Dear Your Teen:
I am embarrassed to admit this, but my teenager is a slob and we pick up after him. He walks into the house and deposits all of his personal belongings on the floor. Worse yet, when he finishes an apple, he leaves the core on the table. He has no household responsibilities. What should I do?
I would recommend that you give your teenager regular chores, and as soon as possible. This type of responsibility will help the cleanliness of your house, but more importantly, it will help your son or daughter prepare for the real world in five important ways.
The benefits of chores
When you make a mess YOU are obligated to clean it up. The most straightforward reason your teenager needs to do chores is to drive the point home that he is responsible for his actions in the world (and the messes he makes).
When you live with other people, you’re obliged to contribute to the general upkeep of common living areas. Chores help your teenager learn to pull her own weight when it comes to keeping shared spaces clean, which is exactly what she’ll need to be able to do when she goes off to college.
Organization and Prioritizing
Chores are unpleasant for most teenagers. Unfortunately, life is filled with unpleasant but necessary tasks. Chores provide the chance for your teenagers to practice making time for necessary evils like routine maintenance in their schedule of otherwise fun or meaningful activities. This helps them learn how to plan, organize and prioritize
Sensitivity for Others
There are some things we all do because it is important to someone else (like, say, a spouse or college roommate). Chores provide your teenagers with a clear message that the world doesn’t revolve around them and they need to take other people’s feelings and sensibilities into consideration.
Pride in a Job Well Done
It is important to take pride in even the most insignificant tasks. Chores help your teenagers learn that every task is an opportunity to work their hardest and do their best.
Like so many time-honored parental expectations, household chores have a value more significant than the practical issue of household maintenance. That said, what is the most important reason kids should do chores?
Because you said so, of course.
Dr. James G. Wellborn is a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Brentwood, Tenn., focusing on adolescents and families. He is the author of the book Raising Teens in the 21st Century: A Practical Guide to Effective Parenting.