Pre-teen feels like her parents' maid

Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

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DEAR AMY: I'm a 12-year-old girl with three siblings, ages 14, 16, and 17. My parents make us clean the house every weekend. Every time we're done, my mom or dad will yell about how we didn't do the job right. I love my parents to death, and they give me a lot, but this is getting tiring. They're never happy with the work we do. It doesn't matter if it takes me 30 minutes or two hours -- they're still not happy. I try to tell them I'm trying my best, but they just yell. I've been cleaning my house since I was 7 or 8 because, being the youngest, I started earlier than my siblings.

What's the best way to approach my parents without their yelling and saying I'm lying. I feel they see me as a maid sometimes. I don't know what to do. Is it just me being lazy, or is it my parents -- or both?Tired

DEAR TIRED: I'm hardly impartial because I am a parent, and while I seldom raise my voice, my daughter once told me that I "yelled with my eyes." I'm also a former kid who, at your age, was working with my siblings toting milk pails each night on our dairy farm. I remember the discouraged feeling you describe when you feel nothing you do is "right." When you are older, you'll look back on your childhood labor and in all likelihood be very happy that you worked at home. But, for now, it might ease your frustration if you asked your parents to write down a "chore chart," breaking down your cleaning duties. On the chart, they can list step-by-step instructions and goals. As you go through your chores, you can check off each of these as you finish. For instance: "Laundry: Remove clothes from dryer, sort, fold and put away." Nothing bugs parents more than a job they consider "half-done." Communicate with your folks about what exactly constitutes a finished job, and ask them to recognize it when you do it well. Sometimes we parents are so busy yelling with our eyes that we forget to say "thank you!"