Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married for 23 years, and we have two teenage daughters. Our biggest issue is disciplining the kids. I think they should do more household chores. My husband agrees in theory, but does nothing to hold them accountable when they don’t cooperate, so the burden of discipline falls on me.
I’m sick of being the bad guy and living in a slovenly house that no one else cares about. I’ve talked to them until I’m blue in the face. I’ve tried letting things go to see whether they’d eventually do something, and that doesn’t work either. Usually, I end up so frustrated that I throw a big hissy fit and clean it myself.
I’m ready to move out. To me, it’s more than the mess. It’s teaching the kids to be independent, to have some work ethic and to be accountable for their actions. To them, I’m being a nag. What should I do? – Tired in Rural Oregon
Dear Tired: Nagging is part of your job as a parent. And it’s OK to let some things go. The girls’ rooms are theirs. Leave their clothes on the floor and their beds unmade. Tell them those things are their responsibility, and show them how to use the washer and dryer. If you can’t stand the sight of the mess in their rooms, close the doors.
Common areas will be tougher, but they are counting on you to give up. Firmly and repeatedly remind your husband and children to do whatever chores you assign. Do not do these things for them out of exasperation, and try not to become angry. Offer incentives in the form of increased or decreased allowance. Help them understand that you are not a servant. Being a member of the family means doing your share. If your husband won’t help, discuss hiring outside cleaning assistance.