Parenting Teenagers: Household Chores Teach Self-Sufficiency

An important part of parenting teenagers is teaching life skills, which requires that parents allow teens to take on some household chores.

Teaching Life Skills Through Conscious

Because teenagers will soon be adults, they need to learn the basics of self-sufficiency such as cooking skills, how to do laundry, and how to clean a bathroom. Although some parents have been gradually teaching life skills to their children before adolescence, many parents have not yet given their children opportunities to discover how capable they are.

Promoting self-sufficiency is tough for some parents, especially those with tendencies to be helicopter parents. Instead of handing over responsibilities to kids, they pamper kids and end up parenting teenagers who lack independent living skills.


Parenting teenagers who are soon capable of taking care of themselves takes effort. Often it’s easier for parents to do everything than take the time to teach independence. To start teenagers on the road to self-sufficiency, parents must make a conscious decision to stop doing certain household chores. Many parents teach teens how to do laundry or how to clean a bathroom once or twice, but then continue to wash their child’s dirty clothes or scrub the toilet.

Some parents feel sorry for teens and other parents struggle with the reality that teens don’t do as good a job of cleaning as parents do. Either way, these “helicopter parents” are rescuing their children from becoming competent young adults.

It can help parents to gradually hand over household chores to teenagers. This process may take months or even can happen over a few years. For each task, parents should allow time for first doing household chores such as cooking skills together with a son or daughter, using teamwork to properly train teens. Parents should expect a normal amount of resistance and protest from teenagers about taking on new responsibilities.

Important Household Chores for Teens

Learning how to do laundry is a perfect lesson in self-sufficiency for teens. For those teenagers who do resist taking on the responsibility (after proper training), parents can simply allow natural consequences to occur. When teenagers do not wash their dirty clothes, the natural consequences are that teens won’t have clean clothes to wear or will have to wear dirty clothes.

Teens usually help dirty up a bathroom, so it’s only reasonable to ask that they also help and learn how to clean a bathroom. Teens who have their own bathrooms can be expected to clean together with a parent for a few months and then take over the task on their own. Teens who share a bathroom can also share in the cleaning duties on a routine basis. It can be helpful for parents and teens to sit down and agree on how often the bathroom is cleaned and set specific deadlines for when and how to clean a bathroom.

Basic cooking skills are essential tasks for teens to master. This is another area where parents can become consciously incompetent at doing things for teens that they can do for themselves. If parents are still making snacks for teens, parents can politely inform teens that they are capable of getting and preparing a snack on their own. Parents can ask teens to help prepare a family meal once or twice a week on a continuous basis. Then teenagers can build on their cooking skills to the point of preparing an entire meal from start to finish.

Helicopter Parents and Over-Parenting Prevent Self-Sufficiency

Helicopter parents rescue kids from disappointment, hard work, and the realities of real life. Children raised by helicopter parents don’t learn to be independent because the kids rarely have to work hard, learn persistence, or follow through to learn important life skills. Parenting teenagers to stay helpless damages the future for both parents and teens.

Jane Nelsen and Cheryl Erwin address over-parenting and helicopter parents in Parents Who Love Too Much (Prima Publishing, 2000). “Parents who love too much usually are doing what is easy instead of what is right,” write Nelsen and Erwin.“They don’t think about what it takes to develop character, or they do not realize that character does not come from being pampered . . . .”

Parenting teenagers includes lessons in self-sufficiency for teens so that adolescents can become capable young adults. Teaching life skills to teens requires that parents decide to stop doing household chores that teens need to learn to do themselves. Teaching teens basic cooking skills, how to do laundry, and how to clean a bathroom is a gift that requires effort but is one of the best gifts parents can give to teenagers. Once those skills are acquired, parents can continue teaching more valuable life skills such as how to open a bank account, how to check the oil level in a car, etc.


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