Teenagers Not Doing Their Chores? Fine Them.

Teenagers Not Doing Their Chores? Fine Them.

Is it easier to raise toddlers or teenagers? It’s a trick question, of course. Both throw tantrums but only one has the ability to flip you off. Unless you have a toddler that is swearing at above grade level, then good on you. You’re doing things right.

Teenagers present their own unique challenges, as do toddlers. And the world we live in have made those challenges more present and more complicated. With school shootings, open discrimination and hate, and out-of-control concert tickets (dude, $300 bucks! Seriously!), I’ve been kept on my toes with my teens as much as when they were toddlers.

Their one common denominator, though, is their utter hatred for doing chores. As a man that remembers my own teenage years (and my luscious hair), I understand this. But as a father that is trying to teach the value of work and self-sufficiency, I am often in conflict with my daughter over her chores.

I don’t mean open conflict like chairs being thrown or her coming down from the top rope. Instead, it can turn into a days-long cold war where we both see who is going to crack first.

“Hey, you need to mow the lawn today,” I’ll say to my daughter.

“Yes, dad. By the way, you are the best ever.”

“Oh, honey. You don’t have to say that.”

“I’m not. You are writing this and imagining what I would say. What I actually said was I’ll get to it eventually. It may rain three days from now so I probably can’t do it.”

This is the crux of the problem with teenagers. The procrastination that releases itself from its DNA. And don’t pretend like this is a new thing or “this generation.” We both know that is garbage because we both know the things we pulled when we were younger. For the record, I find this generation more conscious, responsible, and determined compared to Gen Xers such as myself. This shouldn’t be a surprise because our generation is defined by its apathy.

It’s important for me to have both my sons and my daughters grow up knowing how to care for themselves. That means basic car maintenance, yard work, and cooking. All of my kids can handle a meal more complicated than toast. They can grill. They can do their laundry. And my son and my daughter both mow. Most of the time. After I complain for a week. After I threaten to shut the WIFI down.

This is the core of the conflict. My schedule versus my kid’s schedule. When I want things done now, I want them done now. What my kids don’t realize is that I have an ever-growing list of tasks going on in my head. And honestly, most of them aren’t even mine. They are the things that get added to my list because of family. As a father, especially as a stay-at-home one, there is never enough time to do what has been asked of me. There is yard work, garage cleaning, dinners, practices, lightbulbs to be changed, and for some reason an eye brow trimming that my wife scheduled me for today.

And on my kid’s list, there are video games, time with friends, school work, practices, and driving dad insane. I’m sure this last one is constantly refreshed. However, even though it may not be intentional, this gets to me. As I’m sure it gets to them when I’m starting to get my Dad Voice on and laying down some law. By the way, that last statement doesn’t really mean anything, but it makes me feel tough so I’m going to go with it.

But I’m also a parent that is able to see things a bit differently. As I’ve been the primary caregiver for their entire lives, I’ve given up on what is “supposed” to happen when parenting. To ignore what has worked in the past or for moms, I’m able to come up with my own solutions to issues. That is what I’ve done when it comes to my kids not getting their chores done.

I don’t micromanage my kids and their chores. I give them the job, I give them my expectations, I listen to their questions, and then I walk away. That’s it.

And what if they don’t mow the yard?

I fine them.

My daughter has her first job and is truly learning the value of money. She is also learning how quickly it goes when she has to debate wants versus needs. And to give up ten bucks of it because she didn’t do something, she knew she had plenty of time to do makes her pay attention. But it’s not me she gives the money to. She pays whoever has to do the chore in her place. Her younger brother has made 20 bucks off her refusal to mow the yard on time.

There is a lesson in this, and it goes beyond making my own frustration levels go done. First, you get paid for the job you do. I actually do pay my kids to mow the yard. I have never given them allowances, but instead offered jobs to make money. They do the work, they get paid. Second, there is a lesson in finances to be had.

Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it can buy time. Being able to delegate something time-consuming is a luxury that money can buy. We often think of possessions when it comes to money or our future, but its greatest ability is to buy time. And when someone has to take time out of their day to do your responsibilities, they need to get paid for the time you’ve made them use. It’s this transfer of time that has made a difference for my daughter.

I’m trying not to approach this like a punishment, but instead adding a consequence where the outcome is completely within her control. There could be an argument that I’m pushing a have vs. have not situation and I think that is valid. So valid that I think it’s my next dad lecture.

We can do it while her little brother goes to the bank to get his 10 bucks that she now owes him.


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