Life Advice



Ask Amy: Exasperated parents inspire kids to help at home

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Readers: I recently published a question from a woman who signed her letter: “Exasperated Mom.” This mom presented an honest and evergreen problem: How to get her three teenagers to help out more at home.

I need to add to my advice to this parent – that the way to get teenagers to help at home is to bring them onto the family team when they are toddlers. Young children love to help, and when children work alongside their parents, they are learning important life skills. The reason I didn’t offer this observation to Exasperated was because – for her and her husband – that ship had already sailed.

I received scores of responses to this letter, and – some were genuinely helpful, others were funny or nostalgic, and some were straight-up bananas (put all of your kids’ bedroom furniture, belongings, and clothing into a rented storage unit and force them to “earn” them back).

Here is a sampling of my favorite responses:

Dear Amy: I was so tired of asking my teen daughters to do the same thing over and over again, so I stopped. Instead, one day I made tuna casserole for dinner – a dish they both hate.

For four days in a row, I made tuna casserole for dinner.


I listened to them grumble about how much they hated it, while I told them that I could eat it every day for an entire month. I never mentioned the chores that weren’t getting done.

On the fourth night, my older daughter realized what was happening. She and her sister took care of the chores that night, and any time I made tuna casserole after that, they looked for things that needed to be done.

Noodle This!

Dear Amy: I raised two lovely boys, who are now 32 and 29. We had the same issues that Exasperated describes. What really helped was time. As they experienced difficult roommates at college, they got so much better at seeing what needed to be done.


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