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Calm the Chaos Newsletter

In store for you today:

    • Motivate your child to do chores
    • Taking time for SELF Care: Morning Papers Journaling
    • Calm the Chaos Parent Coaching

Motivate your child to do chores

I have heard from several readers in the last few days asking about how to motivate a child to do things they don’t want to do. Chores, homework, and even specialized classes were mentioned. It’s an interesting question. Nobody really loves to clean the bathroom do they? Okay, you two who do love it—just go with me here for a moment. :) Not to mention who loves nagging others to do those things?

Here are some ideas that you can use to help make unpleasant tasks a little less arduous for your child. The extra bonus is that is requires no nagging from you. I’ll be using cleaning a bedroom as an example, but the basic ideas can be used for just about anything.

    1. Clear instructions to avoid overwhelm.
    2. Break task up into smaller bites.
    3. Set up the environment for success.
    4. Praise all efforts.
    5. Add an incentive for a job well done.

Clear Instructions to avoid overwhelm

This may sound odd. Of course, your child knows how to clean his room! In fact, many children get overwhelmed with too many instructions at once or with instructions that are too general. “Go clean your room” actually means something like this:

    “Go pick up all your dirty clothes and put them in the hamper, and then pick up all the Legos and put them in the bucket, and then pick up all the action figures and put them in the bin, and then pull the covers up on the bed, and then pick up all the stuffed animals and arrange them on your bed, and then pick up all the tiny pieces of toys, beads, paper, what have you and put them away or throw them away, and then go through your dresser and pull out all the clothes you don’t wear anymore and put them in the Goodwill box, etc. etc.”

You would never give someone this many instructions to do at once, and yet that simple statement “Go clean your room.” sounds like this to your child. It’s overwhelming. What do children who are overwhelmed do?

    • They refuse to do the task.
    • They put it off until later.
    • They try to distract you into forgetting about it.

Break task up into smaller bites

To avoid overwhelm, give your child one very specific instruction at a time.

    “Go pick up 10 articles of dirty clothes and put them in the hamper.”
    “Go pick up 20 action figures and put them in the bin.”

You can adjust the number of items to the age and ability of the child. (and discover how many figures there actually are!) An older child may be able to take in larger chunks, while a younger child will need smaller pieces.

Setup the environment for success

This may not be so obvious to you, but it makes a huge difference. Make sure that the environment is set up to allow your child to easily finish the task at hand. Some things to think about might be:

    • Is there a properly sized bin or other container for all items to be put away?
    • Are there tools available to help out (such as brush/dust pan for getting all those beads out of the carpet)
    • Is the trashcan, Goodwill box, and hamper in the room so they are not walking around the house where distractions are more likely?
    • Are you available to continue giving directions and praising efforts?

Praise all efforts

You knew I was going to say this one if you read the free report, “Conquering Bad Behavior without stress.” (If you don’t have it yet you can download it here: Once they have completed a task successfully, praise them, “Wow, you picked up 10 items! The room looks better already. Let’s do some more!” (Given with a high five or a hug)

Then you can give the next instruction. It’s a good idea to have the first few instructions make a big difference in the room, so that they can see how quickly they are making progress. Don’t skip this praise step it is CRUCIAL. They will get a lot more motivated by your excitement about their progress than about seeing the room look cleaner.

Add an incentive for a job well done

Some may have a problem with this step. After all you shouldn’t bribe your child to do chores right? Well, if you think about it, incentives are used all the time in our society and as long as you follow some basic rules, I think they are not only very appropriate, but very effective.

Rule #1 – The child must value the incentive for it to work. (I know it’s obvious!)
Rule #2 – The incentive matches the task at hand and your budget.
Rule #3 – The best incentives involve activities or something that will get “used up” fairly quickly
Rule #4 – Incentives should NOT be removed for bad behavior (Once earned it’s yours)

I can probably write another whole newsletter on incentives, but hopefully this is enough to get you started!

Okay, now go get those bedrooms sparkling!

Taking Time for SELF CARE

If you are like most parents, you probably focus outside yourself--on your children, your partner, or your job. You may find that spending even a few minutes each day focusing on yourself can pay big rewards in terms of how you feel and how you deal with the stresses of life. In this part of the newsletter, I will give you an idea to try out. Just give it a try for a couple of weeks and see if it’s helpful.

Morning Pages

In her book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron recommends a journal exercise that she calls Morning Pages. In fact, they don’t have to be done in the morning, but I have found that by doing them in the morning, my whole day goes better.

All you do is spend 20 minutes with a pad of paper writing down whatever thoughts come into your mind. Your first sentence might be something like, “I don’t know what to write.” That’s okay, just keep writing whatever comes. You will find yourself writing down things you worry about, things you wonder about, problems, or anything else that floats through your mind.

After 20 minutes, you may find that any negative thoughts are transforming into interesting ideas or even epiphanies about how to think about something differently.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes. :)

Calm the Chaos Parent Coaching

Are you struggling with Chaos at Home?

Now that Summer is upon us, it might be a great time to work on some of those challenges that you put off during the stresses of the school year. Calm the Chaos Parent Coaching provides you with the support you need to make lasting changes. Check out the details here.

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Calm the Chaos Newsletter

This Newsletter is copyright (c)2007 Karen DeBolt, all rights reserved. You may freely reprint in any newsletter, website, or print journal. Please send me a copy and include the following attribution:

"Calm the Chaos Newsletter article (c)2007 Karen DeBolt, MA.
All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission. Helping families
Struggling with Chaos at home to have happy, successful children. Sign up for the newsletter at and receive a copy of the free report, ‘Conquering Bad Behavior Without Stress.’"

I send out an extra email now and then detailing programs and offers.

Karen DeBolt, MA. Parent Coach and Family Therapist
Struggling with Chaos at home and want happy successful children? Download our free report, “How to conquer bad behavior without stress.”
5234 NE Farmcrest St., Hillsboro, OR. 97124



Copyright 2010 Karen DeBolt, MA All Rights Reserved
5234 NE Farmcrest St., Hillsboro, OR 97124 * 503-459-2073 * Email

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