Dear Doctor,

As a working single mom, I am very busy. I have two wonderful boys, ages 13 and 12. They are active, but they are not really big in the helping department. In fact, I have to say they are not around when cleaning and laundry and putting things away are up for grabs. Any helpful hints?


Dear Exhausted,

Fostering independence in the form of self-care and household chore responsibilities is one of the chief problems of modern parents. Out of love, a parent often tends to do too much and the children too little. So, what can be done?

Start by thinking differently. Loving does not mean creating entitled kids with mom ready to answer every need. It is just the opposite.

Then, it is time for a conversation. Share with them your responsibilities and the pressures you feel. Make a list of the chores you need to have them help with. Try not to lecture or be negative. Telling them, “It’s high time you two got off your lazy behinds and helped out” would be a real downer.

Let them pick which chores they could assume. For boys that age, cleaning the bathroom will be the hardest to sell. Make a reasonable list for each boy. Picking up their room should be on each of their lists.

Then do two critical things. First, set a simple, but inevitable, consequence if the chore is not accomplished. Do plan on procrastination and the need for gentle reminders.

Number two is to be positive and to say “thank you.” Show your gratitude when the job is done.

Finally, stick with it. You are doing your sons a favor. They will grow into caring and responsible young men, and a future daughter-in-law will rise up and call you blessed!

Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, email him at


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