Breaking Lazy Habits

Dear Dr. Bill,

I have two daughters, ages 16 and 10, who seem to be very lazy.  They won’t help me around the house and wait until the last minute to do their homework!  As a single parent, I usually don’t have the strength to make them do what I know they should.  How do I break this bad habit — not only in my kids, but in myself?



Dear Sheila,

You answered your own question. Even though it’s tough, the best thing you can do for your daughters is to establish house rules on chores and homework, and then follow through.  You’ll need to be consistent and firm, even when you’re tired or frustrated.

Unless you make some major changes in your parenting now, your daughters are going to have a tough future ahead of them.  If they haven’t learned personal responsibility and self-discipline, how are they going to succeed in college or hold down a job?

One method you can use is called the “Premack Principle.”  Basically that means that a less desirable activity needs to be completed before a person engages in a more desirable activity.

Say your 16-year-old loves texting or talking on the phone with her friends, while your ten-year-old enjoys riding her bike or watching TV.

Tell your girls you want to help them get ready for the “real world,” and because of that, you are going to set some new household rules. One of those rules will be that all homework and chores are to be done immediately after school, BEFORE they are allowed to engage in “fun” activities, like texting or watching TV.

It’s critical that you follow through—even when you’re tired or don’t feel like being firm.  I’d write up a contract that clearly spells out the rules, and even build in some special rewards your daughters can earn by keeping their end of the deal.

Thanks for writing, Sheila.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

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