Chores: One of the most dreaded words for any teenager and one of the most frustrating ones for any parent.
Is there a way for families to split up tasks without major fights and headaches? Fortunately, the answer is, "Yes!" But how you achieve that goal is a little different for each household.
That's why I have developed this choose your own adventure-style guide for making (and keeping) a chore schedule based on my experience coaching many parents on time management.
Let the adventure begin!
Get Clear on Your Priorities
Before you decide on how to implement a chore schedule, you need to determine what's most important to you. Here are some examples of what you can decide:
A) I'm completely overwhelmed between work and other responsibilities. I really need my kids to chip in on everything from laundry to meals to yard work.
B) I can handle day-to-day household activities, but would really like more assistance with weekly chores to keep the public spaces of the house looking nice and ordered.
C) I want my teens to focus on schoolwork and activities first. I'm not overloaded by housework, but simply want them to clean up messes they make.
Talk With Your Teens
Once you're clear on what you want to achieve, it's time to talk with your kids about how you can work together to accomplish these goals. Here are some possible scenarios of how this could happen.
A) We already have a weekly family meeting and my teens already do some chores. During our next group conversation, I can bring up my thoughts of what I would like to see happen to take our family teamwork to the next level.
B) We have chore lists, but no one really pays attention to them so I end up doing the work, nagging people or just being frustrated with a messy house. I need to call a special family meeting for us to discuss what's happening, why it's happening and how we could do things differently in the future.
C) My children currently take no responsibility for household work. I need to talk with each of them one-on-one about why I think it's fair (and good practice for college) for them to take on some responsibility for themselves.
Review Your Schedule
You need to make sure both you and your children are clear on when you expect them to get chores done and how much they can complete.
A) My teens have plenty of time to get more done around the house. We just need to talk through some routines for using their time wisely and put some guides in place like no TV until certain household activities are completed.
B) Most days, my children have time to help around the house and there is usually always time on the weekend for weekly chores. There will be some weeks -- like when they have tech rehearsals or finals -- where they may not have spare time.
C) My teens barely have enough time to eat or sleep. On a daily basis, I would just like them to spend a few minutes clearing their dishes and putting laundry away. On the weekend, it would be great for them to help a bit more.
Clarify Your Expectations
Once you have agreement on priorities and have a sense of the schedule, it's time to get crystal-clear on expectations. These should be written out and posted in a very obvious place and include: Who is responsible, what they need to do, when they need to complete it and any standards for results. Here are some possible scenarios:
A) Designate Saturday mornings as a time for the whole family to work on chores. Each week, family members select their responsibilities and work on them at the same time. A parent does a quality check at the end.
B) Have a rotating chore schedule where each person ends up doing every chore but they change each week. Clearly lay out the designated activities in an Excel sheet or by writing on a large message board who is responsible for what and when the job will be checked.
C) Assign certain family members to certain tasks like cleaning the kitchen or taking out the garbage. Don't change who is responsible for which activities, but do have a regular check-in to make sure they are completed.
Build in Rewards
Accountability should not only happen to make sure chores get done but also to reward positive behavior. Consider these motivation strategies:
A) Make chores something that needs to be done before your teen's favorite high frequency activities (spending time with friends, playing on the computer, reading, etc.).
B) Consider giving your children privileges like the ability to use their cell phone or borrow the car based on them sharing in the responsibility of doing chores. This helps them create more of a "real world" mentality about work and reward.
C) Give your teens the opportunity to earn a larger reward like a family dinner at a favorite restaurant, a visit to the movie theater or a trip to the beach for a successful month's worth of completing chores.
DO: Assess Your Results
After a month or two of trying some of these options, assess what's working or not working and adjust as necessary. It's OK to try a few different strategies before finding one to stick with for an extended period of time.
Don't: Turn Chores Into an Emotional Battle: Nagging, criticizing, changing the rules, withholding earned rewards, randomly changing expectations, forgetting to hold your kids accountable or getting angry and yelling will not lead to your teens wanting to help you more. It's best to evaluate and calmly -- but firmly -- adjust and move forward when things don't go as planned.
With a bit of strategy and a lot of communication and persistence you can make (and keep) a chore schedule for your family.
About Real Life E®
Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the founder and CEO of Real Life E® a time coaching and training company that empowers individuals who feel guilty, overwhelmed and frustrated to feel peaceful, confident and accomplished through an exclusive Schedule Makeover™ process. She is an expert on achieving more success with less stress. Real Life E® also increases employee productivity, satisfaction and work/life balance through custom training programs.
McGraw Hill published her first book The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success with Less Stress. Elizabeth contributes to blogs like Lifehacker, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and the 99U blog on productivity for creative professionals. She was selected as one of the Top 25 Amazing Women of the Year by Stiletto Woman.