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My Daughter Does the Dishes!

Hailing Huang, Waterloo, ON

My daughter, Lee, is fifteen years old. She is self disciplined in many ways, at home and in school, but recently, there is a problem with family chores.  Lee does not want to accept a new housework assignment – washing dishes every night.

As her Mom, I think Lee should take on more responsibility. She is very capable and there are more chores that will need to be done during summer, such as watering the garden, mowing the lawn etc. I would like her to take more part in these family chores, as well.

At first, Lee simply did not agree with my request.  We sat down and had an educational conversation; we talked about family values and how everyone needs to play their part in the family. Lee seemed to understand and accept that everyone in the family should take on a certain amount of housework and their share of the family chores.

However, Lee was still resistant to doing the dishes every night.

Only a week after our talk, I found I was often nagging her to do the dishes. In frustration, I sometimes just washed them myself!

Then, one day, after Lee had let 3 days worth of dishes pile up, I did not give into my frustration and do them for her, nor did I nag Lee to do them herself. By the end of the third day, Lee finally washed all the dishes.

I decided to have a conversation with Lee again. I made out a detailed list of all the family chores, along with a timetable indicating the hours each task takes. Looking at the list, Lee realized that there are many chores that need to be done to keep a house a home, and it is not easy for parents to take care of all of them.

I also invited Lee to voice what kinds of family chores she would like to do. Finally, we reached an agreement that, for the fall term, Lee’s family chores would include laundry, dishwashing and cleaning the bathroom. Since then, I have not had to nag Lee anymore. She took charge of her duties very well and her hard work was appreciated by family members.

Sometimes she cooks, too. An added bonus!

A new balance has been reached and everyone is at peace again.  This is the story of our “dish washing conflict”; it took over a month for us to reach an agreement but we got there and it is working out just fine.

As I reflect on our “dish washing conflict”, I have realized the following things:

Allowing children to say “no” or be rebellious gives them some space and time to think and make their own decisions.

By providing a list of family chores, it helps children to understand what parents do to take care of their home, and provides the opportunity for children to understand the responsibilities of being a member of the family.

As a parent, I realized that, sometimes, speaking less and not jumping in to solve the problem, is better than nagging and taking on the task myself.

It feels to me that many teens at Lee’s age seem to have a sense of “entitlement”; they may not always be aware of all the work that parents do for the family nor are they always grateful for what they have received.

Expecting children to take on more responsibilities when growing up is a challenging task; but it is worth it because I really see that taking responsibility teaches children about giving and taking, about connection and belonging—about being an active and important member of the family.

Lee has even commented that she finds folding clothes helps her to relax!

Parenting is a journey full of surprises, both rewarding and challenging. We may often feel like we are walking in the desert, getting lost or going astray, not knowing what to do with our children’s rebellions and moments of emotional disconnection.

As part of my parenting journey, I have been influenced by the principles and strategies of Positive Discipline, particularly the work of Jane Nelson and her colleagues (see their website here).

They have provided an interesting “road map” for parenting that helps you think through how you want to raise your children. It explains what can happen at different milestones, and helps you decide which direction will lead you to your desired destination. Check out their article here. There is a downloadable pdf for you to complete your own road map.

I have learned that, on the journey of parenthood, we can all use a travel guide at times. I have also learned that we do not have to travel alone.


Hailing Huang is the mother of a very delightful teenager. She is a Certified Counsellor and a Certified Parenting Facilitator with PositiveDiscipline.Org and leads positive parenting seminars through the Parenting with Passion program at KW Counselling Services. Hailing can be reached at



4 Responses to “My Daughter Does the Dishes!”

  1. huanghailing says:

    Hello, Teresa,

    Parenting is a process of training to be a trainer, and this skill we did not have before we become mother. I am a good communicator but still not a good trainer, so on the way to be an experienced trainer. Thanks!

  2. huanghailing says:

    Hi, Sally, thanks for your reading and share your comments. My family is not textbook perfect as well, stil we have relapse about house chores, sometime the schedule works , sometime it doesn’t. I think this is normal. As long as we are reaching out to connect and try our best to do the right things. Kids will understand our imperfection. Life is journey, let ‘s walk.

  3. Sally says:

    So nice to read a story when a parent can admit that teens sometimes say no and can be rebellious. Many times I read articles looking for tips and I end up feeling inadequate because my family isn’t always textbook perfect.

  4. Teresa says:

    Hailing. . . thanks so much for sharing! Something most parents struggle with, I really like your tips on taking time to talk as a family, being patient (when it’s so difficult) and still holding your daughter accountable for her responsibility to the household chores. It’s nice how she was able to choose the chores that she will be responsible for.

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