Need help now?

How to encourage teenagers to participate in household chores?

Discussion forum for parents in Australia

How to encourage teenagers to participate in household chores?

Casual scribe

How to encourage teenagers to participate in household chores?

I am living with my partner and his two teenage girls (15 and 17). They are both messy and it has reached the point when it is having a negative impact on our relationship as a couple as we (mostly me) spend so much time cleaning and tidying, plus daily trips to the supermarket. The girls do not cook, clean, do their washing and their rooms are messy and dirty. I work from home a few days a week so spend a lot of time in the home environment. 


Last week I asked both girls to put their dirty washing in a basket I provided and empty their rubbish bins (and rubbish dropped over their floor with rotting food, used sanitary products etc) the eldest daughter did this the same night. I also said there was a big bar of chocolate as a treat - and she wanted the chocolate so she did the chores. 


The youngest refused all week and sent sad emojios when she asked for chocolate and my boyfriend said only when she'd tidied your room. By Sunday a few items of clothing and rubbish items were brought down, but after i'd started the washing etc. My boyfriend passed over the chocolate without checking if it had been done properly. When it became clear this hadnt been done properly a combination of headaches and 'i can't' were the reasons why. Finally telling her Dad not to keep asking her as it was making her anxious and upsetting her. 


Over the weekend my boyfriend had also raised with the girls that I was feeling uncomfortable over how messy the place was all the time I was spending tidying up after them, without any contribution. (I didnt know he had done this.) The youngest's reaction was to 'take it personally' and say something about her being the reason I was thinking of moving out (I'm not sure of the exact words etc as I wasnt included) but I am sure my boyfriend had not said I was thinking of moving out...


It's a tricky home environment as the girls have not been raised to be independent and when asked to help the youngest daughter will say her anxiety and depression are the reason why she cant do something. She does go out occasionally but usually her boyfriend comes to the house (and there have been times when my partner and I then go to our bedroom to give them the lounge space - against my opinion). 


I'm very conscious of not putting demands on the girls or making them feel unwell but I worry for the life messages we are teaching when there are no boundaries and they take without giving. 


The youngest is also not eating - which she talks about saying how light headed she is, and she hasnt eaten and there is no food she wants to eat - as chocolate is the only thing she really likes. So the 'reward' for making a contribution is given without the good behaviour as my partner is worried she is not eating.


I work in mental health although I am not a clinician. I would love to find a way where she takes more responsibility for her actions and sees consequences in her behaviour. 


Unfortunately I am at the point when I wonder whether me moving out is the only solution for the sake of all our relationships. It's interesting that was almost the suggestion made by the younger daughter. Both my partner and I have had parents separate and find new partners when we were teenagers so we are not idealistic about happy families but we need to find a way to all live together - without it being on me to stay quiet and clean, wash, cook etc! any help would be appreciated. 


I should also say this year, the girls have only been to stay with their mother due to family illness on one occasion when we were on holiday so have not had any real time to ourselves and it's a pretty intense time. 


Star contributor

Re: How to encourage teenagers to participate in household chores?

Message contains a hyperlink

Hey there @Healthyhomelife sending a lot of love and compassion for this situation it must be very hard coming into an environment where the girls have been parented a certain way for so long and you find yourself with a lot of extra work to do in addition to having your working from home hours disrupted. It sounds like you're both the full time parents too so no doubt you're due for a  break. Any chance of you and the BF having a date night and having a really solid discussion around expectations? I think the key thing is that you present your expectations with consistency, no doubt the girls will still push back a bit - which is hard, but it's an adjustment phase, and these asks are not huge (tidying up etc), especially with positive reinforcement. It is great you're concerned about one of the girl's mental health, does she have a school counsellor? There's also Kids Helpline who work with people up to 25, they're really good and totally confidential (she can even webchat), you're right it's not good for her health the minimal eating. I am going to tag a few other members for their input Heart


@sunflowermom @taokat @Schooner @Dakotah @Orbit64

Casual scribe

Re: How to encourage teenagers to participate in household chores?

Message contains a hyperlink

Thanks @Breez-RO. I appreciate you taking the time to reply. You comments about consistency really chime with me. 


The younger girl is in contact with child and adolescent mental health services and receives support from a psychiatrist and a buddy (peer).  I did wonder about us all trying a group therapy / family therapy session as her mental health is often the reason why her participation is not possible from her perspective. I know she will not go along with this and I dont know if it is really to do with anxiety and depression or if on a subconscious level is about making people stop asking her to do something she doesnt want to do. 


@sunflowermom @taokat @Schooner @Dakotah @Orbit64 How would you deal with introducing some new house expectations and shared responsibilities? Any advice? 


I'd really like to find a way forward that is fair and doesnt cause any damage. 

Thanks again. 

Moderator Hours

This forum is moderated from

09:00AM to 5:00PM Mon - Fri

We are not a counselling or crisis service and we can't guarantee you'll get a reply, so if you need to talk now

Click here for help

The current time is Fri, 1:38 AM
(Australian Eastern time)