Handling a 17 Year Old Son When He Refuses to Do Things

Updated on July 14, 2018
K.G. asks from Ripley, NY
18 answers

My oldest son is a really good kid. But he is so very lazy.
When he is asked to do things around the house, it's like pulling teeth to have him get it done and it's never without him complaining about it and getting angry. It drives me crazy when he does this because he's not getting angry about doing the stuff, he is making himself angry so he will do it. (His explanation)
He was supposed to get a summer job, and he has done nothing to do so. He will be in 11th grade this school year. He had quit school last year and started job Corps, and he was there for 2 months but for various reasons, he didn't get any education or classes while there. So he opted to go back to high school.

We are taking my (step) daughters home this weekend and their mother invited the entire family to come for a few days and hang out since my husband will be on vacation and we are taking them home early for an event they want to attend. My son doesn't want to go and he will make everyone miserable if we force him to go. On the other hand, if we let him stay with his Aunt or Grandparents, we will be letting him get his own way.

So, I guess I just want to know what boundaries we can put on him and how do we enforce them with him? He follows our rules otherwise and he stays out of trouble. He doesn't run the streets at all and he's a respectful kid and helps others without hesitation (just not housework).
Do we let him stay home with his grandparents or Aunt?
And how do I get him to help with chores around the house without the anger?

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So What Happened?

We decided to let him stay at his Aunt's house while we go. My other son will be staying at a friend's home and then at my mother's. Our youngest daughter ended up being able to go to summer camp for the week at no charge to us....so, family trip has not worked out as well as we had hoped.

As for him helping around the house, he already does his own laundry.... all of the kids do their own and have since about age 8 (although I helped when they were younger).
He is pretty much a home body, so he usually doesn't ask for any money, nor does he go out with friends. His friends actually hang out at our home most of the time.

We will be sitting down together to see if we can come up with a reasonable suggestion for him helping with chores. We have tried 'chore charts' where everyone has a chore for the month, week, or how ever long we decided to do. These never work out for us.
It's easier and better for the whole family to just work together and do things as needed.
My husband is a huge help and very supportive of me. He actually is more strict than I am. He does work very long hours and sometimes doesn't get home till very late at night, so even though he is home, it's not always at a time when he can enforce things.
He and the boys have a very close relationship, the boys both say he is their best friend, even when he is being strict with them. They really do have a lot of respect for my husband and me.
I know I am a very lucky parent because my kids are so good and stay out of trouble. but, it does get frustrating when one tends to be lazy even when the others are being helpful.
Thanks for everyone's help.

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answers from New York on

Hi. My daughter is the same way... I ask for things to get done.. she complains.. then I tell her about the stuff she needs.. ie... clothes.. cell phone minutes... If she won't help me.. she loses her cell phone or we don't go to the stores for new stuff... it works wonderfully... she doesn't seem happy about it.. but her room looks 80% better.. it will never be 100%... every little bit helps.. also I ask her what she wants to help with.. she loves to empty the dishwasher and mow the lawn.. so she has those jobs.. I tell her to ask her brother to help her with her room.. and she will take the trash out for him.. because he hates that job.. good luck

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answers from New York on

I partly agree w/ Nan D in the - these are pretty much rewards at this age. You need to carry some weight too. When I was his age - I didn't have a choice whether or where to work - we had a family business - my parents helped out with many things, but I paid my car insurance, gas, movies, most fun things - etc.
Now - have you asked him why he doesn't want to go to this family function. He is still a kid who needs guidance, but needs to be treated like an adult more often too. Maybe he has a really good reason to not want to go. And maybe it won't feel like giving into a whim if you understand his thoughts behind it. But, if it turns into a power struggle - he will still not only go, you will go with apprehension, and the tension between you will build (I should insert "can's" for all those "will's"!!)
As for the job, the school, etc - sit him down and discuss this - with his dad maybe? You don't mention his dad, so I don't know if it's possible - but if it is - get on the same page first! If not - tell him the expectations that you have and discuss them with him - what are his expectations for himself, for what you allow him, the freedom he has? Of course because it's expressed doesn't mean it happens - but having understanding is usually the first step toward a conclusion.
And, there are things that are not options - he needs to finish high school maybe - or, he must have a curfew, do the chores, etc, etc, etc. Whatever you decide are not options - keep them reasonable and clear. If he is a good kid, he'll respond to you. If he doesn't respond - have some clear cut answers to that as well. Chores are not options when you live with other people - they are helping out the family and that is his job at the moment. Maybe it is laundry that you stop doing, or letting him borrow the car - but he does need to know that he doesn't have to like it to help out b/c that's what family's do. Good luck.

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answers from New York on


very eassy solution,

no money, and you don't make him dinner, do his laundry , give him rides, NOTHING, if he wants to be treated as an adult then stop babying him.

your doing this to yourself.

he is NoT a baby and should easily be able to take care of himself,

he wants to stay home fine, leave no snack foods, and no pre cooked meals, and no money, no clean laundry,ect..

stop and he will have no coice but to take care of things himself,

---as far as the anger goes, -c'mon who is kidding who
12 year olds have temper tantrums.

sounds familiar!!!


Mother of 3 boys

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answers from Erie on

Hi K.,

I think it's hard to give good advice because every kid is different . . . but I have 4 of the -- all girls unfortunately (for "boy" type advice), but I thought I'd share about our kids. We have a 13 an a 15, and then we have a 24 and a 27.

When the 27 yr old was going into her sophomore year of high school she got her first summer job. That meant she didn't go on our family vacations from then until this summer - when she happened to get 3 days off while we were going to be camping; so she came with us. What a treat !!

The 24 year old is (this summer) working in France then in the fall goes gack to teaching high school FT. (she teaches French) There were times in high school that she came with us, and times she didn't.

when they didn't come, I did try to get them someone to stay at our house with them, or have them live with someone else. Partly because they were female, and partly because while we live in a very safe neighborhood, we are way out in the country and no one would otherwise be around to notice if something went horribly wrong.

I think I would bargain with your son. He doesn't want to come, and honestly, he's just about 18 and should begin to have a voice since soon he will be an "adult" under the law, even if he's still at home. There is another point, where as long as he's living in your house, howeer, he should abide by the rules of the household. Therefore, I think perhaps in a discussion, you could tell him that as long as he does the chores assigned to him, regularly, then you won't REQUIRE him to do more -- like require him to go to go visiting with you. It sounds like it could be awkward for a teenage boy to go and do the "family" thing with the steps. I would respect his choice on that, but definately use this as a bargaining chip on the cleaning end of things.

And, maybe with the cleaning, if he doesn't get it done on a timely basis, ask him WHEN he's planning to get it done, rather than telling him to do it. He already knows he has to do it. and, frankly, if he gets mad while he cleans ? As long as he isn't hurting anyone, what d'heck ? You can't expect people to change their feelings, but you can ask them not to take them out on people. (behavior) If he's doing what you ask, then don't push him to do it happily. :-) there will come a day when the fuss ends because he realizes it's not fazing you. Until then, ignore the tantrum, and thank him for doing it when he does it without being asked or reminded.

it sounds like a handful at the house ! and my hat is off to you !! I hope with everyone's comments you get a good sense of what others would do, and can come to a decision that works for your family. It's really nice to get input and have a variety of answers !!


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answers from New York on

Your son is respectful and doesnt run the streets and you're worried? You should be thanking God. <smile> Of course he doesnt want to take out the garbage or get a job..who does? Why does your husband work? To buy things.. Who pays for your son's things? He is old enough to be paying for everything he needs or wants except his nutritious meals. Stop giving him money and stop buying him snacks. If you give him a chore discuss with him when would be a good time for him to do it. Then when that time comes remind him. If he still doesnt do it, stop doing his laundry and tell him why. Dont argue, just tell him this is how it is.
I wouldnt make him go away with you, at that age they dont want to hang out with family. Pick your battles. LOL And thank your lucky stars that he is a good kid.

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answers from Syracuse on

Hi K.,
Oh boy, do I know all about those issues..now with girls, had it already with boys! I was a single parent until last year when I reconciled with the father of my teenaged daughters and now we are happily married. I have sons ages 25,23, and daughters ages 19,17 and 6...
I say pick and choose your battles..I agree that your son will be getting his "own way" when he gets to go to his aunt or grandma's house, but is it worth the hassle on the rest of the family to drag him along just to not let him "win"?
As for the chores..I had to pare my 17 year old's tasks right down to the bare minimum because she is a drama queen and it is just not worth it. I bet at this point you are thinking "this lady has just given up on everything!"..No, not at all,I just have to be more clever and yes, let the small stuff slide..She HAS to have a job, which she does, and works between 8-25 hours per week, she has to keep an overall average of 80, and she soared above that this past semester so she "earned" more privliges (which in her case was driving lessons,an extra hour to her curfew)..
In the case of your son, I would suggest that you really think about which chores he absolutely must do..in my case, my daughter HAS to have a picked up room and a made bed; once or twice a week do dishes, clean the bathroom,or vacuum, that type of thing, and she is responsible for her own laundry. So, maybe you can think of a few essentials for your son and then clearly let him know how "easy" he is having it, your "letting him off the hook", etc..but strongly let him know the consequences for NOT doing those very easy few things..(there is ALWAYS something you as a parent can take away..even T.V. time)..Of course, you are probably going to have some complaints from the other children because "Why is he allowed to...?", and I respond with either "When you get to be his age then...", or "I am the parent and this is how I choose to handle Billy..."..
The job situation is a more serious one..(because of the positive benefits it will immediately have on him, and you are helping him form life long habits)..therefore I would insist that he find a job in the next 30 days, or the consequences will be extreme (and you don't have to tell him what those "extreme" consequences are).. I would physically take him from place to place, or have a relative do it if you can't, or make him show you at the end of the day the 3-5 places that he filled out the applications at AND the name of the person he spoke with in the various job hunts. The job search would be my #1 priority with him because it is going to help him in numerous ways..oh, BTW I love his having to make himself angry in order to do the chores...with a job, he can get money and not have to be angry! Lol..Good luck to you K., you have a full house and a bit of a challenge ahead.

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answers from New York on

Is it possible he's a little depressed? The making himself angry so he is energized to do the chores sounds that way to me.

At 17, I would probably do two things. First, I wouldn't force him to socialize with the step family if he doesn't want to go. I don't think that's an issue of letting him get his way, but an issue of respecting his wishes and HIS boundaries.

I might also discuss counseling with your son. Not as a punishment, and not as a cure, but as a way for him to work out his listlessness. Why did he drop out of school? What changes would he like to see in his life? At 17, I'd be less worried about making him do stuff than about teaching him to want to do the things he must when he lives on his own as an adult. If he's missing out on opportunities to develop skills and relationships that will help him when he's an adult, including chores, then there might be some underlying issues to consider. See if he will let you, with the help of a facilitator (maybe try a licensed social worker, who deals more with "families in crisis" and may have more tools for helping your son with these particular issues--not because you all are in crisis, just because they sometimes have more "life skills" tools), help him set some goals and figure out what it is that is holding him back. I would hesitate to label anyone as lazy. As someone with bipolar disorder, a mild form, it often manifests as low energy and will to do things like chores.

At his age, i would try talking to him. Explain your position: you need him to participate in the household work for your sake, so you don't live in a mess or overburden yourselves cleaning up after everyone, for his step siblings' sakes, to teach them by example, and for his own sake, to leave him with the skills he'll need to care for himself when he leaves the house. You're concerned about his schooling, his anger, his reluctance to participate in family activities, and in household chores. You're not angry, but you want to help so that the tension in the house is relieved and so that your son feels better and more empowered to succeed in the goals he sets for himself. Express it in terms of love, not disapproval. If you treat him more as an adult, and as you would want to be treated, and address the underlying issues, I bet you will have more success.

Good luck.

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answers from New York on

Hi K.,
I agree that there is not winning or losing. Respect his wishes if he wants to stay, and together come up with some goals for him to accomplish while you are away (clean his room, whatever..). Or just let him know you trust him and wish him a good time with his aunt or whoever he stays with.

I would also agree with the person who mentioned depression. If he is feeling listless or low energy and needs to generate energy in the form of anger to get motivated, then depression could be the cause. Being a teenager can be challenging at times filled with feelings that maybe he does not know how to handle or identify.
Go for a walk with him and talk, see if he will open up to you by asking him open ended questions and leave room for him to respond. Treat him like a young adult, like you would a friend and see what happens.

As an ongong solution, seeing a therapist or a counselor might be what he needs, and it might be he needs to see this person on his own.
Good Luck,



answers from Utica on

Hi K.
Sounds like a house full of teens. Wow!! The energy teens have is wonderful when put to use. My kids are not lazy, but some hate house work. Now when the boys were young and they didn't want to do housework, I sat down and made a list of 20 things I wanted done in the week. It was a suggestion I got from another person whose kids were grown and she too said they were good kids, but hated household chores. Well. She said write down 15 you think they would choose over cleaning the bathroom type chores. Then write those knowing they won't choose them. Let them choose 15.
It worked like a charm. They had control of their time. They knew what was expected. I didn't have to ask. They hated dishes, so it wasn't on the list, but I hated taking out the trash daily, it was on the list. It was chosen first. We live in Northern NY and it was winter, shoveling the steps as necessary sure beat, cleaning the bathroom. Vacuuming got chosen over making your bag lunch. I was surprised. Well you get the idea. What they liked most I found out was they didn't get into the middle of something else and have me say, "take out the trash" etc.
Just a thought passed to me.
It didn't work as well with the girls but maybe being homeschooled I didn't try as hard. We did everything together.
God bless you and all those teens.
Lord let them grow to be the grand adults You want them to be
SAHM, married 38 years, 4 kids -- first grandchild on the way



answers from New York on

Hi K.,
It seems like your hands are full. (I have 4 kids, 2 teenagers, 1 pre-teen and 7 years old.) If I were you, I would discuss with him. I would tell him that he could either come with me or stay with grandparents. But if he wants to stay with them, he must do chores around the house. If he doesn't, I need to come pick him up and he has to join me. (You need to do what you say, if that really happens)You may also ask his grandparents what they want him to do or what he can do during the time. If the grandparents can handle the situation, you may leave it with them.



answers from Binghamton on


I have a 16 year old and I can honestly say that I wasn't prepared for the typical teen angst that causes them to be nasty for no reason...eye rolling, not doing chores, fighting over homework...I don't have much of an answer for you. The teen years are tough.

I do remember one thing though, when I was a teenager I used to HATE it when my mother asked me to do a chore, but only because I didn't like to be told what to do, not because I didn't want to do it...I wanted it to be my idea. After dinner mom would say "why don't you do up the dishes?" and I would get so mad because I was planning on it anyway and once she asked it no longer was my chance to be a good, helpful kid...then I was just following orders..make sense?

Maybe you can have a meeting and negotiate a "contract" of things he thinks he should be doing around the house. Make a list of chores and let him choose which ones he wants to do...make sure there are some worse than what you want him to do, so he's likely to choose the things you really need him to do!! Ok, so that's a little manipulative, but maybe he just needs some choice and control. Then, and here's the hard part, don't remind him...make the list visible, and if he doesn't do the chore, nobody else do it for him...if that means it is breakfast and last night's dishes are still on the table, he can clear the table in the morning...or if the chore is to take out the garbage...keep piling it on until he changes the bag...even if it is overflowing...or let the bag fall down in if he doesn't change it when it needs it, so that it will be very disgusting when he gets around to it. Sometimes natural consequences are much more effective than consequences we impose as we try to "teach them a lesson".

If you need imposed consequences to get through to him, let him set the consequences to...ask him "what do you think should happen if you do not do this chore?" As long as you catch him when he is not in a mood, this can be very effective, and sometimes kids are harder on themselves than we would be.

Keep in mind that these are just my ideas, and I haven't actually done them yet, but I used to work in a halfway house and we utilized similar "behavior contracts" all the time. They work if you stick with them.




answers from New York on

Pick your battles carefully and always win was the advice I was given. My children are 7yo and 2yo but they are strong willed, independent girls with a mind of there own. As for 17 I can only remember back and say this.

My parents did not give me an allowence at that age I either had to get a job or have NO money. If I went with the family I was paid for but if it was going out with friends I needed MY money. I didn't drive but was told if I wanted to I had to pay for gas to "extra" activities except for a job. Also doing things around the house was a requirement. IE: if I wanted to swim I had to weed in the garden and if I wanted to ride horse I had to remove rocks from their corral and take care of them 1 time a day (properly!!!) It was not child labor only being a part of a family and learning to care for others. My parents were working harder than we ever did but for non-necessary things of life there were requirements.

As for the vacation at your husbands x house. Ask yourself why you want him to go and then ask him why he doesn't and be willing to listen to whatever reason he gives without critisism. He may have a dumb reason not to go but would it be harmful for him to stay with the Aunt or Grandparents or could it create quality time for him and family. He is 17yo and some independence is a healthy, necessary thing. It won't be long until he goes away, hopefully to college. Your still the captain of his ship but letting him copilot more and more is part of growing up.

My parents managed to do so well. They remained in control without being dictators and let me go with instruction to make me make good decisions on my own. We even as adults don't always make good decisions but give him some room to try his wings. God Bless. This parenting thing is a new challenge EVERY DAY and it sounds like you have reached a new challenge. A.


answers from New York on

Having survived 4 teenagers I can say that it's not a who wins situation. Our job as parents is to teach our children how to make good decissions to that they will contribute positively to society. My saying with the kids was "With rights come responsibilities". It's hard to stop treating them like children and listening to them as young adults.

Sit down with your son and discuss what he wants from life. Where he sees himself in 2yrs. What job catches his eye? What kind of car does he like? Anything to open a conversation that doesn't hone in on winning and losing.

Of course mention that his getting angry is childish no matter the reason for it. If he wants to be treated as an adult then he needs to show the same respect to the family as he wants the family to show to him.



answers from Utica on

It sounds to me that you are trying to handle this 17 year old all by yourself. Your husband is home every night, if I had it to do over, I would have had my husband deal with my oldest son and I would not have interfered either.

I really believe that teenagers really need their fathers more than any other time of their life. I'm glad he does follow rules and hates housework.

I had my sons clean the house every Saturday (one vacuumed, the other did the dusting). They washed their own clothes and learned how to iron. I told them they had to learn how to take care of themselves. They also did some cooking which ended up being making chocolate chip cookies and pizza. My oldest son worked as a cook in a local restaurant during his college years.

I'm 60 years old, been married to the same man for over 38 years, have two grown sons and one daughter-in-law. I do not have any grandchildren and would hope this will happen before too long.



answers from Rochester on

We have two 14 year olds - they are very good kids, but when they are not obedient, they "lose" the very next thing they were looking forward to, i.e. a get together with friends, party, movies -you name it. No matter what it is, they don't go.
We don't argue, bribe, coerce or cajole. We are the parents and they are required to abide by certain rules in our home - if they don't, they lose privileges.
Too many parents forget they are the parents! You don't have to be mean, you just have to be consistent and mean what you say! It's not easy; what is easier is to let him sit around becoming a lazy bum...will that be the best thing for him? No.
Good luck - you clearly have your hands full.
P.S. If I were you, I would take him to the nearest grocery store and stand there while he fills out an application - getting a job at his age should be a requirement, not an option!



answers from Jamestown on

I have a 21 year old daughter, am 18 year old son, and a 15 eyar old son. (plus a 2 yr. old girl)

The teenage boys are tough nuts to crack. I make mine do housework and tell them that no one out there once they turn 18 and venture into the world will do it for them.

What I find that works with my 15 year old is to tell him to do something and immediately say thank you...even ewhen he says no. He ends up doing it...lol.

Good luck,



answers from Philadelphia on

I do believe that with some children/adolescents/teens that there are periods in life where they are disconnected. Mine is at 14.. how devastating to now be hearing how he doesn't want to do anything with the family. The same kid that when school let out kept saying how he was bored. I cannot take it personally but did take what he said and did my best to see about 'family' things we could do that would otherwise be pretty fun at his age.. (from what I knew at his age anything planned in an event or party or outing with family and/or extended family was always very memorable) .. I wouldn't recommend forcing him on anything you'd like him to be a part of. But I'd definitely imply how meaningful it would be for him to be part of the memory. Let him stew.. at some point he will mature enough to know that other people in his life matter even more so than what he feels of personal preference at the moment truly is. He's going to get to where he feels a type of remorse that he wasn't there . Eventually, he will start realizing that times with his family are much more meaningful in a way he never thought about before. It's a phase and it can hit at any point in a child's life. surroundings have a bit to do with it as to what age it may surface. My brother was 18 or 19 and butt heads with my father so badly.. then, not long afterwards.. a couple of years maybe? he did a complete change in his mindset with things that were more important. Hope this helps.



answers from New York on

Give this child a list of some weekly responsibilities around the house....basically things that would effect him. Tell him he's old enough to deal with these things himself. Don't nag, don't remind him. For an example...get him his own laundry basket and let him do his own laundry. When he runs out of clean clothes, it's his problem...don't fix it for him, let him deal with it on his own. If he asks you to do something for him, say sure, but in tern I will need you to help me with this or that and follow up with, "I hate to pressure you, but I need it done now or I wont have time to help you." When he gets angry, tell him not to talk to you that way...and remind him that he owes you an apology.

I would allow him to decide for himself if he wants to join the family on vacation or stay with his Grandparents or Aunt....but let him know if he stays with them, he's got to help them out with doing house chores. If he gets annoyed at this, then simply tell him "if you're not old enough to help out and follow some simple rules, then maybe it's best you come with us....it's up to you son". I would also talk to his grandparents and Aunt about following up on it while he is staying with them.
Enjoy your vacation.....

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