Tips for motivating a 7 year old to get their chores done?

[deleted account] ( 13 moms have responded )

I've tried charts and treats and grounding and taking privileges and rewarding and punishing till I am blue in the face. Short of sitting right on top of him and nagging nothing works, and I don't want to nag him!

We don't really spank him any more, I think he's a bit old for that. (always hated spanking anyways) so that's not an option. Plus, even when we did it was for danger issues or outright defiance. This is more a matter of lack of focus. He'll start doing his school work and every minute or two he's distracted and either telling a story or wanting to make something or getting a glass of water or going to the bathroom...

I know a lot of it is excuses, I just don't know what to do. I've got to get this under control because he is homeschooling and I can't have him completely loosing focus every time I'm trying to teach him something or he's got an assignment to do...



Allison - posted on 07/25/2009




I tell the kids they have 10minutes to pick everything up off the floor, anything left on the floor thereafter will be collected and sent to the nearest Charity. When old stuff goes missing and they ask where it is I let them know it must have been left on the floor so now it is in the Charity bin. If you follow through, they start to realise you are serious and will start putting it away when you ask. It also teaches them to look after what they have already got otherwise it is going out the door to someone else who will appreciate it more.

Danette - posted on 07/27/2009




I had the same problem, my son is 9, his therapist suggested an earning system. My son has to empty the dishwasher daily and he earns $3.00 a week! This works really well because he is excited about having his own money. Additionally he has to read for 30 minutes a day to earn 30 minutes of computer time.

We pay him to work because that is how it is for us as adults, we are paid for our contribution to a company and their bottom line. We do not pay for grades because just as we work around the home as parents we believe child's work is school and he will only ever have a job unloading the dishwasher if he never goes to school.

As far as your son having trouble staying on task have you considered having him tested for ADHD or ADD? Initially, I was struggling to keep my son on task as well, he school counselor recommended him to be tested for ADHD/ADD. I was so conflicted and had to settle for myself that this was what God had to help settle my son's mind and help him focus, he's not going to be on medication forever. ADHD may not be your son's cross to bear and I pray that it is not and it is worth checking into for your son's settled mind.

One way you may want test him about the things you are teaching him is to allow him to "teach" you what he learned that day. My husband helps my son prepare to "teach" sunday school on the off chance days that we cannot make it to church, he really blooms! He follows the format of his children church precisely and gets all preachy with it! It's sooooooo cute! And most importantly, he's growing in confidence and in God and loves that daddy is proud of him!

You mentioned your son's anxiety about the timer, why not try allowing him to set it and taking responsibility for keeping himself on task and then rewarding him . Maybe only use it for chores and not for school work if it causes him to feel rushed. Also put more time on it than you know will be needed for your son to complete chore in the time it normally takes him, when he sees there is time left over this will encourage him that he can get things done and may lessen his anxiety about the timer all together.

My son's therapist also suggested we try music while doing chores, maybe both of you can do your chores together and dance while you work, Chris Tomlin and Martha Munizzi, both Christian artists, are great for dancing. My son likes this because he loves to praise and worship God and he gets practice his praise songs for the praise team, knocking out two tasks at once.

If God is not leading you to enforce the "no work, no eat" rule you shouldn't do it. You know your child and you know what would adversely affect him. Also, all the advice I can offer you is not better than building your son up through prayer and positive affirmations, my pastor's wife got on me this week about that very thing and that has made a huge difference!

I hope these ideas help, God bless you and your family!


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Debbie - posted on 07/25/2009




Since your starting later in life it will take longer. His will and knowing his constant distracting gets him anything he wants and that instant gratification is an addicting thing for anyone, especially us adults! Establish a routine, such as every day at a certain time. Keep it consistent or your child will never understand what you want. Then start by staying with him while he does them, backing off and reminding him you;ll back off as he starts to do them right and as good as he can. Do not allow him to distract you, he can have a drink before, at a certain time, or after ward, ect. You are not punishing him, you are teaching him the life skills he will need to succeed in life. Remember that and don't give in. A well loved child never suffered dehydration or starvation by postponing a snack or drink! Your success depends on your ability to negotiate a chore routine with him at the beginning, then sticking to it. He'll learn so much about himself and gain a great sense of responsibility/accomplishment!

Mona - posted on 07/25/2009




I explained to my boys that chores are not a punishment it's part of being a family. Everyone needs to do their part.
We don't complete their chores for them. They notice when someone else was not doing their part...full garbage, sink full of dishes because dishwasher was not emptied, dirty floor.etc. It helps them see that they do make a difference.
Mona -

Shane - posted on 07/25/2009




Hey Celeste! I've had the same problems with all of 4 my kids-keeping them focused on a task regardless of what it is. It is very hard to keep tabs on things when you aren't home-I'm with ya on that one. Same dynamic at our house.

It's taken a lot of years of timer setting for my kids. They would do the same thing-psyche themselves out before they ever started. Material rewards never worked for them for some reason-they just convinced themselves they would never achieve it.

Some things I've learned along the way:

Sometimes the task is too overwhelming. Like when I sent them to clean a very horribly messy bedroom. I would tell them to clean, but they just couldn't get started. It was like overstimulation. Now when they get in that place I say "Go pick up all the crayons and put them in the box." One directive at a time until it's done.

Often as a reward for getting motivated (when we have time) I say, "If we get all of our chores done by (for instance) 7:00 pm we will go swimming at Uncle Bruce's house." Then set the timer. I've found that this helps give them a sense of how long an amount of time is-not just hanging out there in space somewhere. I've found that getting to go somewhere fun works more for me than allowance or treats.

Sometimes I do still have to spank hineys for not getting something done. I know that is a tough thing and I definately understand your stand on it. I look at as a direct defiance of what I have asked them to do. If they haven't done what I've asked them to do in a reasonable amount of time, and I can hear them in there playing - I set the timer and say "Look, you have 30 minutes to get this done, and if you don't, you are going to get a spanking." The consequence has been given, so it is their choice. I've had to follow through a few times, but I rarely have to do that anymore.

Dragging schoolwork out all night (or all day) is a tough one. 2 of my kids do it and it's very frustrating-they seem to be distracted by every little thing, and I've had them tested for adhd so it isn't that. They just don't want to do the work. So, I just try to keep the environment as peaceful as possible-set a reasonable schedule for when it is expected to be done. Then they are responsible for the consequences-for the older one's they know that if they get a detention for undone schoolwork and dad and I have to miss work to take them-there is going to be some serious trouble. For the little ones who don't get it yet-no toys, no tv, just the corner. Corner time still works. And for my oldest one who was the worst, it still came down to the timer.

I think it can be very difficult for children to relate to an adult situation such as you won't be a successful adult if you don't learn how to stay focused. Even rewarding a good report card sometime down the road can be hard for them to stay focused on when they are young. Sometimes I think they need immediate consequences and immediate reward until they can understand what it means to reap what they sow, and for every child that timeline can be very different.

In all of this, I do my best to help them along the way to have success so they can experience the reward. Scale it back to whatever you KNOW without a doubt they can and will do, make it so easy that they can not help but succeed, so you can reward the good behaviour, then just build on it.

In the end you just have to keep trying different things until you find what works for your child AND YOU. Because if it isn't something you know you can stay committed to it won't work.

In the end it is consistency and prayer, that wins the battle. Sometimes you are at a complete loss for what to do-pray ask God-he knows your little ones better than anybody and will know what it is they need from you. Blessings to you :)

[deleted account]

Keep it coming ladies, some ideas to try already. I did try the chart thing, with the allowance and loosing allowance for not finishing chores etc, and it was pretty much ignored. I am gone most of the day so it's hard for me to reinforce. Basically he hasn't gotten an allowance for over a month now.

I like the idea of praying for him about this specific issue. We pray together all the time, so it'll fit right in with our day and he likes doing it. I forget sometimes that there are spiritual reasons behind things. I get so busy trying to fix things myself that I forget to just pray sometimes and let God work it out.

Thanks again guys, like I said, keep it coming!

Tracey - posted on 07/25/2009




I have a nine,six five and two yr old we use charts with a $2 amount given at the end of the week,if the chores are not completed there is a 10 cents deducted at the end of week talley them up and pay accordingly this is working really well here ,the kids have the choice of using there money at the footy canteens on Sunday mornings or can use a t the canteen at school.I am a christian mum I also have a christian friend who uses this metod she is very happy as well..Best of Luck

Miangelbug - posted on 07/25/2009




Do you know of any one who is/was VERY successful because they worked hard to get there? Do you know or see any body that has a "crappy" life that is due to their lack of focus or laziness? Maybe you can show him these two lives and explain how each got to where they are at. If you can, get an "interveiw" with the successful one and let him hear firsthand how hard work and focus pays off. This is just a suggestion. Maybe sit down and explain that focus in school leads to good grades, which leads to college, which leads to a better/easier lifestyle. Put it into a seven year olds perspective though. "Do you like those new roller blades we bought you for your birthday? If we didn't focus at work or do our best, our boss would fire us. We'd get no paycheck and lose our house and car and everything" You might have to make it sound REALLY bad and make him think it is like "the worst thing ever" to lose everything. Which is pretty true! Find bible characters that were lazy and explain what happened to them. Explain that being slothful is sinful. That children's 2 rules made by God are: 1.) Honor father and mother and 2.) Obey, obey, obey. Obedience is doing WHAT mom says, WHEN mom says to do it and with a SMILE on your face (even if it's forced-later have to do as a boss would tell you to do with a smile on your face). I would stop saying that "distractions" are keeping him from doing what he is told. Explain how the devil trys to tempt us to be disobedient to God. Even though he is trying to do the right thing, he still isn't. Teach him to pray and ask God to help him to focus. This sounds like a spiritual battle so you need to treat it as one. Our flesh wants to think of every excuse out there to NOT do something that we should be doing. It needs to be punished now or it will continue into adulthood and he'll have trouble holding a job and such.

[deleted account]

Thanks for responding Brittany!

We don't do a set curriculum at the moment, we're basically working on improving his reading and writing skills over the summer because that's where he's been the weakest. He's only got 2 assignments per day at the moment. It's not necessarily boredom as much as that he psyches himself out. He convinces himself he can't do it before he even starts. I've told him that all I really want from him at this point is to just try his best, and that I EXPECT him to make mistakes because he is still learning. But he get's so worried to make a mistake. I keep reminding him that as long as he tries then he won't get into trouble and we can learn what he needs the most help with. It's getting a little bit better on that front, he just needs a lot of reassurance.

As for the no workie, no eatie thing, that's what I am leaning towards. A tangible consequence to not doing what needs to be done. I know that if I don't do my job then we don't eat, and we don't have power or gas or water or a phone. Maybe I can have a conversation with him about this (again) and explain that he won't get dinner if he doesn't get his stuff done, or that dinner will be bread and water that night or something. Ugh, feels cruel, but he HAS to learn to be self motivated or he'll defeat himself at every turn.

Also, part of the problem is trying to get him to stay focused. He never outright refuses to do something, he just get's SO distracted, and can't stay on task. Anything specific to that? Because it's not defiance, it's something he's having a hard time with. I want him to grow up to believe that he can do anything he is willing to work hard at, not feeling like he can't accomplish anything difficult.

So concerned for him :(

Miangelbug - posted on 07/25/2009




It's just a thought but does he find the curriculum boring or dull? I'm not saying that you haven't made the right choices on his schooling (I plan to homeschool my children) but maybe it's just too dull or too long for a seven year old. Maybe split up the lesson plans into shorter time frames or find a way to combine a number of lessons into one activity. Like math/science/field trip/projects can be combined with something like a nature walk or trip that involves numbering and learning about animals or plants. Maybe keeping a journal (with your help of writing in it) and write down how many birds he counted on the trip or what certain plants looked like. These are just examples but maybe you could make math fun by using m&m's to count, add and subtract. If he gets a question right, he gets to eat a m&m (also can learn his colors this way-although my dad used to eat the m&m if my brother got the question wrong).

As far as not doing chores, just remind him that every family member must contribute to the chores and that him doing his chores makes you proud. My dad used to say "No workie, no eatie." And although we didn't like it as kids, I never went against the Chore Policy. My brother tried it once and played basketball all day instead of doing his chores. He came to dinner ready to eat a hearty meal and my dad reminded him of "no workie, no eatie." My brother went without dinner that night but never went against my dad again. It won't kill your kid to miss a meal if you decide to do this. And it's not mean to reinforce respect. It's better to teach it now than have a teen that down right disrespects you. Just remember that you are the parent and he is the child. You are in control and need to take that control, otherwise he will. Sorry if this is blunt but it's honesty. Good luck!

[deleted account]

Jessica, good ideas and kind of a duh moment for me, that's exactly what I had to do when bed time was a routine of excuses. XD

I think I am coming to the point where he is going to loose all privileges until he EARNS them back by having his stuff done... I've already said no tv or movies till stuff is done, but perhaps boxing up all of his toys and stuffed animals is what it will take.

Do you think it would be too cruel to put away his "bear-bear" (his lovey bear sleep thing)? It seems mean to me, but someone irl recommended that to me...

Kylie- the timer is not a bad idea. The only problem I have is sometimes it motivates him and others it makes him feel overwhealmed and cry... Never know which I am going to get. If I get him on a good day he'll try just about anything for me, but on bad days he spends so much time fretting that he can't do something that he never gets started.

All of this is aggrivated by the fact that I'm no longer the stay at home parent, and daddy is kind of lax in all this. I've always been the strict diciplinarian, and daddy's always been permissive. So it's hard for me to stay on top of things like I used to when I was staying at home with him.

So far some good and common sense ideas, thanks ladies!

[deleted account]

Have you tried using a timer? My kids can be quite motivated to "beat the clock" when they have things to do.

Another thought is to do an assignment, followed by something fun. Assignment - choice of activity-back to work. If he has a short attention span, I wonder if the promise of something more active to do once his work is complete may help him?

Hope that helps--Hang in there!

Jessica - posted on 07/24/2009




One of the first things I make my kids do before school work is get a glass of water and put at the desk, table, or wherever they are doing their homework. I also make them go to the bathroom before hand. This will help with the excusses when comes homework time.

As for the housework, I do not believe that treats or anything like that works. I have taught my children that cleaning/chores is a must in the family, and everyone must do their fair share. My children are not allowed to do anything until everything is done. If you take everything away from him and he has nothing to do, then he will learn and start doing what he is suppose to. He may be stubborn at first, but it does work most of the time. At least it did with my 3 kids.

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