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#ParentHack: Getting Teens To Do Chores (With A Contest)

I can’t explain why it drives me wild. But the fact is that it does. Why are my husband and I the only ones in the house with the specialized skill of replacing the toilet paper?

Apparently, this is not a new problem. In the 1940s, my grandma was declaring anyone (male or female) who left an empty toilet paper roll to be “The Meanest Man in the World.” If Depression-born and World War II-raised kids weren’t changing the toilet paper back in the day, is there any hope for my 21st-century teens?

I like to think there is hope. Maybe there is a way to teach them the art of replacing the toilet paper! Of course, that hope is mixed with a healthy dose of desperation. And in my house, desperation calls for a contest.

getting teens to do chores

Here’s the plan: The three kids need to collectively get to 20 points. (20 points = ice cream at the new place that opened near us.) Each time one of them replaces a toilet paper roll, they get to add a tally mark to our kitchen chalkboard. Each time I find an empty roll, I erase a mark.

Six weeks in, they’re finally at 14 marks.

Is this success? Well, given that without this contest they would have been at about negative 50 and that they are actually making an effort to do it, I’m counting it as overwhelming progress.

It’s very slow, but we are sticking with it. And the kids are definitely improving as they go. It’s kind of like parenting in general, you know? We’re getting there. Maybe not immediately, but eventually. Slowly but surely, we’re getting there.

And, hey, as long as we’re taking the leisurely route, why not stop for ice cream?

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Sharon Holbrook

Sharon Holbrook is managing editor of Your Teen.