It's a truth universally acknowledged that big kids (as in pre-teens, teens, and young adults) don't love to be cross examined, eyeball to eyeball. But get them in a car or sitting shoulder-to-shoulder and they're more likely to open up. A good road trip--or even a long errand together--will likely yield way more information and connection than 100 face-to-face sitdowns.
With that in mind, here's an idea: make a few chores family ones where you all pitch in together on the same task as a group. Make a plan--a pact, even--to all show up in the yard at the same time and put in 30 minutes of work. Or have a night where you all make dinner together and all clean up rather than divvying up the chores individually. Sure, individual assignments are efficient and teach responsibility and accountability, which is great, but collaborative chores have their strengths, too--including that shoulder-to-shoulder dynamic that invites conversation and (dare I say it?) maybe even teamwork.
And there's another benefit: In his recent book, When, Daniel Pink makes the point that there's a particular magic to doing something together and syncing as a group. As I read his book, it occurred to me that group chores cultivate a sense of belonging and provide the opportunity to synch on all three of the levels Pink describes: boss syncing (where we benefit from picking up cues about expectations), tribe syncing (where we learn to coordinate alongside others), and heart syncing (where a common purpose brings meaning and connection).
As Daniel James Brown wrote in The Boys in the Boat , the book about the rowing team from Washington that won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics:
"...he came to understand that those almost mystical bonds of trust and affection, if nurtured correctly, might lift a crew above the ordinary sphere, transport it to a place where nine boys somehow became one thing--a thing that could not quite be defined, a thing that was so in tune with the water and the earth and the sky above that, as they rowed, effort was replaced by ecstasy."
I'm not promising ecstasy, mind you! I'd settle for a response somewhere between reluctant, foot-dragging presence and somewhat cheerful achievement, ha! Let us know if you give this a try--we'd love to hear where your experience lands on that spectrum.
p.s. By the way, the same goes for doing things as a couple. PItching in on household tasks together can turn chores into practically-dates. (Cue charming video montage of playful dinner making and splashy collaborative car washing etcetera.)