Parenting Strategies for Chores and Teen Time

by Mar 12, 2018Nutritional Psychology, Resources & Articles

Often, while treating teens that have eating problems, we find parents need help teaching teens positive ways to take responsibility and help around the house. Keeping things at home upbeat, while teaching teens young adult survival skills plays a huge part in long term success…


Summary of Parenting Strategies for Chores and Teen Time / Goal Management

These suggestions emerge from years of work with parents, and are based on the concept of encouraging confidence and wholeness in the emerging teen psyche as well as containment. Containment is mirrored by the parents’ emotional containment, along with adhering to established limits and boundaries with regard to family rules, chores, time management and expectations:

  1. Despite all appearances, teens want to accomplish things, to meet goals, and contribute the ‘tribe’…in this case the household. (Exceptions are those teens seeking negative attention through passivity aggressive means).
  2. Our job is to find that part of them and facilitate the emergence of the ‘contributor’, productive side of them.
  3. The biggest error parents make in facilitating the discovery and cultivation of teen productivity at home, is assuming that its not there. Out of fear, parents often over-react to teen passivity about clean rooms and homework done.  Parental expression of distrust or disappointment to early on, squelches the teens’ drive to believe in themselves. Remember, they are already privately questioning whether or not they will be “successful”, whether they will “make something of themselves”, although social success with peers is often higher on the list. In short parents often nag, express upset and concern in reactive manner early on when chores, or timing or goals are not being met as planned.
  4. Yelling at teens, being overtly critical in a personalized hurtful manner will be destructive toward the goals of raising them to do chores, and manage time.
  5. Teens need to be talked to in a particularly calm, accepting manner when it comes to chores or working on time goals, or homework/study habits. This is an area where we are trying to elicit their pride in themselves, like an elder might do. The idea is to meet about setting up chores WITHOUT an authoritative tone, and without a tone or manner which suggests, “we know you don’t follow through so…How is this going to work…You never finish anything we ask…and its time that you start (blah blah)”.
  6. The content of the talk about chores, is based on the idea that “we need your help around the house” and we want to brainstorm about what would work best for that to happen.
  7. The talk would ideally acknowledge the teen’s schedule, pressures, etc. The point of the talk is to respectfully engage the teen in brainstorming about chores.
  8. Parents should suggest an array of chores, or ask if there is something the teen notices that needs to get done around the house. Inquire about the teens’ input about the chores done, the timing that would work best.
  9. Never lecture. If you as a parent are lecturing, ever, ask yourself what makes you think that your words are getting in and making a difference. Save the few lectures you ever give in the entire time your teen is in the home to a few, based on their security and safety. Pick your battles.
  10. The teen is being asked to add to what they contribute, they are given reasons why they are being asked, (basic reasons that make sense), and those reasons do not include, “its about time you learned how to take care of”…rather examples are:
    • “We need your help washing the cars
    • Now that you are about to drive (or are such and such an age), we know getting a car washed is important for you to know how to do and we certainly need the help
    • It will save so much time and money to start to have your help cleaning the inside and outside of car, (or refrigerator)
    • We can get you started with few pointers… may help with a job around the neighborhood at some point for extra money for you
    • We want to contribute to your getting an allowance, and this is a good way to earn it…”
  11. These examples show trust and tie in the idea of an eventual job, certainly getting allowance or acknowledging a trade for something the teen is having as a privilege.
  12. Often it is helpful to give a choice of several jobs, like 5 choices, of which they choose 3. It is also helpful to let them present what day and time ranges might work best for them.  Then parents choose which ones sound best and set it up…
  13. Key is that parents say light heartedly, and if we prompt you to do the chore and you don’t do it, what do you think the consequence should be? The point is to navigate it as a problem that could come up and you as parents are respectfully asking for input.
  14. When the time comes and they are not remembering or acting on the chore schedule, follow through with what was discussed. It is often helpful as one option to say, “This is the time to wash the dishes (or car, or…), lets get it done in the next ½ hour.” Here is where there is still a tone of respect, but this is where it is generally not negotiable (think paying income tax, or showing up to work), these adult arenas are not negotiable. It doesn’t mean we didn’t try and push the limits at any point in our own life…but this is where teens learn.
  15. Then, unless there are very dire circumstances, hold to the limit. In other words, calmly and still with respect but with some tone of kind, firm authority, insist that the chore be done now (assuming the half hour has passed).
  16. The bottom line, is that the parent needs to be present to follow through, even if it is a text from work, or whatever it takes to get success out of the teen. When they have done it…”GREAT!”  versus “Well its about time”… or … You don’t do a very good job”…
  17. In checking the quality of the job… always find something to praise first and foremost. The idea is to build a sense of pride and self trust in the teen.  99% of the time, the quality of the job will be far less than ideal.  At first, stay encouraging, not critical.  Over time, build in more specifics about how the job quality could improve while also giving ideas for how to make the job more fun … Play music while working as example.
  18. With teens, few words. Every word they have to listen to can be grating.
  19. Questions are often perceived as intrusive, rather than caring! The best communication occurs between teens and adult when the adult stops basing conversations by asking questions, such as, “how was your day?”, “have you done your homework?”, “what did so and so say to so and so after the dance?”.
  20. With homework, or solutions to time management, the same type of approach applies as above…with problem solving using mutual respect, then an agreement that is left on a positive note (i.e. with the assumption that it is going to work, NOT bringing up past failures even if they were many), assume past failures in teen performance at chores, or setting up home based time management goals is due to parents not knowing how to elicit the desired outcome, so no need to dump past failure onto the teen’s forming self- concept.
  21. Treat the discussion with the teen like you might treat your own friend, with the same tone of respect that you might have negotiated sharing chores with college roommate.
  22. Having the chores include “keeping their room clean” is not the place to start, or even to include in general. The chores are better to include the family home or property where they contribute. The room is where they learn the consequences of their own actions, and have to live in what they create. It is their own space. If it gets too overwhelming, parents can volunteer to help them and together, with music on, or a podcast, find ways to make the job fun, showing them that when things are
  23. There are times where you as a parent might employ an authoritative tone, for example, if teen is not doing something safely, or blatantly disregards a limit. In other words parents are still in charge, and need to establish boundaries and rules to keep the teen safe, but generally the idea is to build the teens’ sense of importance as a human being, helping them with the self respect necessary to become a highly functional adult.
  24. If there is a critical tone used by a parent, including yelling, “you” statements, physical abuse, those attitudes will become integrated into the teens way of talking to him/herself. The teen integrates the parents tone, and manner of setting limits and keeping them. Throughout life, we motivate ourselves or inhibit our motivation through the way we deal with ourselves, and much of that is learned.
  25. Parents that are passive, too forgiving, “co-dependent”, who don’t have clearly discussed expectations, and who don’t check up on and maintain those expectations, even though it takes more time to check the work and comment on it, will foster passivity (misunderstood as “laziness”) in their teen. If a teen isn’t inspired to work hard and keep up, the adult must ask themselves why.  If parents don’t hold expectations steady, and make sure they are followed through with, teens will give up. They are too young to follow through “just because they should”; rather they need to be positively checked on, encouraged, then the bar can be raised, and on from there.
  26. Parents have to figure out what is too much to expect in today’s world of high school, sports, grades, volunteering, outside job pressures. It is key that teens have some down time that which is technology free to read, do a craft, relax. 


  • Just like in any mutual adult relationship, teens need to be right in a debate, at least half the time. In other words, if the parent has to have the last word in debates or arguments, that parent loses the chance to help boost that teen into a secure self as an adult.
  • Suggestions for adults include, “you are right, I hadn’t thought of that.” “Good point, tell me more about what you are thinking”.  “I’ll have to give that idea some more thought”.  “You are giving me some things to consider, I’m not sure I completely agree but I’ll give it some time and get back about it.”
  • Also….. this is the time for a question (in a disagreement)… Such as, “What do you think?” (not sarcastic), even if as a parent you know what they think and disagree… asking them is the considerate thing to do and it will discharge pent up feelings.
  • Watch timing. Don’t bring up discussion about chores or timing, at a stressful, low moment.  Consider ideal timing, and keep it short.
  • Avoid bringing your own adult psychological problems into your child or teens life. They are absolutely incapable of holding the emotional overwhelm parent’s personal problems cause, since as kids, they depend on parent strength and security.  They are not selfish for not wanting to hear about your emotional problems, it is actually quite damaging.
  • It is very helpful to apologize to teens, and to calmly, with self respect, demonstrate the ability to acknowledge a mistake as a parent. Again this is not to become “needy” toward the teen for forgiveness… rather to demonstrate sincere regard for the relationship and to own and take responsibility for your own errors.
  • Admitting to past errors can be very helpful and therapeutic to teens.
  • Talking negatively with teen about the other parent is anxiety producing and undermining to their security, although a wry acknowledgment now and then is not so harmful, and can help with a bit of emotional intelligence.


Photo by Casey Allen on Unsplash
About the Author

Francie White


Francie White is a theorist and practitioner in the science and art of nutritional psychology as well as a creative force investigating and teaching about philosophies of consciousness. She has a 35 year history at the forefront of treatment for all types of disordered eating, which parallels her abounding interest in the deeper questions about the nature of reality, and the importance of resurrecting wonder within the journey of human life.



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