August 10, 2008,
H.H. asks from Acworth, GA on July 16, 2008
Cleaning House/Chores for 18 and 21 Year Olds
I work full time from home. I have 2 adult children - both in college - taking classes now and a husband with 2 jobs! Needless to say we are all very busy! Until the oldest one moved back home,I pretty much did the majority of the chores. I know - BIG MISTAKE! I am tired of doing it all. I had a breakdown last week - which made everyone miserable. SO I created a chore list that rotates weekly. It started last Sunday. I mentioned "light heartedly" yesterday that we all need to be checking the chore list to make sure we get our chores done. I recd some joking back. I could not stand the dog hair in the hallway anymore - so last night O swept the floor - not on my list this week! Today I cleaned the kitty litter, once again not on my list. Today one of the kids said something about others not putting dishes away. I lost it again! She was preaching to the choir! Of course, she left it on the counter. I explained that I could walk through the house right now and come up with something that each of have left out. They get mad if I clean up and throw away or move something that is theirs. I am at the end of my rope. I am tired of being walked all over. My husband is the only one that makes an attempt to do something. I told him I was going to move out for a week and let them grocery shop, plan meals, clean house, remember to take the garbage out. Any suggestions on how I can get these ADULT children to pull their load?
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So What Happened?™
Thanks for all of the advice. Just FYI, both girls do have part time jobs while attending school. They pay for their own cars, their own entertainment, do their own laundry (they have done this for the last 5 years). I did share all of the advice with my husband and we are going to discuss it with them this weekend. Basically that it is a privilege for them to live here and that while they are here they cannot take advantage of me (us). If they do not like the rules, they have the option to move out and get their own place. They have also completed their chores that are listed on the refrigerator for the week.
A.P. answers from Atlanta on July 17, 2008
Let them know, lovingly, that they pull their own weight, or they can move out and do it all on their own. They'll probably get the message very quickly. No breakdown's needed!
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K.A. answers from San Francisco on August 07, 2008
Congratulations! Sounds like you have a good plan. I have one more suggestion for you, in the event that they still lag on chores. It sounds like you have a lower tolerance for mess than the rest of the family; you can't stand the mess they're supposed to be responsible for, so you clean it up. If waiting for them to clean it makes YOU suffer, there is another solution: clean the mess you can't stand, but then put it where they have to deal with it. If you have to sweep the dog hair, put the swept-up hair in her bed so she has to sleep with it until she cleans it. If she left dishes on the counter, put them in her bed. And yes, if she didn't clean the toilet, clean it and leave the wipes/brush/towels etc on her pillow. That way you get the clean house they agreed to, but they and only they still have to live with the consequences of their irresponsibility -- and in a much more direct way. Good luck!
D.M. answers from Atlanta on July 17, 2008
First, get rid of the "lighthearted" attitude. They don't think you're serious. Just like any roommate situation, there are common living areas and private areas. Close the door on their rooms and don't under any circumstances go in. Insist there be no food inside their rooms EVER, if they are slobs (bugs) and make them keep the door closed so you don't see the mess.
Common living areas are a different story. They should abide by the chore list plus keep their belongings out of the common areas. Meal preparation should be rotated and if they don't want to do that, let them fix their own. You could add dollar values to the chore list and deduct from their "rent" or charge them when it's not done.
I have one in college now, and I know there is ample time to work a part-time job. In fact, it makes scheduling their study/play time easier.
You are not doing them any favors by picking up the slack. At some point they will be on their own and will have a rude awakening when Mom isn't there to clean the bathroom or do the dishes.
M.U. answers from Nashville on August 07, 2008
I can't really respond with advice of a been there done that since my kids are still little but I can share a story from my own growing up that helped me be a better, more responsible person... for anyone who is reading this with young children and wondering how they will face it when the time comes this might help. When i was young I wanted a horse in the worst sort of way, I guess the way a lot of little girls do. We lived in the country so it was not inconceivable to have one but for some reason that I could not figure out my parents refused to buy me one. I tried and tried to figure out why, I saved my money cause I knew horses were expensive and I asked around about a place to keep it but still no luck on the parent front! Finally one night when I was 13 my dad came in to say good night and he said "do you want to know why we won't let you have a horse?" I said YES! He said "we don't think you are responsible enough. You have chores that you are supposed to do as part of the family but you complain about them or you don't do them until we nag. A horse is a lot of fun but it is a lot of work too, and we don't want to get stuck taking care of it when you get tired of taking care of it." I was stunned, it had never occurred to me that this was the problem. I was also chagrinned that my parents thought i was irresponsible.
So my dad said "I will make a deal with you, if you go an ENTIRE YEAR doing all your chores on time and anything else we ask without complaining AT ALL at the end of the year we will see about getting a horse. If we find you don't do your chores once or complain about anything we ask you to do, even once, the year starts over from that moment."
Well i wanted to a horse pretty dang bad so let me tell you I straightened up my act right quick. And shortly after my 14th birthday I became the proud owner of my horse Kala who I kept for 22 years until her death last year. Throughout my time at home I was still expected to do chores, take care of her, keep my grades up etc. When I left for college my parents promised to take care of her as long as I was working and keeping my grades up. And the year that I spent "becoming responsible" really worked... I think that since I was forced at a young age to stop and change my actions in order to get something I wanted, it helped me better evaluate my actions in future circumstances.
Most people, these days, when I tell this story kind of recoil because they can't believe my dad handed down what seems like a harsh sentence to a 13 year old. But I don't think it was harsh, I think it was an appropriate and fair response for the kind of responsibility I was asking to take on. Taking care of a horse is certainly comparable to taking care of a car, or a house, a job or a relationship. It may not be for a horse, but I fully intend to do the same thing with my kids.
anyway good luck on the chore front.
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K.W. answers from Atlanta on July 17, 2008
You are certainly on the right track but keep in mind that for 21 years you have taught them that you will do it for them. It will take time to get them to change. I experienced some of the same things with my then Teenage children. I created a list of 'things to be done daily' split the list into 5 catagories (one for each adult in the house) and everyone signed up for which catagory they would do for that week. I let them know that I expected them to behave as adults and do their part - same rules for me and hubby too. I allowed them to barter with each other if something came up and they could not do their chore (my duaghter earned a bit of money from the guys by doing their chores). If they did not get chore done one day, then the next day they had 2 lists to cover - what they did not do yesterday and what they had signed up for today - again same rules for me and hubby.
It did not take long for the system to work. I did not have to be the bad guy since the list was always posted on the fridge. The kids monitored each other and us. Once I on purpose did not do my chore so they could 'catch' me. Every Sunday afternoon we had a meeting to sign up for next week. Everyone could pick their chores and if necessary we would make changes to the list to make all chores equal.
My kids are now in their 30s and all have thanked me for teaching them to be ready for living independently. They learned how to plan meals, cook, clean, do laundry and negotiate with their peers.
Hang in there. Don't clean behind them and don't scold them like children. If you want them to be responsible adults then you have to treat them like adults.
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C.F. answers from Albuquerque on August 07, 2008
I have read all the requests and I can't believe what I am reading; 'throw your kids out', 'change the locks' 'kick them out', 'take the light bulbs out','counseling'. What? To our children?? the children WE brought into the world, the children WE raised? Do we stop being parents when the children turn 18? My question is how were these kids raised or better yet disciplined when they were younger? I see SO many parents nowadays afraid to discipline their kids, and set reasonable guidelines and rules, and then when they're older and the behavior is unnacceptable, it's somebody else's fault, or 'I don't know what happened?' Undeniably these children are adults, but as adults we are products of our environment. Who was is that shaped us as young children....was it not the parent(s) who had the most influence? Bad behaviors don't happen overnight. I have 3 adult children, one who lives with me. She cleans up, washes her own clothes,shops for food, helps prepare meals, contributes to household expenses, etc.etc. She does this not because I have threatened her, not because I took the light bulbs out of her room, not because I wrote and presented her with a contract but because she (and her siblings) have been raised to know as children there are certain expectations as far as contributing to the family and household and as adults there are expectations also. I give her respect and I get respect. Everything should be age appropriate as well. However, this is something that has been always taught to my children, so it is not a knew concept. None of us are perfect, of course not, but is not hard to have children be productive members of society (or a household). I really am tired of hearing parents complain about how their children act, but don't look inward to themselves, looking to blame everyone else. I'm sorry, I don't buy that. We as parents should behave like parents. Here are 3 definitions of the word "parent" : 1.a source, origin, or cause.;2.a protector or guardian.; 3.to be or act as parent of: to parent children with both love and discipline. I didn't make these up, they're in the dictionary and nowhere does it say we stop being parents when our children reach adulthood.
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D.C. answers from Savannah on July 17, 2008
Let them know that they aren't kids anymore they are adults I moved out when I was 19, I did my own laundry had a job paid my bills paid my own gas and car insurance. Do they have jobs? Even if they are taking classes they should be able to hold part time jobs in the evening is it a pain yeah will it cut into their social life oh yeah but this is real life, bills need to paid, I am only 6 yers older then your oldest I have a mortgage to pay and 2 kids to raise (with my husband)life is going to come at them very fast and they need to be prepared. I say either tell them they have to get a job and pay some rent, they need to do their own laundry pay for their own gas and luxaries at least continue to throw away what ever they leave out if they dont like it Im guessing they will change don't buy replacements for them, if it was important papers oh well they should of been put away for safe keeping let them go through the trouble of having to get replacements thats how it is in the real world. Its time for tough love the problem as you now know is this should have started much earlier. Have them help you cook at least 2 meals a week if they cant cook this will help them learn it can be bonding time as well. And if they dont cook they have to do dishes ( my brother and sister and I did this since we were like 9 years old) You sure can do things and help your kids a little financially they are still in school and this is a learning process but the only way they will learn is thru some tough love, dont give in or you may be supporting their bad habits for a long time.
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D.P. answers from Atlanta on July 17, 2008
Time to get tough. Charge rent. It can be WAY cheap and you can even hold some back to give back to them when they leave (not telling them this, of course.) ANYONE living in a cohabitation situation would have to do basic cleaning up. Your kids need to be doing their own laundry and cleaning up after themselves. They need not to assume you'll be providing them with dinners -- that you do because you love them and because you feel like it. But, if they continue to take it for granted, you will start to NOT feel like it. Once they are paying rent -- what's fair for room and board including utilities, access to internet, and food? -- I'd say $300 is CHEAP! -- and you have established that they are responsible for their own laundry and chores, things will be much smoother. You MUST have your husband working beside you with this!
I wouldn't count out going to a third party -- counselor -- to help you to deliver the message. And, of course, make sure you and your husband are on the same page. Part of the college experience is growing up and part of growing up is learning how to live as a grown-up in the grown-up world of paying bills and keeping landlords happy, keeping bosses happy, keeping teachers happy.
You will not be a bad or mean mom by doing this. You will be doing your job as a parent in preparing them for life without mommy to do everything for them. Besides that, it's not fair for you to have to take on the responsibilities of working and cleaning up after three other adults. Martyrdom is way overrated.
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W.W. answers from Atlanta on August 07, 2008
Congratulations on getting your family on track! To the Carole F 'haters', get over it. Carole F learned a long time ago that parenting is not being best friends with your kids. Parenting can and often does require tough love. Carole F is fortunate that her children responded to her requirements; sometimes it doesn't turn out that way. But to Carole F, I say Kudos to you, too.
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C.S. answers from Atlanta on July 17, 2008
My in-laws had a similar situation with their daughter. They felt horribly guilty about asking her to move out, but finally they had had enough. (She had graduated from GT and was still living there.) If it was me, I would give them the option of splitting a maid's bill in lieu of rent or moving out. This way, if they stay, the house is clean, and it is a little less burden on you. Good luck!
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G.M. answers from Columbia on July 17, 2008
I'm giving this to you straight up!
Where does it say you have to support fully functioning disrespectful college adults? Meaning they are able to think and reason(college), can walk and talk, can eat, can sleep and can complain, so I say again, "Where does it say you have to take care of fully competent adults just because you gave them birth. Just because they are your blood relative, it doesn't mean they can live with you, eat your food, (it is your food, you earned it) make messes, throw the whole house into chaos because they are so not wanting to go out and work and live on their own. I know you love your kids, but you are making them co-dependant by allowing them to stay under your roof. If they were maturely and lovingly carrying their load and contributing to the food, utilities, chores etc., then you wouldn't have written for advice, right? I could have said they are what you made them, but I won't, so my advice for you and your husband is to get a backbone and insist they make other living arrangements by the weekend and DON'T DELAY. YOU ARE NOT LEAVING, THEY ARE. Get them out so you can have peace in your home, they will be just fine. After all you're not kicking out a ten year old. Stop, think and get control of this before the stress wears you down and you drop dead.. Not good.
Much love to you both
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