Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Want to Help Your Teenagers Do Chores With Better Attitudes

What is Steve doing writing about Teenagers on a Productivity Blog? Honestly, one of my biggest productivity challenges has been GETTING MY TEENAGER TO DO THINGS. Here are some thoughts...

You are probably saying, “You’ve got to be kidding.  There are a few impossible things in this world, and teenagers happily doing chores is near the top of the impossible scale."  But wouldn’t you like to know a few tips to help make life easier for you and more productive in your home?  Let’s explore a couple techniques that are effective with teenagers.

Doing The Boring Chores

In our house we have two different lists for our kids.  There is a list that is printed that has recurring tasks that must be done around the house everyday and it’s boring and repetitive.  Here’s a sample of the daily chore list for our house.  We have three lists similar to this that cover all the regular chores (one list per kid). The list are rotated each week to reduce the boring factor just a little bit.

Achieving The Household Necessities
Then there is the all the things that are one time things like painting the garage door trim or hall the tree stumps to the fire pit.  These jobs are little more involved and there are dozens of them.  I’ll bet you could name a few of your own...
  1. Clean out refrigerator
  2. Clean living room windows
  3. Clean bathroom floor grout with tooth brush
  4. Paint window sill
  5. Clean oven
  6. Mulch the flower bed
Note that teanagers are, “Not as smart as they think they are and much more capable than they believe.”  I’ve coined this phrase as an axiom for life and it applies just as much to me as it does to my teenagers.  And since they are much more capable than they believe, they can do very difficult things and tedious things and overcome some of their fears about household maintenance.

Improving The Attitude

I’ve been doing experiments with my kids for years to figure out how to make chores and house maintenance a regular part of childhood and an accepted part of the weekly routine.  This is very challenging, but I’ve hit upon a couple things that seem to work pretty well.

  1. Boring chores will be boring, but they are the gateway to TV, iPod Touch, computer and the like.

Creating a routine where all digital things are unavailable until the boring chores get done can be an excellent way to enable your kids to achieve doneness before moving on to their most prized adventures. After several sessions of re-do’s for different jobs that were not quite right, this system worked out well for just keeping pace with the mess we make everyday of our lives.

  1. Home maintenance chores require a little more creativity, but a similar reward structure.

I have engaged technology to help me manage my list of home maintenance activities.  I mounted a tablet on my kitchen wall and named it “Gimli” (We are big fans of Lord of the Rings). Little gimli hosts only a couple apps: Calendar and Trello.  The calendar is synchronized with the family’s google calendar and Trello is a web app that provides a beautiful interface for hosting a pictorial tasks list.

My kids don’t love the fact they have to do chores and home maintenance, but they are now in the habit of doing 1-trello task per week during the school year and 2-trello tasks per week during the summer. They also do 1-trello task on a Saturday after cleaning their rooms.  I also have some tasks that I’m willing to pay for and the dollar amount is listed in the item description.  I find that it’s not very motivational for them to make money, so I let them pick either a paid item or non-paid item.  


What helps your teenagers attitude...
  1. Regularly scheduled work
  2. A pick list instead of specific assigned tasks (for extra maintenance items)
  3. A very accessible list of items
  4. A graphical list of items vs. just word for word description
  5. Getting the fun you want after you do the work

Please let me know if you’ve tried other things that work for you. If you have some specific questions about implementation of any technology or tips, please post a comment or send me an e-mail.

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-Best Regards, Steve.