The summer holidays are here. Teenagers around the world are already making plans to socialise with friends. But very few are thinking about household chores and cleaning.
Teenagers are notoriously resistant to housework in all its forms. Yet they’re often the ones that cause the most mess in a family home. Whether it’s a dirty towel on the bathroom floor or crumbs on the kitchen worktop, the responsibility of cleaning the mess often lies with the parent.
It’s only right that teenagers do their fair share at home. But that’s easier said than done, right? After all, the last thing you want to do is cause friction and ill-feeling at the beginning of the school holidays.
But if you approach the situation in a constructive way, you should be able to get your stroppy teenager to cooperate. Here are eight simple tips for getting a teenager to clean in the home.
1. Try to be flexible
Teenagers often want to test the boundaries of their own independence and free will. If you start laying down the law when it comes to household chores, you might face a lot of resistance.
It’s usually better to take a more flexible approach. If your teenager’s bedroom needs to be cleaned, issue a soft deadline. For example, rather than saying “now”, say “by the end of the day”. Or if you’ve assigned a particular chore to your teenager, make it a weekly one — and let them decide exactly when they do it.
This flexible approach teaches teenagers a few valuable life lessons. Self-discipline, planning, organising and compromise are all necessary if the flexible approach is going to work.
2. Make allowances part of the deal
Whether you give your teenager an allowance or pay for privileges and activities, these rewards should be linked to household chores. Tell your teenager that these benefits will only be paid if the necessary chores are carried out to your satisfaction.
Remember: this doesn’t have to be confrontational.
When a teenager knows that there’s a reward involved, they’re far more likely to put serious effort into the relevant household chores.
3. Create a schedule
It’s important to set out the rules and expectations when it comes to household chores. After all, very few teenagers will proactively take on cleaning tasks without being managed in some way.
At the very beginning of the summer, assign your teenager all their cleaning responsibilities. Number one should be their own room. But it’s only fair that other household chores are assigned appropriately.
For example, you might decide that your teenager should clean the breakfast dishes before they meet their friends. You may decide to put them in charge of a particular task, such as vacuuming or cleaning the bathroom.
Structure is very important. If a teenager knows what is expected from the outset, they’re far more likely to get on board. The worst thing you can do is ruin your child’s plans with an unexpected, last-minute chore. This will simply create an atmosphere. And the job in question probably won’t be carried out to a high standard.
4. Establish consequences
What happens if your teenager simply refuses to clean their room or take their cleaning responsibilities seriously? Well, for a start, your home will be messier and dirtier than it needs to be. And you’ll have more work to do as a result.
If your teenager doesn’t play ball, there has to be consequences. You could, for example, stop their allowance. You can also restrict their time with friends or confiscate some of their favourite possessions.
The consequences you decide on are both a deterrent and a punishment. But it’s important to explain your actions — otherwise the consequences might come across as over the top and spiteful. Tell your teenager why you’re imposing the consequences. And relate it all back to the real world.
5. Show them the benefits
Teenagers see housework as a chore — something that must be endured. But all too often they lose sight of the benefits involved. Take their bedroom, for instance. If it’s constantly messy and dirty, that becomes the norm. And in this situation, it’s hard to see the wood for the trees.
Sit your teenager down, and show them some photos of how a well-maintained bedroom can look. Pinterest is great for this kind of demonstration. Talk about all the possibilities a clean and tidy bedroom offers — including socialising opportunities and leisure pursuits.
And offer an incentive to keep the bedroom clean and tidy throughout the summer. For example, tell your teenager you’ll decorate if the room is kept presentable for two weeks. Once they see the benefits of their hard work, they’re more likely to maintain their efforts.
6. Give them some independence
Don’t try to micromanage your teenager’s cleaning schedules. This is a recipe for conflict. Instead, set out your broad expectations, and assign specific tasks. But don’t attach deadlines or impose your way of doing things.
By all means, show them how you tackle these tasks. But let your teenager develop their own approach. You might find this difficult, but it’s important that you’re seen to be giving your child respect and independence.
7. Respect their privacy
Teenagers demand privacy. While you rightly want your child to keep their bedroom clean and tidy, you should try to respect their personal space.
Create a routine whereby you enter their bedroom at the same time every day. This is your opportunity to collect rubbish and laundry. But it’s also a chance to check on the state of the room.
If you’re not happy, tell your teenager in a constructive way. Ask for the issues to be rectified as quickly as possible. But don’t invade their space to check on progress. Check again the following day when you go in to collect rubbish and laundry.
8. Let them make mistakes
Teenagers are fiercely independent. And no matter how many times you identify the consequences of a dirty, messy bedroom, they won’t take the issue seriously until they experience those consequences.
If a friend suddenly drops by, a filthy bedroom might be a source of extreme embarrassment. A favourite item of clothing that has been festering on the floor for several days will suddenly become a real problem if your teenager wants to wear it for a social engagement.
The last thing on your teenager’s mind is cleaning and household responsibilities. But show them the benefits and consequences involved, and you should be able to cultivate a new-found sense of cooperation.