School motivation and consequences

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by TerryJ2, Jan 17, 2008.

  1. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    difficult child has been testing 3 gr levels ahead in math at Sylvan tutoring, and getting F's on his papers at school. He puts the least amt of effort into any and everything, even fun, easy projects.

    I have set up a mtng with-his teacher. She emailed and agreed that he is unmotivated at school, and suggested that he also have accountability at home. The obvious thing is to cut out his computer time and make sure he works on his homework. In the summer, we used to bench him for being rude at home. But he's actually been very happy lately at home. I know darn well when he has to crack down he'll get cranky again and would love some suggestions for motivating him.
    He's never been competitive at school ... just in sports. And even then, not as competitive as some of the parents on the stands, LOL!

    I'm on my way downstairs to unplug his mouse ...
  2. BestICan

    BestICan This community rocks.

    My difficult child is similar. Very bright but rushes through his work and makes a ridiculous amount of careless mistakes just to be done with it. And he's the top reader in his class but he HATES to write. I'm not above conditioning him like a lab rat when it comes to homework. Here are some of the things I've done:

    1. Cut a stick of gum into pieces. He gets another piece of gum with every sentence that he writes.
    2. I have sat and doled out two pieces at a time from a bag of snacks for every sentence he writes.
    3. I offer to help (which he doesn't need - it's more like me keeping him company) and the second he starts fussing or screwing around I get up and start working in the kitchen.

    As for motivation when he's at school, that's tougher because I'm sure his teachers aren't willing to do that much. Since your difficult child seems capable of doing the work, I wonder if a reward (a Lego set or something) at the end of a couple weeks of trying harder at school would help him find motivation?

    I don't really have consequences for poor schoolwork/homework because that's what grades are for.
  3. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    IS there anything your son really really really wants? That he does not have, of course. Maybe make steps toward it conditional on effort?

    on the other hand, Has he been properly tested for ALL learning disabilities? When we let my difficult child type ALL school work we got MUCH better, more detailed work out of him. We still had to go through and prompt/edit/critique to get his best efforts, but dysgraphia made handwriting assignments torturous. For several years he had an Alphasmart (about $200, if I remember - Stella Johnson knows) to carry from class to class. It is a computer, super durable, that has NO games or distracting things. We had a problem in the printing off assignments area at first, until we made teachers give him time to go print off if they did not have the computers configured to print.

    If your difficult child can draw, but still won't write stuff, then don't discount this. Drawing artistically and writing out thoughts/assignments are very different.

    Hope this gives you some help.

  4. Josie

    Josie Active Member

    Maybe the work at school is too easy for him and he finds it boring? Has he ever been tested for Talented and Gifted? Or has he had a neuropsychologist exam which addressed this?

    It might be a hard sell at the school if he is getting F's though.
  5. Anna1345

    Anna1345 New Member

    I am preempting this with some background.... I used to be a teacher at a community college at our last duty station and since then I have been a stay at home mom privately tutoring on the side. I have tutored difficult children now for 5 years. In addition to private tutoring I work for Study Point. It is a place like Sylvan but very different in their approach and philosophy.

    I just wanted you to know that I see two problems.

    First Sylvan is not a great place to take g'sfg simply because of their philosophy. They don't intend tutoring to be a tool, rather a crutch. By that I mean it is the tutor's job to give the student the tools he or she needs to be able to do it on their own. Not for the student to rely on never being able to do it on their own with out the tutor. Does that make sense?

    Second, you need to find your child's currency with out going too far. By that I mean, he needs the sports. Don't take those away. Sports are a good, healthy outlet (all kids need some sort of outlet) that does teach important things in life like team work, acceptance, tolerance, being a good looser AND winner, etc.However, electronics only rot the brain. lol. They are privileges NOT rights. The only rights these kids have are the follow:

    loving parents
    roof over their head
    good health (this is where the sports come in)

    everything else is a privilege that needs to be earned. When kids turn to being lazy, it has been my experience that it is because of one of three reasons: they either want attention OR they are completely not challenged OR it is a combination of the two.

    There are a couple things you can try.... (and teacher will need to be on board for this to work)
    1. When he gets home from school, engage him, every day, starting with 1st peroid.
    "Okay difficult child, tell me what happened in English today?"
    "I don't know, nothing"
    "Well, what are you working on right now?"
    "We're doing xyz"
    "Did you have homework in it?"
    "Let me see your stuff"
    etc. doing this for every class. It forces him to recall what he did that day, remember it and talk about his homework

    2. Have him write in his planner/agenda every day, every class. Get the teacher to sign off on it everyday so that you know what is written on there will be accurate (meaning he doesn't write "no HW" but he really has a "p.239 #1-20 even" for example). Simultaneously, you will initial each subject as you see it is completed. If you don't see it completed then you don't sign. THat way teacher knows it was not done, not that difficult child "forgot it" or "lost it". ALWAYS WRITE IN PEN int he planner

    3. the rule has to be that if it is assigned and he gets class time to work on it, fine. However the teacher can not accept anything early. Meaning if he doesn't bring his home work home that he completed in class, then he re-does it at home. Once you have seen it, you will initial it on the paper. That way the teacher knows you have seen it and it is ready to be turned in.

    4. In the beginning, EVERY BOOK comes home EVERYDAY.

    5. Do not let him leave school before making sure his planner is filled out and the books are in his bag

    6. Give MAJOR praise and small rewards for his accomplishments

    7. ZERO computer until his grades are brought up -- if that means sending the power cord with the parent who leaves for work before he goes to school, then do it.

    8. no yelling at him no matter how irresponsible he seems to be getting. Each day is a new day and tomorrow he will start over and try again. Some things are like getting mad at him because he is not growing fast enough. Some things (although they seem intentional) are not his fault.

    I know this seems like a lot of hand holding, however it is NOT. Right now he lacks the ability (for whatever reason) to do what he needs to do on his own. It happens. This age and grade are HUGE transitions. So if he doesn't catch on right away, it is not a huge deal..... unless it gets ignored. With this type of plan, it forces him to be accountable. What will eventually happen is that, he will go to come home and realize, shoot, I forgot my math book. Got to go back and get it.

    Then you will see that later he is able to come home and start homework on his own.

    Then he will come home with all the correct books, start his homework AND finish it.

    see the pattern?

    Each child is different and this plan may need to be adjusted a bit to fit your child, however it works time and time again with children I have tutored and with my own son.

    If none of this works or only works partially, it could be the environment he is in. I found the worse it got with my son, the worse his teacher got. She just didn't know how to deal with an ADHD kid with out breaking his spirit and demeaning him. Michael switched schools after the Christmas break and he is absolutely thriving! He is like a completely different kid.

    I still do this plan, but have been able to let up some because he can now make sure he has the correct books and comes home and starts the hw all on his own. He has finally also realized that lying to me about assignments due or ones he had supposedly completed but really didn't was pointless because I ALWAYS find out because I have frequent contact with the teacher -- weekly and more if needed. He also has realized that even if he was supposed to do something and didn't, it is always better for him to tell me BEFORE I find out so I can help him get back on track.

    Hang in there!

  6. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    M was often the same way. He never applied himself although he could easily do the work. He tested at a 135 IQ, could read and write at age 3, yada yada yada.

    It seems difficult to think that you should have to withhold something at home for school behaviors. M has muscular dystrophy, so sports weren't something he could do. Would your difficult child's coach be willing to set a minimum standards on grades/homework for participation? In HS, M was active in drama, and it required a minimum grade level to participate. Of course, M could pull his grades up with a good test score any time he wanted. But, he wouldn't have done even that if he hadn't wanted to be in the plays.

    Maybe you can get together with the coach and ask if he would be willing to work with the school on a weekly progress report type thing. "Get your work done, or don't play." My experience was, if I tried to regulate school behavior, everyone lost.
  7. nvts

    nvts Active Member

    Terry, I have a different twist for you. We went through the same bit with my 9 year old. Is his handwriting extremely sloppy? Does he misspell words that he's had since day 1? Does he reverse letters (not all the time, but more than YOU think he should considering his age?), seem to go for as little detail as possible? When you read a story outloud and ask him questions, does he seem to be able to answer those question better than if HE read the paragraph and answered written questions?

    During difficult child 1's neuropsychologist I brought in a hand-written note that he had done 3 days before his evaluation and asked them to look at it AFTER they spoke to him and tested him. They agreed and they then scheduled a follow-up and found he has a read/write disorder. It wasn't all that prevelent until the work started to get harder.

    Math is linear. It has to end sensibly. It's an easy skill to master.

    The written word is less tangible and for kids like ours there could be an underlying issue here.

    I'd get it checked if I were you!

    Just a suggestion!

  8. ggluvbug

    ggluvbug New Member

    I teach gifted kids, and I have learned that there is a very real phenomena with gifted kids and unmotivation (this stuff is too easy so I am not going to put forth any effort into it). Also, the most common hurdle I have found with bright kids is dysgraphia People assume that intellect is tied to good grades and best efforts. while it often is, there is a good percentage that do not fall into that category.

    The fact that the OP's child is ODD doesn't help this at all. My son is in the same category. He is ruled gifted, but you couldn't tell it by his school work at all lately. We *finally* got him to do his homework last night for the first time in about 2 months. We have decided that the responsibility has to fall on him. I will not babysit an 11 year old through his homework. If he fails, so be it. That was the hardest thing I have had to decide. It is hard for parents to have a child who fails, but there is extra pressure on a least I think. How can a teacher have a failing kid....she obviously :censored2: as a parent!

    Anyway, my point is that it is very, very frustrating to have a bright child who won't perform to his potential. But the responsibility has to be on him. I have been listening to the Total Transformation CD's and something I heard really hit me: I have been crippling my son by trying to make it easier for him by doing it for him. So now, I am having to reap what I have sown.
  9. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts


    I have to tell you that we have yet to find a home based consequence that impacts school & vice versa.

    Having said that, we've tried all the suggestions above & then some. Unless/until kt & wm are truly invested in themselves & in their education all the rewards/consequences in the world mean nothing.

    Our game plan all along is self esteem, trust in primary care givers & a daily home life that the tweedles can depend on.

    And in the end, there will be a lot to catch up in academics. And there will most likely be vocational education versus college.

    I'm not giving up on academics; foster mum & dad aren't giving up on academics for wm. However, the tweedles delays, their emotional age & trauma in their early childhood makes the school setting, for them, a not pleasant or positive environment.
  10. Anna1345

    Anna1345 New Member

    Okay I have to say it. Not trying to offend anyone, just my personal opinion....

    9,10,11 years old, etc is too young to "allow" them to fail on their own. They are still just children and we are still the parents. If they do not learn (with our guidance) how to deal with school -- study skills, learning, note taking, doing work even when they don't want to, etc -- then they will struggle in school & careers for the rest of their lives.

    Part of this age is to prepare them for their future. Not just academically, but also in how they deal with situations and learn problem solving skills. If they don't learn it now, they may never learn it. Giving up and putting it all on them at this age is not a good choice, in my humble opinion.

    Believe me. I know the follow through is treacherously hard for the parents. It is completely physically and emotionally draining and often times seems like it is more work for us then the child. But it is invaluable.
  11. nvts

    nvts Active Member

    Anna, I can agree with you to a degree. Some kids have such extreme situations within their lives, that homework actually becomes a "de-motivator" rather than a reinforcement of what they've learned.

    In some of these kids lives, they have so much going on in their heads, hearts and homes that to push homework to the point of what can often become a physical confrontation and could undo a lot of work within that child's realm borders on cruel. (Whoa, if that's not a run-on sentence, I don't know WHAT is!!!). :smile:

    Luckily, my 9 year old has embraced homework, but there were times that he fought so hard that he would make himself bleed scratching his arms to get me to let him not do an assignment.

    Just my opinion (and I hope that I'm NOT offending others!).

  12. Anna1345

    Anna1345 New Member

    NVTS -- I agree. It is picking battles. My statements were more of a generality.... The trend I am seeing more and more on this board, not just in this thread, but over all on this board, is a further move or shift from parent's accountability to the child's accountability.

    I know that some of these kids are so overwhelmed that it is difficult to just get through the day. Beleive me I know. But for parents (in general) who are using the "let them fail on their own to teach them to want to do the work" (and I was totally summarizing and paraphrasing that), just know that it never truly works.

    I feel that no matter how bad the child gets behaviorally, we as parents MUST stick through, be strong -- at least on the outside - and be steady. Anything less is not beneficial to the child. Does that make sense?

    Again, not trying to offend, just merely my observation.
  13. KitKat

    KitKat Looking for Answers

    He's not being motivated enough at school, that's for sure. If he's testing that far ahead, he needs to be stimulated much more than he is in his current math class. Is there anything you can do about that - perhaps get him into a higher (or extra) math class? Not only will it stimulate him, he'll feel great about himself because he's achieving something that his school cronies are not! That might be the motivation you're seeking...

    Good luck...
  14. Anna1345

    Anna1345 New Member

    Also, is a Montessori school an option for you?
  15. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts


    If I have to choose between completing 10 math problems that end in a call to crisis team or a visit to ER & a quiet night of possible bonding, I'm going to choose the bonding.

    My children came to me with 2 1/2 strikes against them - homework is the least of my concerns. When they are willing to do homework, boy do we do homework!

    Emotional healing, appropriate boundaries, social skills are a far higher concern than academics/homework issues. Will my children fail school - most likely. Do we have every intervention in place to prevent that - you betcha!

    However, I'm providing a safe & calm home life that kt can depend on - not a nightly call to crisis team.
  16. Anna1345

    Anna1345 New Member

    I am not disagreeing with that statement by any stretch.

    I think sometimes, the only way to have successful children is to provide an emotionally stable, loving home.

    And there are ALWAYS picking and choosing battles regardless of what the child's strength or weaknesses are.

    My only point is that in life and in my work, I see time and time again parents throwing their hands up because they are "done" or it is "too much". I have found in my own experience that changing a little thing here and a little thing there can make a huge difference. But I do see people (in general) just giving up, in my opinion, too easily. My point is that these are kids, our children; and we HAVE to be diligent.

    I have said my peace. Take it or leave it.
  17. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I wish I knew the answer to this. I have way more trouble having my difficult child complete homework than any child I have taught. For him it truly isn't worth the battle-the violence-yikes!

    I think it's great you have a meeting set up with the teacher. Does he have an assignment notebook? I would recommend the teacher signing it each night as well as you. That way you know right away when work isn't completed. He knows you know and then whatever rewards and consequences often fall into place whether they are at school or home-works for many of my students even difficult child ones (of course, not for my own difficult child).

    Is his workload appropriate?
  18. jannie

    jannie trying to survive....

    So I totally is not worth forcing homework to the point of causing anger, violence, and meltdowns. But, if they don't do their homework...should they be allowed to watch tv? Should they get computer time? Should the family bond and play board games together?
  19. Anna1345

    Anna1345 New Member

    Again, in my opinion, NO. You need to pick a currency (for us it is computer) and if he doesn't do what ever the assignments are, then no computer. If I were to accept BOTH the behavior AND allowing him his freedom to do whatever, then he would use that as a tool to get what he wants similar to toddler tantrums. It will become a known way for your son to get what he wants and to get out of doing his homework.

    On the flip side to this, I always allow Michael a chance to earn back things. He needs to always know that HE, innately, has the power of what he gets in life; that he gets what he gives. If he doesn't do homework, that is fine, then he plays no computer. However, when he decides that he wants to do some homework, every 45 min of studying yields 10 min of computer time. If he completes his homework with out any argument or dawdling (appropriately of course and this doesn't include if he needs help with something) and on his own, he is free to do what he wants for the evening (again, appropriately of course).

    We also use computer for behavior, chores, clean room... pretty much everything. HE LOVES playing the computer and it is very important to him.
  20. ML

    ML Guest

    Anna, I'm printing this out and plan to start it right away. I've been looking for some concrete things to try. Getting him to bring his homework home truly is the first part. Even in frigid temperatures he forgets his coat! Thank you for posting this.