Lazy Teens: Do Something!

What happened to the days when whole families joined forces on the weekend to do household chores -- the oldest child mowing the lawn with Dad and the youngest child getting dusting duty?

Nowadays some teenagers can barely get off the couch to change the television channel. "20/20" wanted to find out just how hard hit some parents are with their lazy teenagers.

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Parents weighed in and told "20/20" about their frustrations in trying to keep a clean household. We found out that some parents believe that their kids are freeloading and not helping out enough at home. They say their kids' rooms are so messy you can't even see the floor.

In Cleburne, Texas, Amanda Palasky is so frustrated by her 13-year-old daughter, Heather, that when she saw a "20/20" posting on requesting stories from parents who are fed up with their lazy teenagers, Palasky quickly e-mailed "20/20."

"My teenage daughter is one of the worst," she wrote.

Palasky is a working mom who spends more than 30 hours a week scheduling medical procedures at a hospital. When she gets off work, she picks up her children from school and then proceeds to do almost all the household chores.

"By the time I get everything done, I'm exhausted. I can't just sit and relax before I have to go to bed," Palasky said. "Clothes never get put in drawers. Clothes never get hung up. ... Their closet is nothing but another storage bin for everything that they have."

At one point, when the kids were younger, Palasky did create a chore chart that worked for a while.

"It was something you would make for a 4-, 5- or 6-year-old," Palasky said. "They followed it for about a month. As soon as I stopped making the chore charts, they stopped doing the chores."

Now Palasky worries that her daughter is becoming a bad influence on her younger siblings. Palasky said she's tried everything from sarcasm to threats -- like cutting off her daughter's Internet connection -- but nothing seems to work.

Palasky has plenty of company. Parents across the country are dealing with the same problem.

In Tulsa, Okla., 15-year-old Tyler Knaus is driving his mother, Cheryl, crazy. He sits at the computer for hours, while Mom does everything around the house. Knaus has real concerns about her son: He's overweight and has high blood pressure but still refuses to exercise.

"I'm not asking him to clean the whole house," Knaus said. "Just empty the dishes, you know and pick up your room, pick up your clothes. I mean it's just -- he's lazy."

Just like Heather's mother, Tyler's mom said she's tried everything to motivate her teen to change, but nothing works. "I've tried yelling, bribing, silent treatment but I still feel like I'm talking to myself."

Meeting of the Minds

Tyler and his mom, along with Heather and her parents, agreed to meet with "20/20" to talk about the issue of laziness with psychologist Sylvia Rimm. Rimm first met with the parents alone, then the kids, and finally the family together.

Rimm said if families discuss chores when they're not fighting, even the kids often agree they should do more. She highlighted the importance of setting goals and completing them.

"Work really is fulfilling. It makes us feel good," she said. "And so the goal of working needs to be pointed out to kids: If you're not lazy, if you do work, you will feel better about yourself."

According to Rimm, kids get comfortable with chores, but you have to introduce them to the routine of organizing early. She suggested that you start off doing the chores with them, find things to laugh about, and make it fun. Then praise your kids for the work they do.

Rimm is optimistic that simple, positive changes could break even the laziest teenager of this kind of bad behavior.