Has anyone got tips for motivating a lazy child ?

My son is almost 11 years old and he’s a terriffic kid and very smart. But, he’s very lazy.

He won’t turn off lights or TVs in rooms where he’s not, he doesn’t bother to flush the toilet or even lift the lid when he goes. His idea of making his bed is to roll the blanket up in a ball and toss it in a corner. When he does his chores, it’s half-assed. He’ll take out the trash, but try to dive bomb it off the deck and if it misses and makes a mess, he leaves it there. Then we have a nice little argument about why he has to clean it up.

When he was younger, I had a sticker chart for him. He would get stickers for a job well done. As he gets older, he doesn’t care about stickers. I tried setting up an allowance system, where he would get a certain amount of cash for each job done, not done, no cash for that job. He’s only ten, doesn’t really go anywhere yet, and decided that he doesn’t really need money right now anyway.

Anyone got any suggestions ?


Well if he can’t be bought with cold hard cash then I have no idea.

Isn’t there anything he wants?

The sticker or star chart is not a bad idea for positively reinforcing the behaviour you want, if there is something he wants badly enough. Every time he exhibits the required behaviour he gets a star, at the end of a set period or at reaching a target goal (eg if he makes his bed properly for a week) he gets the nominated treat. Its a type of token economy really - he is accumulating tokens to be transferred into the desired item.
You need to start small with small steps - small reinforcers (ie the stars) on a daily basis, bigger ones weekly and maybe more substantial ones at larger intervals.

If he has everything he could possibly want at age ten perhaps you could take stuff away and let him earn it back by the same method.

What ever you decide, small steps, and be consistent consistent consistent,

Good Luck

Ground him when he refuses to do what he’s supposed to do! A couple of weekends in the house with no TV, phone, video games, etc. and chances are he’ll suddenly find himself appreciating the virtues of a flushed toilet.

I don’t have a 10 yr old, but I do have 3 boys and so far I have found that being consistent with my expectations of them as well as being consistent with handling them when they do something wrong is incredibly helpful. My boys know that when I ask them to do something, and they don’t respond, they have until the count of 3 to get their butts in gear, or else I will physically make them go do it. I don’t get mad nor do I get physical. I just drop everything and go and make them do it.

I’m not saying you should do the same exact thing with your boy. Find a way of dealing with the situation that suits both of you and stick with it.

Also, he is 10 yrs old. He is old enough for you to sit him down and spell out your expectations of him. Don’t get mad, but be up front and honest with him about what you expect him to do around the house. Setup a standard of behavior and let him know that you intend on helping him keep that standard of behavior up to snuff. High, consistent expectations are the key here.

It will be hard at first and you will have to keep on him for awhile, but I think after a few weeks you will see that he starts doing the things you expect from him automatically.

I had to learn the hard way… and it cost me a lot in the grand scheme of things. So, I hope this helps.

BTW. It has been my experience that a reward/punishment system (Assertive discipline for all you behavioralist educators out there) only works in the short run.

Also, don’t discount that fact that this is just a phase he is going through. Many kids his age go through this. He is on the verge of puberty which has it’s own set of issues. This could be just the beginning of that phase in his life.

Good luck

The carrot obviously isn’t working, so methinks it’s time for the stick. Not literally, although I’m sure the thought has been tempting a few times. This kid is plenty old enough to understand that actions have consquences, and it’s time to hammer home the point that lazy or unpleasant actions often have unpleasant consquences for him.

Stop arguing with him, for one thing, especially over stuff like why he should clean up his own messes or flush the damned toilet. That’s a power trip on his part, and it will only get worse as he gets older. Trust me, my mom and brother went down this road, and you do NOT want to go any further down it than you have already. From the time he was a toddler, she could give him fifteen sensible, age-appopriate reasons for something, and he’d still yell, “But WHY?” By the time he became a teenager, it went from lazy stubborness to outright belligerence. Nip this in the bud before it gets anywhere remotely near that point.

Some things you can reason with a kid about, but some things you just have to lay down the law about. Things like, say, flushing the toilet, or not peeing on the seat, or not stringing garbage all over the lawn. (If I’d tried that garbage trick and then refused to clean it up, my mother would have killed me first and made me clean it up later.) A lot of this is stuff where you’re just going to have to say, “Look, this is what you’re going to do, and this is how you’re going to do it. If it you don’t do these things, or you don’t do them properly, you’re not going to be watching television/talking on the phone/going to friend’s house/other something he likes. Don’t start running your mouth, either. I’m not listening to another word on the subject till you’ve done this stuff. After you’ve done it, and done it the way I told you to, then we can discuss the matter further.”

It sucks to have to be the hardass, but sometimes kids need a hardass. Even the good kids with good motivation need a hardass once in a while.

I am in the same boat! My 11yr old is the same way! I have tried rewards, money, grounding, you name it! I started giving him an allowance recently and my hope is that after he gets used to having a little cash in his pocket, the threat of taking it away will be a new motivation that I can try. For now, I write notes, follow him around, offer frequent reminders and try to pick my battles as much as I can. I hope it’s a stage!

I don’t get it. Homework motivation problems I can understand, and I deal with those on an ongoing basis, but you’re having repeated discussions about his scattering trash all over the place by dive bombing the trash cans and not cleaning it up? I think most fathers (and a substantial number of mothers) reading this post think that behavior would end abruptly and permanently with one short “discussion”. What is his father doing about all this?

Astro said, “I don’t get it. Homework motivation problems I can understand, and I deal with those on an ongoing basis, but you’re having repeated discussions about his scattering trash all over the place by dive bombing the trash cans and not cleaning it up? I think most fathers (and a substantial number of mothers) reading this post think that behavior would end abruptly and permanently with one short “discussion”. What is his father doing about all this?”

We had a passive/aggressive kid. Many years have passed since we went through this, but I can tell you that for us, it was a symptom of other problems. My husband and I were having serious problems and it manifested itself in total defiance in my son. It sucks, but you might want to take a look at the “big” picture.

I hope the discussions don’t consist of:
You: You have to take out the trash
Him: Why?
You: Because I said so.
If so, explain to him why the trash has to be taken out. Why if it’s left out, it can cause disease and diseases kill little boys who don’t take out the trash. Yeah, that’s better.

My husband is a good father when he’s here, but he works very long hours and most of the time only sees the kids on Sundays. They are usually in bed by the time he gets home from work, so that leaves only me.

I just got a call from the teacher and she said that he’s doing the same things at school and it concerns her too.

He does get grounded and he’s had his TV and Gameboy taken away in the past and had to earn them back. I always make him clean up the garbage mess he makes, but he will waste a lot of time fighting me over it, along with everything else.

There haven’t been any problems between my husband and myself or anything else that I could think of that would be bothering him.

I just don’t know.

Well, the problem is that he’s 11.

The solution is just to be persistent in discipline and reward. The reason those things often don’t work in the long run is parents don’t stick with him. Don’t give up on taking things away and making hi mearn them back; they won’t work perfectly right away, but it’s a long slog.

Have rules and punish him when he breaks them. Reward him generously when he abides by them. Stick with it. It will take YEARS.

Age 11 is a hard one. Be glad your son is not a girl, it’s ten times worse with them. I know I was a royal bitch at that age. I was also depressed, which probably hadn’t caused all of my foul temper, but certainly added to it.

Another issue is I felt way too much pressure to perform to a certain standard iin school and at home. It felt dehumanzing because I was being forced to essentially play out what I saw as other people’s desires. So failing, and screwing up, became the only way I could feel like I was doing something for myself. I didn’t do my homework, fought with my parents, and lazed around the house because I had a desperate need to assert my ability to make choices and my own personhood in the face of so much being controlled.

You might want to cut a deal with the whole bed-making thing. That is about the age that I started wanting personal space, and it made me feel more like a member of the household (and thus more responsible) when I had a place of my own where there wern’t huge expectations put on me and where I wasn’t going to get in a fight regarding. It’s pretty common for parents of teenagers to let their kids maintain their room as they wish in exchange for helping out around the rest of the house.

I agree with the persistance of whatever discipline and reward system you use idea expressed earlier. I would like to add, however, that whenever possible you need to make the rewards or punishments as real world as possible. My point is that you want to teach him 1)that there are consequences for inappropriate behavior, and (perhaps most importantly) 2) these consequencenses are not merely “Mom’s whims”. Try to think about how his current behavior might manifest itself later in life (trouble at work, difficulty raising his own kids etc) and try to see what consequences he might suffer (loss of revenue and therefore owned property for instance). Then simply translate these consequences to his current age (loss of games and free time).

The point is that you have to make the reward or punishment relevant to his current age and situation. But you also have to make them relevant to his life after childhood. Once you make the connection between a consequence and his later life, you can explain the consequence to him in those terms.

Egad. Your son is my 33 yo boyfriend (minus the toilet issues). Please. please, please for the sake of your son’s future wife & kids nip this in the bud.

I can’t get my boyfriend to clean up after himself come hell of high water. He’s a fabulous man otherwise, but it pisses me off to no end to try to have to also be his mother.

I wish I had helpful advice other than a plea from the future. Good Luck!

You say cash doesn’t motivate him. I suspect that’s because he doesn’t have to buy anything. Have him start buying his own toys with money he earns both from these chores (that he should be doing anyway), as well as other jobs you create for him, like yardwork or such.

This is a good lesson in money as well.

Let him keep his room anyway he wants it; then he will have the control he wants in that area.

Draw the line at food and dirty dishes.

Not to blame the victim or anything, but maybe your husbands long hours are contributing to his defiance.

Maybe he and Dad could set aside a block of time for finishing the chores and then playing and hanging out. Even if he doesn’t finish his chores during the week to get more play time with Dad, doing chores together isn’t a bad way to spend time, as long as Dad doesn’t yell at him to do it right.

I am not a parent, but I may be able to identify a few things. Keep in mind that at his age, he is going to test his boundaries. If there are no consequences to his actions, it’s hard for him to learn what he can and cannot do. Explain why certain things are acceptable, and some are not. Explain his responsibility as a member of the family, and do not forget to explain your responsibility, as well as his father’s. He needs to understand that everyone in the household contributes.

He first needs to understand that he must contribute to the family.

You mentioned that he was grounded, had his TV taken away, and his Gameboy? I’d say this is a problem right there. At age 11, why would he have a TV in the first place? Grounded, how can he be allowed to play outside unsupervised at all? And a gameboy? Sounds like he has several things that I would consider privileges, that can easily be taken away. You said that you allowed him to “earn” them back. How? I would think the earning process would take serious effort on his part. I hope after he pees on the toilet, and strews trash on the yard, that you didn’t allow him to “earn” his privileges back after a week or so of feigned good behavior.

He has to learn that there are worse things than losing your Gameboy or TV. I’m not talking physical punishment (that’s up to you to decide the efficacy of), but I am talking about taking a more serious avenue of discipline. TV? Gone until he’s 16. Video games? None, ever. Hell, you can even restrict his movement. Make him stand/sit in a corner from the time he comes home from school, till the time that he leaves for school. Make sure that he receives an adequate diet, but nothing above that. Bland food as much as possible, bedtime at 6pm. Not tired? Lay in bed without moving in the dark. For every time he talks back to you, you can increase the duration of his punishment by a month, or several months. Just take away every single thing in his life that isn’t a necessity.

I made the mistake of telling my mom a single lie when I was about 10 years old. I was grounded for 3 months. No TV, no playing outside, no anything pretty much.

Ideally, it wouldn’t get to this point. If you are able to communicate to him the importance of his participation in the family, I’d hope that he’d get the message. Some people just need a little more push to get that message.

Good luck. Be consistent with whatever method you choose.

I’d vote for the “stick” approach as well – you want to nudge your son into proper behavior with rewards and stuff, but sometimes the only answer is to put your foot down and start making threats.

And to take a page from even sven, you may want to sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk about the matter. Tell him you’re concerned, ask him why he’s behaving this way, and see if you can nudge him in a better direction.

And if he still won’t cooperate, then lay the smack-down…