Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Lighting A Fire

Why is it that motivating a child to do necessary things is so damned difficult?

Situation: Son has been receiving allowance for "chores" for the past few years. We don't ask him to deliver the moon. What he is responsible for is keeping his bedroom and bathroom clean, taking out the garbage once a week, doing the dishes and vacuuming. As a reference point, he's 12. Perfectly capable of handling this. Capable of doing more, IMO.

Our typical week sounds like this: Did you take out the garbage? Dishes need to be done NOW. Are you going to vacuum sometime today? Uh, there's a pile of clothes in the bathroom bigger than Everest... you get the idea. It's remind, remind, remind, nag, nag, nag. I'm so tired of it, and I wish there was some other way to get him to put his responsibilities at a higher level than his pleasures.

When I was a kid, and a chore needed to be done, I did it--and I didn't get any allowance. I was just as capable of procrastination as the next kid (aren't we all?) but I wanted to get my chores over with so I could have more time to play. Not so with son. He has procrastination down to an art form. "Do It Now" has no meaning to him. His mantra seems to be "play now, pay later". He's a coaster--capable of so much more and totally motivated NOT to get there. And no matter what we say, no matter the issue, he has no problem with that.

My biggest worry is he's setting himself up to fail in the future. I don't want to see that happen, but I'm damned tired of pushing him, too. And then automatically I'm guilty of being a "bad" mother (in my own mind).

Anyone have any strategies that work? Anyone have any ideas on how to light a fire in his pants? Anyone have a shoulder for me to cry on?


Jill said...

I have the same problem. Basically each kid seems to have one thing that means a lot to them, and if the stuff isn't done, I take it away. For the youngest daughter that means no tv. For the middle daughter that means no computer time. For my teenager, it means not talking to The Boy on the telephone. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't ...

Robyn said...

Shoulder right here, hon. All I can tell you is that my son, your son's twin btw, just grew up a little. He seems to hang on to a developmental stage with all his might, then...pow! He just matures and suddenly he's cleaning his room because he wants to.

The only thing that ever worked for him was putting him on a deadline. If he missed it, he lost a priviledge, and another every hour he delayed. It wasn't fun for me, but parenting just isn't sometimes.

spyscribbler said...

You know, the wonderful thing about men and boys is that if it's a compliment, they believe you.

So you just try the "man programming" method. Pretend (and boy is this hard, when all evidence is to the contrary) that they're actually good at what they're ... er, not doing.

Pretend that they did it so well on their own, er, last week. Or the week before.

Like, "You're so good at blah-blah." "It's not like you to forget to do blah-blah." "You're usually so good at doing blah-blah right when you get home from school."

Now, I understand this may seem preposterous to our female minds, but eventually, the male species believes us. It's the most bizarre thing.

I think it stems from the fact that no matter the compliment, men believe you. When's the last time you heard a man say, "Really?"