Advice for encouraging your adolescent to contribute to the household and community!

Do you need help motivating your tween or teen to work?

We are not talking about the earning-a-pay-check-as-a-reward type of work. We are referring to the inconvenience-of-helping-out-the-family, often with exertion, type of work.

After all, work is a four-letter word. And, it sometimes requires physical labor, discomfort, and sweat. Yet, some teens are more willing to pitch in than others.

Why should we make our teenagers contribute to the family or community?

As parents, we make excuses for our teenagers… “her most important job is school,” “he is too busy,” etc. Over time, these excuses hurt our children more than they help them.

Excuses hurt our children more than they help them! Click To Tweet

Marty Rossman of the University of Minnesota collected household chore data over 25 years. She found that chores helped children be productive members of their families who grew into productive members of society. They also developed a sense of empathy and had better relationships with others.

Rebecca Jackson, of The Learning Habit: A Groundbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting That Helps our Children Succeed in School and Life states that “Chores build grit.” I agree.  Although, I’m not sure if she is referring to parental grit or teenage grit!

Motivate Your Teen or Tween to Contribute!

8 Tips to Motivate Your Teen or Tween to Work

1. Be empathetic.

Adolescents experience rapid growth in their bodies and brains. This leads to mental and physical exhaustion. Understand this as you are planning the job and give your teen a voice. Let’s face it, they don’t want to work. They are even less motivated to work when they feel powerless.

  1.  Explain what needs to be done. Ask for your teen’s input on how he would like to contribute (with the expectation that he will be contributing!).  Laugh at his jokes, but stay firm.  Our girls offer to contribute by “keeping the couch warm.”  Eventually, they suggest an appropriate way to help.  You may be surprised with the creative ideas your teen supplies!
  2.  Discuss what she gets to do as a result of helping out. Not all tasks have intrinsic value. Looking forward to a movie, beach trip, etc. helps keep our daughters focused. Part of growing up and being an adult is that “you have to do what you have to do so that you get to do what you want to do.”
  3.  Give instructions, but be patient if mistakes are made. Did yelling ever motivate you? Raised voices and arguments may lead to passive-aggressive teens, rather than cooperative teens.
  4. Work alongside your teen. It’s easier to work and see progress when everyone contributes.
  5. Give him autonomy. Allow him to listen to music or podcasts to make the work go faster.
Power Tools make work fun!

2.  Bring out the power tools! (With supervision, of course!)

There is something about a slightly dangerous, noisy tool that draws our girls in. Blowing the leaves is much more fun than raking leaves!  Learning to use a drill for a building project or an electric pole saw to cut off small, dead branches is actually fun.  It makes the work less tedious!  I repeat: an adult should supervise!

3. Have a sense of humor.

Swing from the tree branches while doing yard work. Joke, dance, and sing made up songs about washing the dishes or vacuuming! Our daughters may groan because we are so embarrassing, but we end up laughing and trying to out-do each other.

4. Volunteer as a family to get in the habit of being inconvenienced.

Start young before your teen can drive. If you develop a habit of volunteering, this becomes part of your adolescent’s identity and enables him or her to focus on others. When our youngest daughter was 4 years old, she helped paint and repair homes in the Appalachian mountains. My favorite picture from that trip was the youngest, our 4-year-old, painting beneath the oldest on the trip, a 76-year-old woman!

When working along side each other, you are working toward a common goal. Ask questions to encourage tweens and teens to think through…”What if everyone tutored at risk children?” “How would our community be different if each family worked alongside another family to build or repair houses?”

Young and Old Work

5. Volunteer with others to build endurance.

Again, start young and develop relationships with other people who can serve as role models and encourage your child.  After all, teenagers want to belong to a group.  Harness this pack mentality for good use!  Consider working with other families with older and younger children.  We notice that our girls like to emulate the older, hard working teens and young adults.  Then, our daughters encourage and cheer on the younger children.

Other people lessen the friction and give teens some space from their parents.  When we were building a new home for an older lady in Belize, our youngest daughter was hot and droopy. She was not interested in helping us.  All it took was another father to encourage her to work with him.  She happily agreed and was his assistant for the rest of the trip!  (And, we were grateful!)

6. Swap jobs with other families.

Do you have a big job that needs to be done at your house such as painting, building a shed, or landscaping?  Find another family with a big job and help each other out.  Both families finish the first project one weekend and the second project the following weekend.  The jobs go faster, group mentality is used to get work done, and your teen has the benefit of other people to be around!

Tweens can work!

7. Get creative.

Our youngest daughter loves to dry mop the wood floors.  She puts on slippery socks and “ice skates” around the house as she pushes the mop.  When drying up a wet floor with towels, our oldest daughter turned it into a game of “tug” with our dog.  The floors were dried and our dog had a blast!

8. Thank your teen for helping. Be sincere.

Everyone likes to be appreciated for his or her contribution!  And, words of affirmation help fill up an emotional love tank!

Parents, how do you motivate your teen or tween to contribute to the household or community?


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