I see you are offline. I am going to give my thoughts on what I call a Behavior Contract. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. I want you to be fully satisfied with my response! ...
As I stated before, I think it would be beneficial to recruit the assistance of at least the oldest brother. That is not necessary though. This process has been very helpful for many families, most of which have been single parent households....
1) Be firm but in control. Do not scream or yell, or even nag. Just say what you mean, mean what you say, but don't be mean with how you say it. I know that sounds cliché', but it is an effective way to communicate.
2) Make out a list of what you expect each of them to do. If you can narrow it to 2-3 expectations, you are better off. Put it in writing and be very clear.
3) Make a list of consequences for if they don't follow through. A small consequence for a small infraction. Ex: If you fail to take out the trash, you lose game privileges for a day. Larger infractions lead to greater consequences. .Ex: Disrespect results in home confinement for a week or two or three. There needs to be some sort of extreme consequence for total disrespect. All of these will be different for each child.
4) The flip side is a basic reward system, made up the exact opposite of the negative. A small reward for taking out the trash for a few days. A larger reward for a good week or so. A significant event for the family if all of them do well for say six weeks. This can be difficult with the wide ages and interests, but surely they can agree to something.
5) As much as possible, let them help you draw up the contract. Let it be theirs. In the process of doing that, ask them what they might like to see you do different, This is only fair. Maybe spend more quality time with them. Dont yell, etc. It is usually nothing major.
6) On the matter of the clothes, if they can't put them up, don't clean them. Let them do without. they are big boys , They can clean their own clothes.
7) Make it very clear to the 18 year old you are not bailing him out when it comes to college time. He is expecting you to.
The key is to be consistent. Follow through with what you say. Dont get angry or lose control.
Remember to not accept my answer until you are fully satisfied. I will answer your questions as best I can. If you respond with either
It will count as a negative report and i will not be compensated fot my time. I do want to help you!
Honestly, Caroline, an extreme of this idea that I use on occasion is to remove all privileges to start with and have them earn them back. That sounds extremely negative, but in reality, once everything is removed, it is all positive reinforcement. I prefer the less extreme approach though. It works better if you can make it theirs...sell it to them per se. Another idea is if they don't put it up, they lose it. You find their clothes on the floor, you take them away. They don't make their bed, you remove their covers, etc. Basically, let them suffer the consequences of their behavior. You allow them to earn items/privileges back by showing responsibility. Nothing you do is permanent though. You keep it as short term as possible and still make the point, in order not to use up all your ammo too quickly. Honestly, once again, the key is consistency. This plan will work if you do it correctly. Don't overreact to anything and stick to your guns. Be strong, but not mean. I hope I have been of help. If so please respond with positive feedback so I can be compensated for my time. I will answer your questions even after you have accepted my answer. Thank you! John