As parents, we are always doing things for our teenagers. Maybe you feel you do too much? In truth, understanding how to teach your teenager independence can be a tricky balance between doing too much for them and not doing enough. But how much is enough? And how much independence should a teenager have?
You are doing too much for your teenagers if you constantly feel underappreciated or find yourself thinking, “how will my teenager ever have enough skills to live independently?” To help your teenager gain independence, it’s time to step back and think about ways to make your teenager more responsible.
A key goal for all parents is to ensure that their teenagers have adequate skills to live independently. There are so many life skills that parents want their teenagers to have, ranging from being able to wash clothes, eat healthfully, plan and prepare meals, manage budgets, and maintain a clean living space.
So how do you teach your teenager independence?
These skills are not learned magically. It’s a parent’s role to teach their teenagers responsibility. The best way to start teaching teenage responsibility is to stop doing everything for your teenager.
I know that giving your teenager a list of responsibilities won’t go over well. Your teen will put up a fuss and either argue with you or just not do the work. In the short term, it may be easier for you to continue to do all of the chores around your house, than to argue with your teenager.
But, you need to think about the long term benefits of giving your teenagers responsibilities. If you continue doing everything for your teenagers, they won’t gain experience or learn to tackle the chores themselves.
Rather than doing everything yourself, make a pledge to hand off some household responsibilities to your teenager, along with the expectation that the jobs are completed. Think of it as on-the-job training to increase your teenager’s independence skills. The more they learn, the better.
Chore List for Teens
There are many chores that you can give to your teenager and ways they can show responsibility around the house. Let’s start in the kitchen.
Suppose I were to brainstorm all of the jobs that need to be done in my kitchen for it to function and for my family to have food to eat. Here are a few of the tasks that come to mind:
- Plan for meals and snacks (ex. 3 meals/day + 2 snack/day for each person)
- Create a weekly grocery list
- Shop for food
- Prepare the meals and snacks
- Keep the kitchen clean (washing counters, washing dishes/pots/pans, cleaning floors)
- Set the table before eating
- Clear the table after eating return extra food to refrigerator
- Wash dishes
- Load/unload dishwasher
- Put away pots/pans/cooking tools
- Throwing food away that can no longer be eaten
- Take out the trash
That’s a long list, and there are probably more tasks that could be added. Wouldn’t it be nice to get help with all of those tasks?
You can! Stop doing it yourself and find ways to encourage your teenager to become involved in the daily operations of the kitchen . Not only will it free up your time, but it will also encourage your teenager to be more independent.
5 Ways to Make Your Teenager More Responsible
Teenagers should have responsibilities. Practicing life skills while living with their parents will help them live independently as young adults. The last thing you want is for your teenager to leave for college or move into an apartment and not have the skills they need to be successful.
Here are five ways to make your teenager more responsible and helpful in the kitchen:
1. Brainstorm Your Own Kitchen Chore List
Before creating a list, brainstorm what tasks and responsibilities you undertake that make your kitchen function. Then think about the ones your teenager can start doing.
In order to create your list, it may be helpful to think about the following questions:
- What chores do you do every day?
- Which ones are ones that you NEED help with?
- Which chores are ones that your teen could easily take over?
- Which chores would be more difficult for your teenager to do?
- If the tasks are more complex (ex. making dinner) are you committed to training/teaching your teenager how to do them?
- Which chores will give my teenager the most responsibility?
2. Share The List With Your Teenager
Once you have a list of chores, show it to your teenager, ask for their input. Start a conversation. Listen to the tasks that interest them, to the ones that are okay, and the ones that really will annoy them.
Try to find some in each category so that you don’t have to argue about all of them. If you struggle to have conversations with your teen and need help to improve communication. with your teen, then check out my guide: Get Your Teenager Talking, for ideas.
Your teen may look at your list and laugh. Nobody wants to take on more responsibilities. Teengagers will give you a million and one reasons why they don’t need more chores.
As a parent, you know that the ultimate goal is to make your teenager more independent and to give them the skills they need. Prioritize the responsibilities you want your teenager to learn and start with those.
A great way to have your teenager take on more roles at home is to create tasks that match their personalities. If your teenager likes things to be clean, then it’s simple to add that chore to their list of responsibilities. I worked with one tween who loved washing dishes after our cooking classes.
If she lived in my house, I would definitely ask her to wash the dishes every night. Other teenagers love to organize. For them, unloading the dishwasher is a great task for them.
3. Set Clear Expectations & Consequences
If you have asked your teenager to be responsible for washing the dinner dishes and loading the dishwasher and the job isn’t getting done, what are the consequences? The goal is for your teenager to take responsibility for the job, but if they don’t, what’s a parent to do?
You need to have a consequence. There are lots of options. You can:
- Connect the responsibility to a privilege that your teenager enjoys.
- Take away a privilege (ie. playing video games).
- Negotiate a way to give your teenager more privileges (if you wash the dishes all week, you can earn extra time playing video games).
Ultimately, you don’t want to continue washing the dishes and loading the dishwasher when your teen fails to do their job. When you do it, they are not learning how to be responsible.
Be creative with your consequences. Attach a price to your time. It could be that you charge a dollar amount ($5.00 each time you have to wash the dishes after dinner).
If your teen isn’t earning money, it could be something else that takes your time. Treat your time as money (not driving them to a friend’s house because you have used up your available time washing dishes). Whatever the consequence, be sure that your teenager knows it in advance.
Don’t bend the consequences if your teenager fails to show responsibility. Remember the end goal, to make your teenager more independent. Be prepared for some struggles. Remind yourself that’s ok. It doesn’t mean that you have to give in and do the work for them.
4. Learn to Guide Their Efforts
Your teenager wants to show their independence and asks to make dinner one night a week.
You love the idea of them cooking dinner. What a relief, right? Then, you worry, ugh, will we be eating mac and cheese every Thursday night?
Find a middle ground. Work together to plan their weekly meal. Teach them the components to a healthy meal. Explain how to figure out portion sizes. Begin sharing recipes or watching cooking videos together.
The more they learn about preparing dinner, the more creative they can be.
5. Accept Efforts That Are Good Enough
You have asked your teenager to wash the kitchen counters, and they have, but the counters are a bit messy and full of streaks. If you were washing the counters, you would make sure they were both clean and not streaky.
Hold your tongue and don’t criticize the work your teenager has done. If your teenager has completed a task on their list of responsibilities, sometimes that has to be good enough.
Some tasks require your feedback (the dishes need to be washed before putting them into the dishwasher because your dishwasher will not get off all of the food). If that is the case, be clear about what you are asking. It’s not something that you are doing to be annoying, but something that needs to be done so everyone can eat off of clean dishes.
Creating a list of responsibilities for your teenager and enforcing them won’t be easy. Always keep the end goal in mind, you want to help them to be more independent and to have a variety of life skills that will serve them throughout their lives.