Parenting and home schooling

How I get my teens to help with the chores without grumbling

I grew up with helpers and older siblings, and doing chores was not part of my learning when I was growing up. In fact, I only learned to cook and clean, and use the washing machine when I decided to move out on my last year at university.

I remember a male friend looking at me oddly when I was struggling to iron bedsheets and he remarked that I wasn’t supposed to do that because they settle by themselves when you fix them on the bed, haha! Another friend, also male, taught me how to work the old washing machine.

Image source: Annie Spratt on Unsplash

But that was just for less than a year because I moved back in right before graduation, so basically, it was when I got married and had a family that I really learned to cook and clean properly. I think I’m a natural, though. All the years of observing others do them and knowing the results I wanted have taught me how to do things around the house. I think I can actually start a housekeeping business, seriously!

But if you have met me in my teen years, you wouldn’t imagine that I can do what I do now, haha! I hated chores and swore I would never do them. I fought with anyone who’d force me to do them and bratted out at every chance I got.

But people change, don’t we? And so do our circumstances.

My kids aren’t particularly fond of chores, especially now that I have two teenagers and a pre-teen who have other things they want to do with their time. But fortunately for me, they don’t grumble or complain whenever they have to help out around here. They do take time to get up and do them sometimes, especially. when they’re working on their personal projects, but I’m grateful that there’s no hint of rebelliousness in them when they’re asked.

We’ve been tiny living for a while now, so chores don’t really take up that much time around here when all hands are on deck. My boys lend a hand in cooking rice, setting the table, washing plates, vacuuming the floor, dusting their room, fixing their beds, and recently, carrying pails and filling basins and the washing machine with water whenever I wash the clothes, which I do two to three times a week nowadays. (We didn’t get the fully automatic washing machine, hence, the pails.)

Aside from vacuuming the floor and taking turns in fixing the pillows and bedsheets, the younger one also waters the plants, take the dirty clothes out of the hamper and transfer them into the laundry basket, replace old towels and fill the pitchers.

Sometimes, when I’m folding clothes, he helps sort out the socks. I think we work well together as a team.

What’s our secret?

We humbly admit that we need help and ask for it.

Jay and I work 8-hour jobs and if we don’t ask the kids for help, meals can get pushed back, chores won’t get done, and everybody’s plans for the day may be affected.

And while we think that knowing how to do chores is an important life skill, we don’t feel the need to impose the chores upon our boys. We simply explain the situation to them and they get it.We don’t command them to do the chores, we talk to them as we would adults.

Neither do we do candied chores to make them seem like play time, because I don’t think it is. Chores can be dull and daunting, and time consuming, but to enjoy living in a nice, clean house, the boys have to realize that they have a role in maintaining it. Play time comes after.

There are times that the kids cannot help. For example, when they’re in the middle of something, like an online class or in the case of Lukas, in the middle of writing a chapter of his book and is on a creative high — then we’ll have to wait until they finish what it is that they’re doing before they get up to help.

Or if we can do it ourselves, why not? And that’s okay.

Jay and I do our fair share of the chores, especially when we’re off work, so it’s not like we leave it all to the boys to take on and get done. Like I said, we work as a team.

And when everyone’s too busy, we just let it be.  Sometimes, we can, sometimes, we can’t. It’s just the way life works.

I think when there’s mutual respect in the house, things get done and it’s easier to work and live together. It is inevitable that one day, the boys will go and live on their own, and perhaps, share a house with roommates, who knows?

I think that it’s not just knowing how to cook and clean that they take with them, but also stewardship, ownership, time management, managing their responsibilities properly, well, yes, hygiene, too…..and some really valuable social skills like setting boundaries and respect for other people’s time and space.

Sometimes we find ourselves focusing too much on learning the actual chore, but there’s so much more we can teach our teens than that.

“Not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” 1 Peter 5:3.