Viewing 10 posts - 1 through 10 (of 10 total)
  • Author
  • kymom

    I am having a lot of trouble with my oldest (11 yo girl) and I need some guidance and encouragement. These are some problems we’re having.

    1.) Obedience to routine house rules, such as “always wear shoes outside,” “dirty clothes go in the hamper not on the floor” etc. It’s always “I couldn’t find shoes” or “Sorry, I forgot.” Our house rules have been the same since she was a toddler, and it seems like by now she wouldn’t “forget” them.

    2.) Obedience to specific instructions; as one example, I told her to get her pajamas on four times last night over a period of 40 minutes. Each time I gave the instruction, she answered “Yes, Mom” I went to do something else, and next time I saw her she was still in clothes. Every time she said apologetically, “Oh, sorry I forgot!” and then it still hadn’t happened next time I checked in. (And why do I even have to tell her to get pajamas on at her age?)

    Another frequent one is when we are getting ready to go somewhere and I tell her to get ready and come out to help me get the little ones ready. She never comes out. When I go check, she might be either ready herself but never came out, or she “forgot” to get ready all together.

    3.) Responsibility and helpfulness. I have a rotating chore chart where each child has one house cleaning chore per day and they are supposed to look at the chart for their assignment, do it while I am teaching another sibling, and check it off when they are finished. She rarely does this without prodding, and when she does do it, it can take hours to do the chore (most are jobs that should be 20 minutes or less). Alternatively, she says the chore is done and the assigned area looks no cleaner at all. When I try to point out what still looks dirty, she acts very discouraged and makes comments like, “I can’t ever do anything right!” or “I just don’t know how to clean!”

    She has the routine assignment of clearing and wiping the table and sweeping the floor in the dining room after each meal. This has been her chore for 3 years, and yet she often disappears right after meals. Either I do the work because I don’t want to have to go chase her down, or I do chase her down and it’s “I forgot.” After 3 years, I think it should be part of routine.

    I’m also really concerned because she isn’t giving any more help beyond those basic things. By this time I had expected a lot of help with washing dishes, keeping the house picked up, changing diapers and dressing younger kids, etc. I had thought I would have a teammate to help me run the house and manage younger kids.

    Instead, I’m feeling swamped with the work all on my shoulders, frustrated by the lack of help and obedience, and feeling like a failure myself because I haven’t been able to teach her to obey and be more helpful. My husband and I talked it over and he said he thinks I don’t follow through on instructions enough and that there are no consequences for her when she doesn’t obey or help, but I just don’t know how to address these things. I feel too busy and overwhelmed to follow through on every instruction I give, and after reading huge numbers of parenting books I feel confused and helpless about “consequences.”

    On the positive side, my daughter is a very sweet girl, intelligent and loving. I enjoy having conversations with her about books we both like. I want her to know I love her and I want to bring out the best in her, but I don’t know how. My efforts to appeal to her better nature to give obedience because it pleases God or to help her family as a way of showing her love just don’t move her. She sometimes responds by saying she knows she’ll never go to heaven because she’s really bad. Other times she just seems to agree with me and say “I’ll try to do better” and there is no change.

    My side of the relationship is really suffering. I feel very upset with her for not just doing what she’s told and helping more. I feel like there isn’t much joy in motherhood right now. I had hoped we would be a team, but I feel alone in trying to do everything.

    I don’t know if this is a problem I can correct but I don’t know how? Or if she is just extremely forgetful and I need to have patience about reminding her a million times and she’ll outgrow this eventually? And I really want to be able to take joy in her and have a positive, loving relationship even in this difficult time.  Thank you for any advice.



    I deal with this a lot. Having things written down (including a laminated step-by-step list for every cleaning task put up where the chore is done, for example how to properly wash dishes next to the sink), keeping the chores the same every day (no rotating, less to remember/keep track of), making children repeat the directions back (specifics. Not “I’m doing my hygiene” but “I’m going to brush, floss, wash my face, change my clothes, put my dirty clothes in the hamper, and make my bed”), setting timers (or racing a song — Sabre Dance and William Tell Overture are great for this!), asking “What are you forgetting/supposed to be doing?” help.

    I also put up a picture of a slide with the ladder labeled with “chores, school, manners, exercise” and the slide labeled as “fun, friends, health, joy” and remind them throughout the day “Climb the ladder so we can go down the slide!” And “If you cooperate with me it’s a short ladder and a long slide. If you fight me all day it’s a long ladder and short slide or no slide at all. You decide!” For our family the goal is to get the morning/breakfast chores done before/by 8 and start school at 9. That hour is for free time. Either work quickly and get a free hour to play or don’t, but it’s up to you. As slow as it is, we are making progress!

    As far as consequences, if my kids continue to get distracted or ignore me then for every time I have to repeat myself they have to go sit at the table with their heads down and arms folded for 1 minute per repetition. If it carries on so my time is wasted/I can’t get to the exercises I must do in order to move freely, or they are being rude, they get to do the chores I would have done but couldn’t get to. I have also had to cancel trips to the park or putting on a movie because things took too long (or if just one dawdled, they go sit in their room while everyone else watches the movie). It sucks but slowly they learn that they can’t dawdle the day away.

    You do have to follow through. They say “You can’t expect what you don’t inspect.” I have to keep a list of things I’ve said to remind me to go check. Sometimes I’ll just do my stretches or march in place in the doorway while I monitor. As far as the shoe situation, I’d go find a few thorns (or a list of negative effects of a tick bite) and show her and ask if she wants those in her foot. No? Then wear your shoes. Don’t want severe blisters from a hot sidewalk? Wear your shoes. (This is from  someone who stepped on a big rusty roofing nail a few years ago, and whose teen went out barefoot and got a big, red, swollen, infected toe joint requiring antibiotics because he stepped on a goathead thorn and a piece remained in his foot for over a week).

    How’s her sleep and does she take any vitamins? One of my kids was helped greatly with daily magnesium and fish oil. Another does well with magnesium and zinc. Are all her toys in her room, and do you have a room that could work as a play room and be closed off until chores are done? If so, making bedrooms solely about sleep and dressing, removing all distractions might help.

    Karen Rodriguez on YouTube has a lot of good videos on homeschooling and homemaking without burnout. She says o stop using the word “try”, and to change from “I’ll try to be better about…” To “I WILL start doing XYZ.” The video is called “3 Toxic Words in Homeschooling”.

    Karen Smith

    You don’t mention if your daughter used to obey and complete her tasks, but now is having a hard time with them. If this is a new thing, then she may be struggling with puberty changes. A helpful book to read to help her and you navigate the tween years is Hal and Melanie Young’s book No Longer Little: Parenting Tweens with Grace and Hope.

    If her behavior and obedience have always been this way, then evaluating what you can change in your approach to requesting help from her, what you expect for obedience, and relating your expectations for completing tasks to her is a good idea. Do your other children struggle with obedience or completing tasks? Are your expectations too high for this particular child? Have you tried having her work alongside you to complete some tasks? Just some questions to consider. You may find SCM’s podcast/blog post “Why Reminding Your Child Doesn’t Work?” helpful.

    As you described your daughter’s behavior, I wondered if she might struggle with ADHD? People with ADHD have a hard time completing tasks, not because they don’t want to but because it is hard for them to keep their focus on what needs to be done. You may find SCM’s podcast/blog post “Charlotte Mason Homeschooling with ADHD” helpful.


    totheskydear, thank you for sharing so much helpful advice! I will check out the video you mentioned as soon as I have a chance. Sounds like writing and posting chore steps in particular might be helpful for us. I’ve also decided to try a timer for getting ready for bed.

    In what way did the magnesium, zinc and fish oil make a difference for your children? We don’t take any vitamins or supplements at all right now.

    Sleep is a problem for us. My husband works odd hours which both cut our school day short and keep us up too late. This seems to hit myself and my two oldest girls hardest. Often the girls are still up well past 10, which means I can’t  go to bed either. I do think they and I are chronically overtired.

    We’ve been working on the rule that play/toys are only in the family area and bedrooms are just for sleeping and changing clothes. I realize it’s going to mean me dropping school about every 15 minutes to round on the house and make sure all kids on playtime aren’t in the bedrooms. I just haven’t done this because with my husband’s schedule I only have about 3 hours to try to teach 4 kids. So I just tell them each day, “Remember, we don’t go back in the bedrooms. Play is in the play area,” and then I go give my attention to school. Sometimes I lock the bedroom doors, but always someone needs an emergency clothes change and the rooms are left open again. Result: lots of play and mess in bedrooms, plus a good location for my oldest girl to disappear to.

    Regarding your suggestion on the shoes, unfortunately our family has had our share of foot injuries and bee stings. The daughter in question had her foot injured pretty badly just about a month ago and needed antibiotic treatment on the wound. I don’t know why my kids don’t learn from these things, but they don’t. We always talk it through and discuss how that’s why we have a rule about wearing shoes, to protect our feet from being hurt like this, and their obedience will keep them safe, but there is no change on their part. So I guess that simply means I have to check on them every time they leave the house and make sure they are wearing shoes, if I want them to do it.

    Yesterday I decided to try “you come right inside to do chores if you are out with bare feet.” One son had to do jobs for 40 minutes before getting to go back outdoors with his shoes on and I explained clearly why he lost playtime and had all that extra work. Just a few hours later, he was back out with bare feet again.

    For some reason, my children don’t learn well from “natural consequences” and don’t seem to have a natural sense that they need to obey because it’s the right thing to do. So guess all that really leaves me with is checking in and inspecting a lot. I feel pretty discouraged about these problems, especially because we have a Christian home and I feel like their should be a sense of wanting to do the right thing on their part. Maybe my expectations are unrealistic and that’s why I’m having such a hard time with this?

    Anyway, thank you for all your advice.





    Karen, to clarify, she has always had these issues. I keep thinking that when she’s 7…8…9 SURELY she’ll start listening better and being more helpful but she’s now 11. There have been a few positive changes over the years. She has improved a bit but not nearly to the level I would like or expect to see.

    She has lately become very emotional and often cries, which is new for her. She’d always been a very stoic person before. So that’s probably a puberty change.

    My expectations of her are higher than for my other kids because she’s older and more intelligent, but if I line them all up against the same expectations, the next three kids in the family often still perform better than she does. (Not that they are perfect.. all of them have the shoe problem.)

    My 9 year old, who frankly isn’t nearly as intelligent and is struggling through second grade work, is more responsible and helpful. She will check her chore chart and get right to work on her own, does a much more thorough cleaning job than her big sister, and often asks me to do school with her first each day so she can get it done. This girl will also wash a whole sink full of dishes without complaining if assigned, whereas my 11 year old will “need a break” after about 2 dishes and never come back. If she does wash more than that, invariably I come to put the clean dishes away and find they are still covered with food.

    Working on a job together is something I often try, but it’s frustrating because I do all the work while she talks. Sometimes I keep interrupting her and saying, “Please sweep while you talk,” or “Keep picking up while you tell me about it” but she usually can’t work and talk at the same time.

    I’m also struggling with the relationship aspect of this, because if I always ignore what she’s telling me to make her focus on the job, her takeaway will be that I don’t care about her, just about getting the room clean. And with her recent emotional changes, it’s been much more important to her to spend time together and have me listen to her. Last night I was trying to tell the girls at 10 PM that I was very tired and needed to go to bed, and my daughter said sadly, “But there were a lot more things I wanted to tell you!” So I told her I would stay to hear the rest of it. I am concerned about focusing too much on chores/discipline/rules and losing the relationship and don’t know where to draw the line.

    Thank you for the articles and the book link. I will get the book and read it as soon as I can. Sounds like it will be very helpful.

    I have never thought about ADHA as a possibility because she’s the least hyperactive of my children and is very able to focus on things like reading or playing a game for an extended period.


    Karen Smith

    Every child is different, including those with ADHD. Not all who are ADHD are hyperactive. Those with ADHD tend to not be able to focus on tasks (they are easily distracted), but at the same time they can be hyper-focused on things that interest them, to the point that they can’t think about anything else. Frustrating for both parents and child, but not without hope.


    Thank you, Karen. That description does sound somewhat like my daughter, and actually sounds a LOT like my husband. He gets on a “kick” and will read, study or talk about his topic of choice almost every waking moment.

    I listened to the link you posted about homeschooling with ADHD and while not everything sounded like my daughter, there were quite a few points that did.

    One thing I have always noticed with her is that she doesn’t seem to learn well from natural consequences, like in the example I cited above where she injured her foot badly but still doesn’t wear shoes outside.

    Another recent episode: she drew a big picture in colored pencils on her wall and then proudly called me to come and look at her art. I wondered how an 11 year old child who is really very intelligent could not only draw on the wall at her age but could actually think it was something to be proud of! After all the times we have cleaned up the walls from her baby brother scribbling on them and talked about how we only draw on paper!

    I have a “no plants in the house” rule, and she frequently picks bouquets and brings them to me. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, so I always thank her and then a few days later remind her of the rule and ask her to please let the flowers grow outside where we can enjoy them and they won’t get dead leaves, pollen etc. all over the house. She agrees, but does it again before long.

    Would these things fall under the difficulty in forming habits that was discussed in the interview? I have wondered what is going on logically in her mind that she still does things like write on the wall when we have talked SO many times about what vandalism is and how we need to respect our home and care for it.

    Would it be a good idea for me to reach out to our pediatrician about having her evaluated for ADD or ADHD? She doesn’t seem to be suffering academically at all, but we do have a lot of daily life issues and if there is a better way to work with her I’d like to learn about it.

    Katie Thacker

    Hi kymom! Katie here, the mom in the podcast about ADHD 🙂 A large component of ADHD that I didn’t chat about in the podcast is impulsivity. And it can be very extreme, even without hyperactivity. If she isn’t sure why she broke rules (and this feels genuine), it does sound to me like she’s struggling with impulsivity.

    I would recommend reaching out for an evaluation. More information can’t hurt, and then you can look at options from there. I would highly recommend taking a peek at Although many of their resources are for students in conventional school settings, so many of them can help at home as well.  They have a lot of webinars and articles with very practical tips.

    I will say, kids with ADHD tend to be extremely smart with very busy brains, although it may not look like it on the outside when their symptoms are taking over. Giving her challenges, letting her know how helpful she is when she follows the rules, making things into games (let her design them!), etc. can really and make the entire atmosphere more positive. Because ADHD kids often do not learn as well from natural consequences, they need other things to trigger the “do this, not that” part of their brain 🙂


    Katie,  thank you so much! This has been such a difficult situation for me for years. I’ve read dozens of parenting books and feel like I’ve tried everything. I’ve been wondering if she’s just determined not to work with me or if I’m a really bad parent. I can’t help comparing her to other people’s much younger kids who seem so much more responsible and helpful and wondering how I’ve messed up. I so much appreciate having a direction to look for help. Thank you!!

    Karen, thank you for your time and the resources!

    Karen Smith

    Kymom, you are welcome! I hope you are able to find a solution that helps your daughter and brings peace to your home.

Viewing 10 posts - 1 through 10 (of 10 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.