I'm the father of a 9 year old boy, who, while in the top tier regarding intelligence and grades, has a serious problem of 'getting things done'. Simple things.

The issue does not occur at school itself, where he finishes tests as well as 'assisted homework', not really speedy, but generally in time. He seems to be pretty self-motivated there.

Now for the issue: It is almost impossible to make him do something if he is not motivated. I will give some concrete examples, but I also want to draw your attention to the bigger picture.

Every morning we have the same awful routine: It takes about 15 calls and 20-30 minutes just to get him out of bed. It then takes about 10 further calls to make him start eating at breakfast. The same goes for bathroom, getting dressed and ready to go.

The same applies to the evening routine. It is close to impossible to make him brush teeth and put on pajamas, without getting loud or threatening that he will not have any time to read.

The reason I'm writing this today is the following: He was sitting at the breakfast table, the bowl, milk, etc. right in front of him. I had not started with the 'usual' calls to make him pour the milk and eat. We were just having eye-contact, and he said: 'I don't know what to do now'. He was serious.

My assessment of the situation is this: He is not able to think for himself, exactly because of the relentless calls of mom and dad. Still he does ignore the calls. Only if they change to shouting, he might consider cooperating.

The problem is, in my opinion, worsened by that fact that both parents are present and that both make calls. It is completely unclear, who is 'responsible'. I guess my wife thinks that I am 'in charge' of the morning routine. Still does she interfere because she is present.

The plan is now, obviously, to make him go through the morning routine without any calls. He is surely capable of watching the clock and remembering a simple sequence of 5 things to do. He's just not motivated. My plan is, starting from tomorrow, to tell him, that he alone is responsible for being ready in time. After being late once, he might learn to speed up earlier.

While we will certainly give this a try, I kindly ask for your opinions and support. Morning routine suggestions are very welcome, but please keep in mind, that it is also a more general issue.


1 Answer 1


It is easy to forget that children are people also, and need to feel like they have power over their lives. Being powerless is not fun. By dragging his feet in the morning/night time routines, he is exercising the only power he feels he has at that time. Give him choices.

Children also need to experience consequences. It is also easy for us parents to think we are being good parents by always doing stuff for our children, but in reality we are handicapping them. I remember hearing once about a teaching saying the most responsible children she has ever met are the inner-city kids that actually go to school. They have no one to watch them and make them go, or really do anything for them--they make the choices themselves. Let your child experience consequences. Show your child once or twice how to do something, and when you are sure he knows how, he is on his own to do it. For example, if he does not pour his own cereal / make his food in the morning, he is choosing to go hungry that morning at school, etc...

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