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How to motivate lazy children

Wednesday, 02. July 2008 by Renee Ellison


We received the following from a mom, who wrote: “Hello, first let me just say thank you for all God is doing through you to minister to others. I have many questions, but for today I was wondering if you could help me with motivating my two boys, 9 & 11, with getting ready in the mornings before homeschooling. I try to make sure they get enough sleep and they are to get up at 7:00 during the school year and have their morning chores done by 8:15 (easy stuff - empty dishwasher or take out trash and feed the dog). I even have incentives if they’re done on time, but they still come downstairs goofing around with the dog or each other, hair nappy, crusty eyes, ugh! We’ve practiced our morning routine for years! I even have a check off chart. HELPPP! My boys get x-tra chores if they’re not done on time (pull weeds,or etc.) but they don’t care! Thank you. Weary Sheri”

Surely, this mother’s situation is not unique to her home. In hopes of encouraging other moms whose children need motivation to get through the day, this is what I shared with her:

Dear Sheri:

Your boys are fortunate to have parents who care about them! Here are some thoughts to consider:

First of all, if your boys are getting to bed early (i.e. not partying til midnight) they perhaps need more sleep. Adolescents especially need more sleep…their hormones are changing, their cells are growing to produce height and weight and they need TIME to do this reorganizing and growing. The public school routine makes allowance for none of this. Our daughter often needs 10 hours of sleep. She is easier to live with when we let her get what her body needs! But once UP, that’s a different matter.

Soooooo….we don’t run life by the get-up time but rather by the task. Once up, she has a chart with 15 minutes slots for virtually all of her schooling, practicing and domestic duties. We couldn’t care less the exact time of the day these things get done, just THAT they get done…and steadily until they ARE done. No computer, no free time, nothin til everything is checked off the list. Often this can be completely done by noon even with a later get up time. Now all that is just about gettin UP and the structure…lolligagging is another topic indeed.

In regard to not tending to business and playing with the dog and not washing face, etc., they need to be put on a SHORT LEASH. That means surveillance 24/7 by the mom for a while. Become omnipresent…like God…everywhere all the time. You do this by stopping whatever you’re doing and just cruising through their area. This is how I controlled high school basketball players twice my size when I taught English classes. I was constantly cruising between their desks. No one could be lazy or try any mischief because I would have seen the BEGINNING stages. So once they are up…

...you go stand in the hallway. And cross your arms and tap your foot. And glare at the bathroom. Put hand on your child’s shoulder and pivot him in the right direction…no words needed. You can do it all with your eyes. Children learn internal discipline over a long period of time by EXTERNAL vigilence. This seems like oceans of work for the mom in the beginning, but it means sooner TOTAL freedom. You spend a lot of time NOW, to spend almost no time later over these same areas.

Keep them on a SHORT LEASH. This means you aren’t waiting frustrated in the kitchen, you are drill sergeant in the hallway until they get to the kitchen. Take a book to read, and just stand there. If they don’t get a move on, come along behind them with a switch, then return to your book, with eyes peering over the top. Let them know you mean business. Hand on shoulder and on top of head…subduing their lazy flesh. After each accomplishment—no matter how basic—alternate exaggerated smiles and happiness: “Ohhhh, Lazarus looks so much more presentable now; I think I want him for my best friend.” Etc. Alternate fun and encouragement with “don’t mess with mom” and you’ll get the job done in a matter of days. Then you give them a little longer leash and see how they do. If they cave in, go back to the shorter leash, you get the point.

In and through it all, never lose sight of the SHORT LEASH!

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