Me: [Son's name] - go brush your teeth!

Son: I just have to :

  • finish this page of my book
  • finish watching this episode
  • finish throwing this ball
  • go look at this thing [repeat and choose another excuse]

Now I'm sure this is common for this age group and I don't doubt I was similar.

My question is: How do I get my 7YO son to [do thing he doesn't want to] when he offers a sequence of excuses?

  • 1
    Do you want to know how to deal with the excuses or the lack of immediate obedience? Dec 5 '18 at 0:56

There are several ways to solve this issue.

  1. Wait for him to finish it and then ask him to go brush his teeth.
  2. Make it easier for him to brush his teeth by doing suitable alterations in the settings.
  3. Brush with him daily, so that he knows you're waiting for him to brush your teeth too, and will keep waiting, so there's no escape.
  4. Don't make excuses to your spouse (and vs. versa) so that this behavior is not modeled in the home.

Children do what they see, not what you tell them. To stop him from learning how to give excuses, make sure your spouse and you do not do this in front of the child.


Try changing your approach. Instead of telling him (to do whatever, right now). Tell him it's time to (do whatever) as soon as he's done (with the excuse). Or, tell him he can (have a special treat) if he stops what he's doing (and does such and such now). Hopefully a different tactic will end the friction.

  1. Consider if the first excuse is legitimate: if he is genuinely in the middle of something which will be disrupted (e.g. a game) and your request is not urgent then ask him how long it will be till he finishes, and go put a kitchen timer on for that number of minutes. Then check up on him and tell him to go do it.

  2. Accept no further excuses. Insist that he does it now. Just stand there and keep on telling him to go do it. Now. Not in five minutes, now.

  3. If he still won't comply then take action: take his ball away, turn off the TV or computer, or whatever. Then tell him he can get back to it once he has done what you want. If he complains then just say "Next time do as you are told and I won't have to."

  • 1
    Good points! I'd only alter the "Next time do as you are told..." to "Next time, keep your word/do as you said..". A mutual trust is reflected here. You trusted him when he said he's in the middle of something and waited, and now it's up to him to keep his word and brush his teeth like he said.
    – learner101
    Dec 5 '18 at 13:20

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