DEAR AMY: I've noticed that often exasperated parents write in to complain about teenage, young adult, or even adult children living at home but contributing nothing. Often you recommend treating them as the adults they ought to be or are becoming. Amy, I've tried. I've tried chores with and without allowance. I've offered compensation in other ways (I do the laundry, make the meals, and you vacuum the living room). I've tried establishing a barter economy of sorts — chores in exchange for phone payments, for example. I've tried demonstrating hard work by doing it all — they watch from the sofa. I've tried boycotting by doing nothing — and I end up living in a messy house. I've tried taking away anything they leave lying around. I've appealed to my husband to lead by example. I've asked him to request they contribute. Really and truly, nothing works over the long term. What would you recommend I do to get my teenagers to help out consistently? Don't they want to help someone who does so much for them? How do I get them to understand they simply have to?
DEAR EXASPERATED: If you and your husband were consistently on the same page regarding family household responsibilities, your kids would (more or less) be on that page, too. Some parents and kids are very good at striking deals and bargains with one another. That's not working for you, so don't do it.
If you've been babying them or waiting on them and now expect them to pitch in out of gratitude — forget that. Guilt doesn't work with most teens. They could watch you work your fingers to the bone and still wonder why you hadn't cut the crust off of their sandwich.
Show them how to do their own laundry and post written instructions over the machines. If they don't have any clean clothes to wear — too bad.
You and your husband should draw up a short list of weekly chores. You can ask them to each choose one to do. If they can't agree (or refuse), then you should assign them.
If one of your kids agrees to take the trash to the curb, and you remind him (one time), and he still doesn't do it, let it sit until next week. If he still doesn't do it, then you should very calmly not pay for his phone or his allowance ("You forget, I forget.").
Notice and praise them when they've met expectations: "That takes a lot off my plate. Thank you!"
If you've asked them repeatedly to clear their items out of common areas and they don't do it — put the things they leave behind on the porch, in the garage, or outside. And leave them there. I'm talking about normal, proportional consequences. Don't discuss, don't bargain, don't yell — just do it. And follow through with calm consistency and humor.
DEAR AMY: I've been with my boyfriend for seven years. I found out he cheated on me with a so-called mutual friend. I've decided to try and forgive and forget, but it has been a year and I still can't seem to trust him. I wish I could trust him again, but I'm still paranoid about who he's texting and where he's going. I don't know what to do.
DEAR PARANOID: You seem to be working hard to regain the sense of trust in your relationship.
What is your boyfriend doing to earn this trust?
He should be completely transparent about all of his activities that give you anxiety. This means volunteering to show you his phone if you want to see it, and reassuring you about where he is and who he is with. He needs to be extremely gentle and patient with you as you both pick at this wound. He should agree to accompany you to see a couples counselor.
Yes, in order to move forward in your relationship, you should work toward forgiveness, but it is not necessary for you to forget that this happened.
DEAR AMY: "Untexted in Texas" wrote to you about her husband's choice to text throughout the day with a woman he knew in high school. Would you call it an "emotional affair" if he was texting with a man? I suspect not.
DEAR DISAPPOINTED: If a man texted back and forth, dozens of times a day with another man, refusing to discuss and excluding his wife from any knowledge of the content or context — then yes, I might call it an emotional affair.