate in family chores and undertake family or community responsibilities are ultimately happier with themselves and their families, have better family values, higher self-esteem, and grow up to become more productive members of society. If parents make excuses and allow their teenagers to sit back and do nothing but put their hand out every day for a twenty, they'll certainly be happy to go along. But what are they learning about how to live in the world? How to be a lazy, ungrateful sloth? Well, maybe that's a little strong, but you get the idea. So, do your teen a favor and teach -- okay, force -- them to pitch in and get to work. Fire the gardener, let the dog crap pile up on the lawn, leave the dishes in the sink, close the Daddy ATM, cancel the nanny and the housekeeper -- and put your teen to work. Without pay!

Now that we agree your kid should do chores, how do you get them to do them?

Webster's Dictionary offers not only two definitions of the word "chore" but also an insight into the different mind-sets of teens and their parents. Most parents would define "chore" as "a routine job." But ask most teens, and they'll opt for the alternate (glass half-empty) definition: "a difficult or disagreeable task." Just keep in mind that to teens, "work" is a four-letter word . . . and not one of their favorite four-letter words, either. There is no "I" in "work." Or in "chore" for that matter. That is at the heart of teens' problem with chores: they do not directly profit by doing them. Yes, you can always say "You live here too, you can contribute." And of course you'd be right, but they're not listening. Your best bet is to divide things thusly:

  • Teens must offset their own mess
  • Regular chores (unpaid)
  • Special jobs over-and-above (paid or otherwise -rewarded)

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Tips on getting teens to offset their mess and do regular (unpaid) chores

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Comments on "Teenagers Suck: Teaching responsibilities and chores"

samantha October 24, 2013 | 9:56 AM

wwwwwoooooooowwwww! how unjust

Scott September 16, 2013 | 12:45 AM

As I think back to my teenage years, I remember being the kind of kid that had to be told to do just about everything. But I did not SUCK. In fact, I was a great kid. Never drank, never did drugs, never got in any trouble. I had a paper route from the age of 13-16 when I was able to get a real job. I had responsibilities at school and in the boy scouts, and I had a lot of pride in that. So when my parents would throw a fit about me leaving a bowl in the sink or a pop can on the counter and say that I was irresponsible, the rift between us grew wider. They come home from work, and they are tired. I get it. I come home from school and work at 9pm, and I'm tired too. But don't teenagers deserve a little respect?

Demi August 27, 2013 | 6:04 PM

I agree with Emma and Judgy Von Holier than thou...spend sometime with teenagers instead of stories about them. You say think of when you are a teen, yet you clearly can't. I'm sorry, but this cutting article is rude, stereotypical, and doesn't reveal anything about the brilliance of some of us. Bear in mind that we are still growing, learning, making mistakes, and learning from our mistakes. Cut teens some slack. I go to a school where kids will spend 11 hours a day there enjoying the company of others, working together, and developing those crucuial skills you find so important. We're all teens, but we aren't all awful.

Judgy Von Holier Than Thou August 24, 2013 | 9:51 PM

Sorry, Ms Joanne Kimes and parents-of-teenagers, I beg to differ. I am a teenager, I go spend 6-7 hours in school per day, have extra-curriculars and I do about 2 to 3 hours of chores everyday after school. I don't like chores, without pay, but I know they have to be done. My parents are usually too tired to do anything in the evening when they get back home from work, and my brother is lazy. After completing chores, I study and do homework for 3 hours, leaving me with a late bedtime I'm sure many of you are against. As a result, I get exhausted and collapse on my bed at the end of the day. Yet, I wouldn't consider myself lazy and ungrateful. I am aware of how I am extremely lucky to be living how I am living right now, being able to go to school, not having to work during childhood, having a roof over my head, having a refrigerator, having a computer (which I find very resourceful). I am frequently reminded from my parents about how bad their childhood was compared to mine. They were children in a post-war period in a developing country, still developing now. Their schools didn't have proper roofs, infrastructure was poor and huge floods happened every year, but they worked hard in school, and I really appreciate that because without their hard work, I wouldn't be so lucky now. I know you've worked hard for what you enjoy now, but guess what? Many of you had it easier than my parents did, I'm certain of that. And my parents know that there were those unluckier than them. In fact, their socio-economic situation was better than most of their peers at the time. So, maybe it's time for YOU to be grateful and stop complaining online about your children. You sound like the annoying teenagers you so detest and shun.

Issy August 24, 2013 | 9:29 PM

Hey SPOT ON!!!!!!! But you've got to stop complaining about your teenagers, it only makes you sound like them.

TheDatingMom March 26, 2013 | 10:20 PM

I really enjoyed this article. I laughed because I can see my own teen son scowling right now, as I type this, because I asked him to find a new pen or pencil to do homework since he was using the nub of a pencil. He's looking for it - but not without that scowl on his face... He definitely knows better than to be disrespectful with his words and he will always slowly and grudgingly do what he's told - but not without "the scowl." Lol...

annonymous September 23, 2012 | 3:35 PM

Chores are a good way to keep kids active and get them used to fending for themselves. I didn't always feel this way, trust me, when I was younger I hated doing chores. I realize now that once you get out on your own, mommy and daddy won't do your laundry, clean your room and do your dishes. Plus most jobs also include cleaning up after yourself. Letting a child get away with no household duties, sets them up for some kind of failure. I can't say how much or at what cost, but the failure will be there. By the way, I'm not some old housewife with out of style thoughts...I'm a 22-year-old male with a little bit of life experience.

Noneya January 28, 2012 | 9:20 PM

TEENAGERS RULE yes we can be lazy but I prefer to call it silective participation but we can be very helpful at the same time and if any teen saw the name of this they would be mad how would u like it if we said adults suck?

Donna August 20, 2011 | 7:06 PM

Did if ever occur to any of you that "EMMA" is probably a teenager herself??!! "Very nice, giving & Bright" ?!?! The only statement she made that was right (and keeps me up at night) is "they're going to be the ones running the world in not too many years" So PARENTS who actually want to BE PARENTS and not Susie and Billy's best friend - PLEASE don't give up or we will all answer!!!

Lynn November 01, 2010 | 12:14 PM

You had me at "teenagers suck."

Dee November 01, 2010 | 12:11 PM

OMG Emma!! I agree there is no way you actually have teenagers. I have three and yes they are nice, giving, bright people, yet this article nails them to a tee! Funny, my oldest teen is named Emma . . . is that you??

Rachel August 21, 2010 | 9:16 AM

I have a feeling Emma does not have teenagers of her own, and only sees other people's teenagers. Oh yes, my teenager is exemplary when in the company of others besides his mom and dad! He is cooperative, pleasant, helpful, willing, giving....... a great kid. But give him a task to do at home, a chore, and it's the eyes rolling, "I got to do my homework" and do "I have to do it now" type of attitude. Not to mention the grotesquely twisted 'I am in severe pain' facial expression. The point is that those tasks which are boring, difficult, or obligatory (which is the majority of tasks asked by parents) are most likely to help them develop characteristics like responsibility and self-discipline. Self discipline comes when we do what we don't really want to do, but know that it is necessary to do.

Jackmom February 15, 2010 | 7:21 AM

Sorry, Em, but this article is dead-on with the majority of teens I know (and I work with 700 of them every day). Thanks for the ammunition. We are currently in the thick of this battle at our house -- I stood by and watched him wash the dishes at midnight (because he'd put it off for days), gagging because of the smell of dried-on yogurt. I am copying him this article (see, it's NOT just me nagging you -- it's a movement) along with his list. Bless you. You betcha I'm buying your book.

Emma August 10, 2009 | 7:46 AM

Wow, this is a bitter article. You can't possibly have met more than three teenagers in order to write such a narrow-minded and horribly stereotypical article. Although it's being a teen can be difficult, and they can often be selfish and overly-argumentative, the vast majority are actually very nice, giving and bright people. They're going to be the ones running the world in not too many years, so why don't you start giving them a bit more credit?

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