Teenagers and the chore wars

Being at home with the family during lockdown has – overall – been brilliant. We’ve all got along surprisingly well and we’re doing more together, sharing more and have more fun than we have for years.

But there are bound to be flashpoints and I’m sure we’re not alone with one of them being how much the teens are helping around the home.

I feel I’ve done a reasonable job in raising my young adults. They might not be in the local papers for volunteering efforts but they’re empathetic, responsible, caring and kind. And yet when it comes to chores, there’s a bit of a blind spot. I take this much too personally – why can’t they see that by not doing their bit they make my life so much harder; don’t they love me?!

It’s been even more frustrating during lockdown as the teens have extra chill time, and while I’m racing around trying to work from home, keep the place tidy, shop, and oversee the constant cooking of meals and snacks (and the clearing up afterwards) they’re lolling about watching Netflix and taking long baths.

So I started reading up about the teenage brain and realised that it’s not just my parenting fails. Teenagers are hard-wired to be inward-focused. The brain process that makes teenagers selfish and self-centred is also the part which boosts their ability to learn and develop their independence. They also have problems with remembering future tasks:

Teenagers have poor prospective memories which means they are not very good at holding things in their heads to remember to do later. When you nag them, it really does go in one ear and out the other.https://www.anitacleare.co.uk/weird-wonderful-facts-teenagers/

That made me feel much better, but then I found loads of articles with helpful tips that I’ve tried plenty of variations of, all with limited success:

    • Daily blitz sessions, set to music
    • Competitive ‘zone’ cleaning
    • Set expectations out on a schedule, with reasonable consequences if this isn’t followed
    • ‘Extra’ paid chores
So I’ve decided to resort to my default parenting advice, which is “pick your battles”. Take their bedrooms – most teenagers just don’t see the need for a tidy room. There’s a theory that young adults don’t develop their organisational abilities enough at this age to build in time to tidy as they go but I think they’re just not bothered – my youngest says “a tidy house isn’t necessary” ???? Experts say you need to be careful not to constantly tell them you don’t understand how they can live in a mess, as it can lead to feelings of inadequacy and they’ll start to think you feel they’re lazy and irresponsible at core. I see this as perfect justification to tell them to live as they want in their own space, as long as they keep their bedroom doors shut, change their sheets when clean ones are put outside, and remember that only clothes in the washing basket get washed.
The hill I am going to die on is the dirty dishes… wish me luck and if you have any brilliant strategies other than to starve them into submission, please do leave us a comment below!
Louise & Anna x


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