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Why Wont My Teens Clean Their Room?

Have you ever had this struggle with your teens? Did you get to the results that you were looking for? Did moving toward those results create an unexpected rift between you and your teen? Parents complain to me that when their teens won't do their chores and, as a result, they punish their teens, there is conflict and a damaged relationship. Parents say that they don't want their relationship with their teens to suffer. They say that they understand that discipline and order is needed in their teens' lives, but are at a loss at how to encourage it in a way that allows their relationship with their teens to keep thriving. So what is there to do?

I was asking that to myself last week when a friend and I had the opportunity to spend a wonderful week in the woods with nine 14 year-old girls at a meditation camp. Shortly after the girls walked into the very rustic and dusty cabin, we played a couple of fun icebreaker games. It was a great way for us to get to know the girls, for the girls to get to know each other, and for them to get to know us. After the games, and before our first meditation, we passed a "clean cabin" chore list. They all promptly chose two daily chores each by writing their name on the chore schedule of the week.

My co-cabin leader said that she felt that that would be enough to persuade the girls to do their chores, and that she wanted to focus on joy and spirituality for the week. That sounded pleasant to me so I left it at that.

As the first day went by, surprise, surprise? clothes and many other items were starting to pile up on the floor, the bunks, and on our large work table. I noticed that by the end of the day none of the girls had done any of their chores. My co-leader also noticed the piles and said that we needed to be patient with the girls, and that they would do their chores soon.

By lunch on the second day, possibly because the awful camp food had gotten to me, I decided that I needed to act on what I knew. Although the girls had smiled and written their names on the chore schedule, I knew they had no intention of doing any of them.

Before I blinked, I caught myself thinking the usual negative things- these girls are? (I am sure you can fill in the blank here!) I quickly stopped myself. I knew that kind of thinking was not helpful and was not going to get me to the results that I wanted- the girls doing their chores every day, while having fun and continuing to have a good relationship with me.

In all the years that I have worked with parents, kids, teens, teachers, school administrators, psychiatrists, etc., I have seen many adults pressure, manipulate, and punish teens to get them to do their chores, in vain. The chores are still not fully done on a regular basis and the relationship gets severed. Then what is there to do? In my work with hundreds of teens and kids I discovered a simple and powerful way to resolve this type of situations.

I have seen that teens and kids are not really committed and able to do a chore unless there is in place an agreement they co-created with the parent or adult and think that it is fair. That means that they: 1) fully agree to do that particular chore; 2) clearly understand what they need to do for the chore to be completed; 3) have the support they may need to get it done. Of course, this all depends on their age and maturity. I have seen this work with kids as young as three years old!

Now back to the woods, I could tell that the girls wrote their names on the chore schedule but they were not fully in agreement in doing those chores. There were was no real commitment. On the second day of camp, when my co-leader and I had a conversation with the girls, many of them revealed to us that, unless they agree verbally to something, it is not a real agreement to them. Strike one- in this particular case, we did not know they needed a verbal agreement.

Later that day, when we asked the girl that had the chore of cleaning the bathrooms, when was she planning to clean them, she was in tears because she had already cleaned them but we thought they were still dirty. Strike two-we had not explained to them what cleaning the bathrooms meant to us. When we explained what we meant she cleaned them in a jiffy. One of girls accepted the chore of sweeping the floor, she had never done it before in her life, and did not do it because she rather not do it that do it wrong. Strike three- when they signed to do the chore, we did not ask what that type of support they needed to do their chores. In the midst of so many strikes, we managed to hit a home run by speaking to the girls and getting a fair agreement between us.

Do you know what kind of agreement for cleaning their room works best with your teens? Do they need to agree verbally? Is a simple signed agreement more effective? Do they feel that the agreement is fair? Are they absolutely clear of what cleaning their room means? Maybe a clean room to them means a dirty one to you. Make sure that it is clear to them what you mean by clean. Also, often teens need some type of support to clean their room. For example, setting an alarm clock to remind them, or having a checklist of what are the different things that they need to do in order for their room to be to clean. Do you know what kind of support your teens need?

The girls at the camp said that they liked the agreement because it was not forced on them but instead was also created with their ideas. They told us that since it was their agreement they wanted to do their chores. During the last days of camp every girl in the cabin joyfully announced to the rest of us that this had been the best and most fun year at camp (they started coming to camp since they were ten years-old) and that they had the greatest leaders because they truly care about them, understood them and treated them well. Needless to say, the results I was looking for were met.

I propose that you make an effort to find-out what type agreements work with your teens and create agreements that are clear and supportive to both you and your teens.

Think back to when you were a kid. If you parents had taken the time to make agreements with you that you understood, could do, and felt were fair to you, how would that have influenced your life? It is within your power to give that to your teens today!

If you want more support and details on how to make a fair and successful agreement with your teens call me at 310/247-0523 or email me at orly@ourextraordinarykids.com

I encourage you to make the kind of agreements with your teens and see what happens. I would love to hear your success stories and comments. Please email me at orly@ourextraordinarykids.com or visit my website www.ourextraordinarykids.com

Why are some kids and teens self-confident and self-reliant and others are not? Orly Szerman is a published author, teacher and confidence coach. If you want to further develop your parent success and raise self-confident and self-reliant kids and teens, visit her website, http://www.ourextraordinarykids.com

Orly Szerman M.S., has been working with parents, kids, teens, families and couples for almost ten years as a therapist, certified parent coach, teacher and family advocate. She is the founder and president of Our Extraordinary Kids and a faculty member of Parent as Coach Academy. Orly created and designed innovative parent programs for STAR Education, which was selected as a model program by the White House and the U.S. Department of Education. She specializes in helping parents raise self-confident and self-reliant kids and teens. If you want to further develop your parent success and raise self-confident and self-reliant kids & teens visit her website http://www.ourextraordinarykids.com or email her at orly@ourextraordinarykids.com

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