Teens and chores…seems like an oxymoron I know but hang on.
I’m going to take you through what we did this summer and how this one tweak of our system of chores for teens dramatically changed our household.
I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for 17 years and a work-at-home mom for 10.
But in the spring I decided to take on a temp job outside the house. It was only supposed to be for a week or two.
Yet, it’s August and I’m still there.
The job is pretty easy, but the time away and the change in my schedule has kicked my butt.
If I sit down on the couch once I get home, I’m sure to fall asleep. It’s only 2 pm!
So I once I knew I’d be staying, at least for the time being, I knew I needed help.
Over the years the kids have helped with many of the household chores, but it was usually on an as-needed basis.
I’ve made chore charts and nagged.
Complained that I was overwhelmed, overworked, and stressed. Nothing worked.
So what finally did?
I gave them all the chores for the summer and divided them not by day or week or even with a check-off list.
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The chores for teens system that finally worked
I made written instructions and assigned them each a whole month to each zone.
3 kids, 3 zones, 3 months.
Hmmm funny how that worked so well.
Here’s how the cleaning zones were split…
- Laundry Plus
After explaining how it would all work, I posted the lists on the refrigerator and an additional print of the laundry instructions were taped to the washing machine.
Each person had a total of 4 weeks and then it would switch. *HINT* huge key to success!
On each list was also the dates each kid was assigned to the task.
- Teen #1 – Kitchen
- Teen #2 – Laundry Plus
- Teen #3 – Bathroom
- Teen #1 – Laundry Plus
- Teen # 2 – Bathroom
- Teen #3 – Kitchen
- Teen #1 – Bathroom
- Teen #2 – Kitchen
- Teen #3 – Laundry Plus
I put in a buffer weekend in between each switch. During that weekend I would take back the chores and teach each of them their new job.
This kept miscommunications low on how and when to do their assignments. As well as a chance to adjust anything that didn’t work during the last rotation of duties.
Each of them was also required to:
- Put their clothes at the laundry area
- Strip their beds every Monday and put it at the laundry
- Keep their room picked up
Below is a copy of each page of the chores for teens by zone.
Of course, yours might be different especially since I have written directions specific to our model of washer and dryer.
Maybe you actually have a dishwasher rather than a kitchen built in 1956.
- Dishes – Wash, dry, put away
- Sink – Empty drain and rinse the sink after doing dishes
- Counter and Table – wipe and dry counters with clean linens
- Trash – take out when full and put barrels on street on Tuesday night, take back after pickup on Wednesday
- Floors – sweep
- Dinner – helper
- Grocery – helper
- Microwave – wipe inside and out
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- Add clothes to washer, do not overstuff
- Add ½ cap full of laundry detergent
- Turn to Normal Regular 9
- Pull knob
- Turn to Energy Preferred and push button
- Empty Lint Trap
- Fold neatly when done and deliver to each person
The laundry person will also be responsible for:
- Vacuuming the porch, living room and dining room.
- Dusting -including the hallway floor
- Watering the indoor plants
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Use Spic and Span. Spray everywhere except inside the toilet and dry with paper towels.
Do not put paper towels in the toilet
- Toilet – In bowl use Clorox Gel, leave while cleaning the bathroom. Wipe seat, both sides, handle, lid, cover, and rim, outside bowl
- Sink – faucets and basin, and counter
- Doorknobs, light switches, mirrors
- Change hand towels, empty trash, sweep the floor and if needed fill the soap dispenser
- Go back and scrub the bowl with the brush
So how well did the chore assignments actually work?
Pros of Our Chores for Teens System
This was amazing! For real. Now I didn’t say perfect, but it was so fantastic to come home to all the housework done.
Now I’m sure part of the reason was that my husband worked nights so he was home.
Although he was asleep, the incentive that he wouldn’t get on their case when he got up was motivating for sure.
And since we expected good results and cooperation we got it.
Now I suppose things could have gone wrong if the kids didn’t follow through.
If that happens, that’s a bit of a different problem that requires appropriate consequences like, “until chores are complete you can’t go out with friends” or something of that sort.
Potentially missing out on social time is a great motivator around here.
- Very little complaining.
I wasn’t here to hear it, but they also don’t complain to their father. If there were duties to be done after I got home, they were still pretty good about it.
- All the kids now know how to do all the chores.
Yes, it’s true they had helped with all of them before. But this time they were “in charge” of it and therefore responsible for it. And they stepped up.
Each kid had jobs they liked better than others and wouldn’t you know, those chores were done a bit better and with less prompting.
- They each realized what it’s like to have to do household duties time and time again.
That it’s not fun or fair when someone dumps a bunch of laundry at once or fills the sink with endless cups instead of reusing them.
It made them appreciate the jobs required as part of a family and they certainly appreciated someone else taking care of it when they realized what a crappy job it was.
They often helped each other to get jobs done faster so they could go have fun.
Cons of our chores for teens system
- Needing to let go of the outcome.
This really was the only downside of the whole summer chore experiment.
Because each one of them had preferences, strengths, and weaknesses, some jobs were done more timely than others and sometimes the quality wasn’t quite what we wanted.
The first part of the summer they seemed to get chores they were better at and enjoyed more and the last month they all seemed to get ones they didn’t like so much. Ah, such is life.
Given their ages (17, 13, and 11) and the easy nature of the chores the standards could be raised quite a bit than if they were much younger.
Some things simply required a bit more instruction or practice.
Like folding so clothes don’t look like you sleep in them, lol.
Other times it was just a matter of patience letting them do them within a reasonable timeline or their way rather than swooping in and taking over.
For instance, chores don’t have to be completed the minute you get up, but you’re not taking off for the whole day without doing them.
It also stood out that sometimes they did the job frequently enough but not quite the best. Or they did a great job but not often enough.
In my opinion, the reason it worked the best was the length of time for each assignment. It was long enough to give them time to get better before moving on to something different. Also, there was never any question as to whose job was whose or what they were responsible for doing.
All and all it was such a great change in our family.
The summer is nearly done and the kids return to school in just a few weeks.
I will still be working (and doing the blog thing) so I’m not really sure what will happen since my workday will be shorter than their school day and they also have homework and sports so…*sigh
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Wednesday 14th of September 2022
I love this. Are these paid chores? I know that’s personal, many different options on this topic - but if so, I’m curious when “pay day” would be for a monthly chore cycle? Thanks for this!
Saturday 17th of September 2022
I am so pleased you liked the chore idea. No, we don't pay them. We have always made it a point to include them in day-to-day chores, even from an early age. And have continually reminded them that chores and helping each other are not only part of being a family but part of life. Someday, they will have to do chores for their own homes whether they want to or not, and without pay, lol. If you do want to pay them an allowance, it could be set up for extra tasks. Like cleaning the garage, cleaning out or washing the car. And could be paid by the task. Just a thought. If you do pay them for the chores, weekly would keep them more motivated and help them learn budgeting that most resembles most jobs. Thanks so much for commenting.
Monday 27th of June 2022
How often do you have them clean the bathroom
Tuesday 12th of July 2022
Hi Tanya, So sorry, I somehow missed your comment. I usually have them do a full bathroom cleaning once per week. With that said, everyone keeps up with rinsing the shower when they are finished and the sink and toilet are also given a quick clean-up as necessary.
Thursday 9th of June 2022
Thanks for the awesome tips! We will definitely be adding your chores for teens system into our home. We just had a professional out who did amazing work, but unfortunately, our teens kind of wreaked havoc not one week later. We didn't do a great job of teaching them how to do chores when they were younger and you gave us some hope that it's not too late to start now. Thanks again.
Friday 10th of June 2022
Hi Alicia, Glad you like the ideas. Yes, there is still hope. 4 years later, I work from home again so I don't depend on them quite as much but they all still do their own laundry and each takes care of their own bathroom, without even asking! Dishes, not so much, lol. The youngest, 14 does all the lawn care (a big yard), and still loves cooking. All of them have jobs outside the house (their choice). The most important lesson is if they can recognize no one should have to do all of it, that your time is important too, you're on the right track. Thanks for commenting.
Friday 4th of September 2020
Hi! How do you plan with two kids? Should I take one of the jobs I like best, say Kitchen?
Saturday 5th of September 2020
Hey Kari, I would consider the needs of your family, your household, and the ages of the kids. Do you have other jobs, zones you can add-in to balance the chore list, like lawn care or windows. Maybe you have more than 1 bathroom, so one kid does each. Laundry and bathroom zones could be together since those are a bit less involved. The kitchen tends to have more work since it's always a daily thing, especially if you add in meal planning. You could have them be the grocery helper, which can include list building or even online shopping since some people aren't going to the grocery store right now. Just create two relatively even lists. The time each takes and the skill involved are more important when dividing rather than the number of jobs. Then choose a time frame for swapping like monthly or weekly. I thought monthly was great since it gave kids a more realistic idea, but they like it better weekly since monthly seemed so long when they didn't like a job. Guess it was realistic, LOL. I'd love to hear what you come up with and how it works out. Thanks for commenting.
Thursday 30th of July 2020
So did you use a calendar and have each kid do there assigned chore on a specific day or did they have the whole week to complete that chore? Thank you.
Thursday 30th of July 2020
Hi Kristy, I really didn't get picky on what days things were done as long as it was kept up with. The kitchen was pretty much ongoing every day. The bathroom was done 1-2 times per week as needed, we have 3. And the laundry was a load or two every day or two, again depending. They seemed to keep up with everything for the most part with a few reminders here and there. If they need more structure, having a set day would be good so things don't get rolled into the next week, especially since it was their job for a whole month you wouldn't want them to only clean the bathroom once every 10 days. We also encouraged them to get things done on days they had nothing else to do, so that they wouldn't be stuck with chores when they wanted to head out with friends...but of course this year, that's not really a problem since no one is going out. Funny too, last fall once school started and I didn't expect as much from them, they all still put in loads of laundry as needed without being asked, so there's that. Dishes, not so much, lol....Thanks for commenting.