Older Children Irresponsible with Chores

Updated on March 10, 2010
J.K. asks from Carolina Beach, NC
27 answers

I have 5 children ages, 17,16,11,4,3. My older two are doing great in school, active in afterschool stuff, and following most of the family rules. No one smokes, drinks, back-talks, sneaks out, or is sexually active.

My problem is that they do not do any of their house hold chores unless I nag at them. They owe us money for car insurance and their cell phones and they don't pay back unless I sit ontop of them about it.

I know this sounds minor compared to most, but I feel that responsibilities are responsibilities and if I bend on the "small" ones, I will end up bending on the "big" ones. I am grateful for how wonderful and cooperative they are. If I ask someone to do something, they get right on it. But as for the minute list on the fridge of their everyday stuff, they just ignore it.

It is also becoming a problem between them and my husband. My husband is not their father, but we have been married for 5 years and they have no contact with their biolgical dad. My husband has loved and cared for them for all these years and they love and and respect him as their own. I just don't know how to resolve this.

any ideas?

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

Thank you to everyone for taking the time to answer my plea for help. All of your answers were spont on and I appreciate it. Unfortunately, we already do all the things you have listed. They do their own laundry, their TV gets taken away when they don't do their stuff, they cannot drive to personal events (only school and church), and I have taken their phones away yet still made them pay. We do have a chore chart and the rule is that they cannot do anything unless their chores are done.

From your comments I have realized that we already have the tools place, I just need to buckle down and hold their feet to the fire.

Thanks again!

Featured Answers



answers from Memphis on

The solution is simply stop paying for the stuff they don't pay you back for until they do pay you back!



answers from Knoxville on

I have 17 year old twins and if they don't do their chores, their privileges are revoked. Take their cell phones away, don't let them drive, etc. etc. When they show they are responsible by doing their chores, then they can have their privileges back and they're not as likely to "forget" their chores next time. Cell phones, driving are "earned" responsibilities.

More Answers



answers from Memphis on

Hi J.,

It sounds like you are a very busy and capable mom...congrat. on your recent graduation...that was no small challenge w/ 5kids....I would suggest you pick a specific day/time for kids to do chores....maybe soon after school or on Sat..evening or morning...if no chore...give a consequence...no play date...sorry no trip to mall...they have to know you mean business...it will be hard to stick to it..but you need some help...when they miss a few play dates...they will get the message...good luck..

Memphis, TN.



answers from Louisville on

Sarah's right...no money to mom= no car and no cell phone. Those items are luxuries and if they wish to keep them, they have to pay. As for the chores, I don't know what responsibilites you expect of them, but lay down the law and inform them that if they are not done, then there will be consequences (no phone, tv, grounded for the weekend, etc.)



answers from Evansville on

You had them deal with it its life I, have the same problem!!!!



answers from Nashville on

Personally I think those things need to be earned and if they are not "earning" them, they should be taken away. You can turn off the cell phones and that will teach them to pay. You could even take away the car for a weekend. You could give them ample warning, tell them that they have one week from today to pay at least 1/2 of their insurance, then one more pay period (week or two weeks) to pay the other 1/2 and after that, they lose the car for a weekend. Or, you could start a chores list and each chore is worth a dollar amount and as they do them, their insurance gets paid so much amount. If they do them all, it gets paid. Whatever you can afford, you work out the dollar amounts. But if they do not do them, fight you on it, etc, they lose the car or phone. They have to earn these extras. They have to be taught responsibility now!!!

Good luck, W. M.



answers from Raleigh on

I am unsure of how you have handled discipline in the past, but your children will only go as far as you allow. As parents, we have to show them that we mean what we say and that's that.
First, the issue of you having to stay on them can be resolved easily. Let them know if they do not do their chores or any duties that they are asked to do, they will lose privileges. Please stick to it. Children know when you are pulling their chain. Boundaries have to be set and they must know that there are consequences to their actions.
My oldest of five boys is 14 and he knows that if his chores are not done, he will lose privileges.(Matter of fact, all of them know this) Cell phones are not a necessity. Nor is a car. Those are things that you can take away from them.
As for your husband's relationship with the kids, you two must come in agreement and stick together. If there are any disagreements on how the kids are handled, discuss that in private between you and him. Support each other's decisions and communicate openly. Let the children know that he is the head and you treat him as such. If they feel in any way that you are not respecting him, they will follow.

It will get better, but you must remain firm and stand your ground. I sometimes have to lay down the law and leave the room because I know I may succumb.



answers from Raleigh on

Sounds like it is time for a family meeting. You need to explain to your children why it is so important that they help out with the chores. Listen to them about the reasons why it is not working and have them come up with a system that will work for the chores. During this meeting make sure that THEY come up with a consequence for not doing the chores (and possibly a reward, too). For example, if everyone in the family does their chores for a week, you could have a family DVD night or game night or whatever works with your family. I would be sure to start the meeting with how proud you are of them for all the things they are doing right. Make sure this meeting isn't when you are upset because they haven't done their chores for the hundredth time. Start positive and end positive. A comment like "I am so excited about the ideas you have given. I know it won't be an issue any longer. You are really growing up." Hope it helps.



answers from Johnson City on

Hi J.. Sounds like you're doing a great job! I worked with kids at a run away shelter and now I'm doing foster care with teens. Teens go through a faze where their hormones go crazy and they are fighting between staying a kid and moving into adulthood. Something tells almost all of them, "don't clean your room; mess it up after you've cleaned it; I don't have room in my brain to remember unimportant details like chores, or homework. I need to be able to flex my muscles with someone!" It sounds like your teens have turned out normal. You can either continue to remind them, (and they may need that, to help them feel like they are still your kids, along with your other smaller children), or play hard ball, by giving consequences for not remembering. As for money issues, they are normal there too. But you continue to reinforce reality and the real world. They'll take it with them when they leave home. My daughter is 24 and graduating from law school next month. As a teen, although she did well in HS, I though that she wouldn't do well in her 1st year in college with writing papers, because I consistantly had to help her with her reports in HS. To my suprise, her 1st college paper was an A. So you continue to decide their direction. You should be proud of how you have molded their lives thus far. I'm sure your children are proud of you. D.



answers from Raleigh on

Hi J.-
I wouldn't say another word to them. If you have a list of what they're expected to do on the refrigerator (or posted somewhere they know of), they know what is expected. Now just make it worth their while to comply.

Put out a quarters jar. Without making a big fuss over it, every night at dinner or some other time when everyone is together, tell each child how much they owe you for the chores that are undone (I use quarters for my kids, because they're smaller). So if one of your kids leaves 3 chores undone, they'd owe you 75 cents.

I labeled my change jar "Mom's Vacation Fund" and tease my kids about using the money for a trip to Hawaii or Disney World without them. I just tell them quietly and matter-of-factly how much they owe me, don't say another word about it, and then move on. No nagging, no "I told you so", just follow through and change the subject. BUT you've GOT to be consistent. If you don't fine them consistently, it won't mean anything.

I also try to keep quarters around and will, on occasion, give my kids a quarter when I catch them doing something good as well. That way, they feel like they can earn some too.

As for not paying you the insurance, etc. that is due, post the due date on the refrigerator. If they miss it, charge them interest. After all, a biller is going to do that in the real world.

When it costs them something (and if you don't want to use money, undone responsibilities can equal minutes on the phone or the computer or how much earlier than curfew they have to come home on Friday/ Saturday night).

But the point is, make a consequence for not doing what is expected. They have incentive now, plus you aren't having to beg and nag and do all those things that make you feel awful.

Good luck!



answers from Wilmington on

J.: It sounds as though you have done a wonderful job raising your children. Remarrying when your children were 12,11 and 6 can be a difficult age (especially the older ones). Congratulations.

I have two girls in their 20s; both married. We thoroughly enjoyed bringing up our children. They were both much like your children; active, good in school, never in trouble but didn't do what they were suppose to do at home. However, if asked, they would jump right in. I finally decided 'Don't sweat the small stuff'. They are both successful adults now. One is a very busy senior stylist at a salon/spa. The other is an office manager for a physical therapy office and owns her own dance studio.

As far as money owed you; it sounds like the children want to be adults. If so, present them with a printed monthly invoice. Show them when they are 30, 60, 90 days past due with a running total of debits and credits. I had one daughter who was very responsible with her budget; and still is. I had another who was irresponsible with their budget; and still is. If you are in desperite need of the money, sit down with them and show them your budget and your responsibilites. It's very sad that our educational system doesn't teach kids about budgeting; how to balance a checkbook; how to shop for a vehicle and obtain the loan; the ins and outs of home ownership. That's left up to us parents. It's a real shocker for them when they are out on their own. I had one who did a great job when she left home; actually obsessed with her budget. The other fell flat on her face an we had to pick up the pieces. Give them this education before they leave for college or else you may end up dishing out more than necessary. We neglected to teach budgeting and it cost us.

Hope this helps.....D. M



answers from Lexington on

owing money is not a small thing. absolutely take away anything they don't pay for!! no $ for insurance? cancel them and take away the keys. even if it's a car they paid for you're still the parent - act like it! You have every right to take things away.

Absolutely do not disagree with your husband in front of the kids. They will so play you. especially since he's a step. You have to respect him in front of them but if you disagree and discuss it behind closed doors you're also respecting him and your marriage. Listen to what he has to say - steps can be more objective too. You're the mom so ultimately you ahve to make the final decision. But by all means dont just hear his opinion, listen and consider! Make a decision, with your husband's support, and enforce it. Don't retract it for however much whining and fit throwing occurs!

Go get em girl!




answers from Chattanooga on

I have gone thru this with my son at that age. No longer driveing, no phone,etc. They have to learn to get the privalage to do these things only if they do their chores.And that means with out the arguing and bickering. They will go crazy at first, but stand your ground, and when they see u mean business, and it should't take long, Im sure ur house will be a lot happier.And dont 4get to smile when they do these things and make sure u say THANK YOU when they r done.



answers from Lexington on

take away the car and the phone. if they are not paying for the insurance and the bills, and they are not helping out around the house, they dont deserve them. how hard do you think they would work to get those things back? teenagers are so dependent on both, i bet you could get them to do any chores you wanted them to. cars and phones are a privilege, not a requirement.



answers from Nashville on

J. -
That is not "little" that is BIG. The car goes until they pay for the insurance. The cell phone goes until they pay for it. And do this every month until they pay. Right now they think it's no big deal because I just owe the money to Mom. When Mom starts showing them real world consequences, their attitudes will change. As far as chores, if they don't do their, they STILL lose the car/phone AND they pay whichever family member picked up their slack. If you have to be the maid, then you should get paid like the maid would!
Hope this helps!
Good luck and God Bless!



answers from Charlotte on

Congrats on having such great kids. As for the owing money for cell phones and car insurance and such my suggestion would be to take them away. Thats what happens when you don't pay your bills as an adult, and what are your teens years if they are not preparation for adulthood? If they don't pay up on the cell pohne bills by the due date then just take it from them. It is NOT a requirement of good parenting to let your kids have a cell phone. If they don't pay up on the insurance then take the car away. You are a SAHM, theoretically you could drive them to work and school until they fork over the cash (I assume they work since they pay their own bills). If this isn't an option don't allow them to drive it anywhere but work and school. Trust me the humiliation of riding to school/ work with your parents and the inability to drive your friends around is a great motivational tool. No need to ground them persay, but it is kind of like grounding them. Without really punishing them. Its more of preparation for adulthood and showing them that there are consequences to their actions. That is what responsability means.

As for your husband, I grew up with a stepdad. He was great. I loved him, and when there is anamosity there its not real its just teens being teens. They WILL grow out of it. I think you are talking about their minute usage for the cell phones, or maybe a chore list. If its a chore list make there be consequences. You don't do the dishes then you don't have clean dishes to eat on, you don't do the laundry then you don't have clean clothes to wear, you don't walk the dog, he may piddle right beside your car door, or on your car. Relate the consequence to the action. But you already know all this you haev learned this especially if you have 5 kids who do what you tell them to when you ask them. I think you just needed to hear it from some other moms to make sure you weren't being "unreasonable" :) Follow your gut you are doing a gret job!

BTW I have been working on a two year degree for 6 years :) Kids seem to always get in there and take more time then you have. Congrats on completing your degreee you are inspiration for us all. :D



answers from Charlotte on




answers from Raleigh on

Take away the privilege.

It is a business agreement. Hold them to it. The real world is not going to concede to their lack of personal responsibility. It is YOUR responsibility to teach them that so they can thrive.

They may not see it that way but I bet they shape up quick.

good luck



answers from Fayetteville on

I went thru this with my 3. I started taking things away from them. I tool their cell phones, they couldn't use the home phone. They could not go anywhere. Even told them thier daily meals would bt Roman noodles. Told them that if their dad and I didn't take care of our responsibilities that would be all we could afford to eat. I gave them a list of what my responsibilities are and what their dads responsibilities were and them gave them a list of what theirs were. It showed them how easy their lives really were. They eventually got it. Hope this helps.



answers from Huntington on

Can't help much with the chores since I'm struggling with that one with my 13-year-old, but as far as the car insurance/cell phone bills are concerned...natural consequences! No pay, no drive/talk!



answers from Charleston on

Id first of all take away the cell phones and let them figure out how to pay their own bill if they cant do chores same as the car insurance. they need to know if they want something such as special priveleges they need to work for it whether it be helping out at home or doing outside work.gotta show them that if they cant do simple household chores how will they ever be able to live on their own and hold down a job they need to know youre the boss and if it isnt you and your husband they have to listen to it will be someone else in life



answers from Huntington on

Mine are not as old as yours, but when they try to get out without doing a chore, they lose a privelidge. If they owe you for car insurance, withold the car until they pay it back. If they don't want to do a chore, like dusting for instance, they can't go in that room until it has been dusted. Or the best part, because it always works for me, they can't go in their room until it is clean. Their bedroom is their haven from the parent, if they can't go in there, they can't go anywhere, at least that chore will get done.


answers from Clarksville on

Don't nag them. They are old enough to know what you expect, pay for their car insurance or cell on time and do their chores. If they fall short, then there's a consequence....natural ones are more beneficial to the learning process.

No payment for insurance by deadline = no driving car for the entire month.
No payment for cell phone = loss of cell phone priviledges for the month.
Dirty clothes not put in the hamper = no clean clothes when the laundry is done.

We implemented a daily job chart for my 8.5y/o and 4.5y/o. They are expected to make their bed, put away their toys and pick up dirty/put away clean clothes. They read their charts in the morning and evening to make sure they have done their jobs. We've also taught my 8.5y/o to help with the garbage, our 4.5 y/o pitches in with recycling and the 17m/o enjoys helping to fill our dog's food and water bowl. They are age appropriate jobs and they enjoy helping.

Establish the expectations with them. Make them clear and possibly have them sign a contract stating that they will do said job/pay on time, etc. If they fail to pay on time or get the job done then said consequence happens. You, Dad and kids can all sign. Hold them to it. It's no different than if they were to get a credit card and have payments by a certain date. Would you want them racking up credit card debt because they feel there's reason to pay their bill on time?

Good luck.



answers from Charlotte on

Hi-not sure if this will help but this has really worked for us. We have 4 boys. When they reached the age of 10 they started getting a weekly allowance. Whatever their age is is how much they get per week. However, this is under the assumption that they do their chores and what we ask of them to do. A lot of the time it varies from day to day but I never ask them to do anything outrageous and they all know that I also expect them to help each other as part of this. With their weekly allowance they can spend a certain %, save a certain %, and then give away (church offering) a certain %. So now if they want that extra pair of shoes, or a video game, or if they owe someone they have to earn and then save their money. They have the ability to earn extra but that's only if they go way above and beyond what I ask them to do.



answers from Charlotte on

Hi J.,

Sounds like you have a great set of kids!

My husband & I also have our kids pay their auto ins for the "3rd family car". It is one of the ways to get them to respect the car & be held responsible for what happens with it. We draw up a contract each summer as to how much we need to collect monthly for their share of the car ins & a portion of their cell ph bill. These are all paid in advance to us before the actual bill is due. No payment... then no car or phone.

Last summer, the oldest accepted as many extra hours of work along with her part time job (& still was able to enjoy free time) & paid every dime due to us. Since she was so responsible, at the end of the summer we gave her 1/3 of the money back to show her that we were proud that she had respect for our system. She had no idea that we would do this. You could tell that she felt a sense of accomplishment.

The teens also know that they will have to pay for any tickets or accidents, & that driving the car is a privilege. We will see if the contract works with both kids this summer. Time to write up the new contract, but this time for 2 teens.

Raising kids was not meant to always be easy. We have to keep showing them that we love them by showing them the responsible way to live. Keep up the good work!

P.S. I would be curious to how your ebay business is going for you.

D. M. Focht

"Shaklee -Creating Healthier Lives & Environment"

click on: www.Shaklee.net/Focht




answers from Charlotte on


I am also a mom to 5 children...18, 17, 16, 14, and 12. Again, all great kids, all doing well in school, all helpful when prompted. However, I also got tired of having to "prompt" which they saw as nagging. We did what some of the other moms suggested and had a family meeting. I started by saying, "I hate to nag and you hate to hear it...so let's solve it!" I had a list of jobs and everyone decided what they wanted to do and they divided it up in a way that they felt was fair. I didn't care who did what, I just wanted it done. We also tied the task to a day and time frame. We posted the list so everyone was clear. There was a twist, however. Because each person's job is tied to their allowance ($15 a week for the older ones and $8 for my 12 year old), they could "trade" jobs if they wanted, as long as the swap was posted and initialed by the responsible parties. Even more fun...if they "missed" a due date, I put the job up for auction. Each job had a monetary amount listed for it's value, and so if taking out the garbage was worth $5 and one of them didn't feel like doing it, they could sell or trade for another equally valued task. But, if they just missed the deadline and their chore got put up for auction, the other person could "steal" it and the money. The positive peer pressure and competitive spirit really worked! And, when they needed an extra few bucks, they were really eyeing that chart to see what needed to be done. I no longer had to worry...they got on each other about things!!

Another thought...I get the sense that you are saying, "they are good kids, shouldn't I just be grateful and let them off the hook" on one hand and "I need help!" on the other. I always say to my kids that I am raising them to be adults, not children. Then, I run my parenting decisions through that filter. In a job, they would be expected to perform to the best of their ability (just like at school) and no one is going to let them get away with doing parts of their job just because they're good at most of it. When they are independent adults they will have "at work" responsibilities and "at home" responsibilities. So, it makes sense to simulate that situation now so they can learn while you are still there to guide and direct. Their future bosses and spouses will thank you!

A word about allowance...because I give allowance I do not buy much else for them. If they want a soda at the corner store, they buy it. If they want an extra dessert at dinner, it's on them. A fancy hair product...their purchase to make. They have really learned the value of money...and the chores are now getting done too! It's also amazing how often they don't need that "extra" when they are paying their hard earned money for it!

I do think that when you manage a larger family like a team they perform much better. Good luck and enjoy all the chaos!!!!




answers from Greensboro on


I had the same problem, and my solution was hard for everyone, but it worked.

Car insurance money was not paid... take away the car keys until it is paid.

Cell phone bill problems? I just called the cell phone company and had the number deactivated. They kept the same actual number, but had no service on the phone.

They will complain, and it may cause you to offer (and actually) to drive them places, but they will 'pony' up with what they are expected to do.

If they are paid to do chores, then only pay them for what they did. Tell them that certain duties are expected to be done everyday, and if they are not done then the money will not be paid. I have found out that if you say that the younger children will gladly do their work and take the money for it... they will change their minds about being 'slack' about their chores.

Be firm, and stick to your threats.

Good luck,
C. in NC

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions

Related Searches