Anyone have tips for difficult child's poor planning?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by klmno, Aug 22, 2008.

  1. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Poor planning showed up as an issue on his neuropsychologist test (2 1/2 yrs ago) and it's still an issue with school. If he has projects assigned for 2-3 weeks away and other things to account for (regular homework, therapist visits, holiday, etc) he never plans ahead. This is becoming more and more of an issue and I can see it at home in other areas. I remind him and try to help him- but it is to no avail.

    He is a hard worker and does a good job and it isn't very hard to get him started- usually. But, as an example, I gave him a list of several things he needed to do before vacation and if he did them before the day we're supposed to leave, he would have earned spending money and we could leave on time. If he didn't have them done, we would have to leave a day later because I would have to do them. (I'm sure he was motivated) He did a little 2 weekends ago, then last weekend, instead of just straightening his bedroom, he decided to go thru everything that was put away in a box or anywhere. So last Sunday night, he didn't even have his bedroom finished - but, his closets were cleared of cluttered and completely organized. His school supplies and backpack are organized and ready for school (organization is an intermittent issue). Then, today, I left work early and we came home. I told him he still had X, Y, and Z to do and he needed to think about only spending a certain amount of time on each thing so he could get finished (we're supposed to leave tomorrow.)

    First, he procrastinates, then he gets upset with me because he says the "chore list" isn't fair- there isn't enough on mine. Why am I not doing such-and-such (I'm doing laundry, dinner, cleaning kitchen, etc). So, he says he'll straighten the living room, after he runs the trimmer next to neighbors driveway. I had to go after him and run the trimmer again because he did such a poor job. Then, I had to go after him and sweep their driveway again. I swear, usually the kid is a great worker, but when it's important, or there's a deadline, or he feels pressure (?? I don't know??) he can't get squat accomplished.

    I fussed a little- he raged some (twice) but reeled himself in before he got out of control. He's been a little hypomanic the past few days (overly excited- fast talking, can't sleep, etc) but usually, when he's hypomanic, he works more and does a better job.

    So- does anyone have any techniques for this? It would help at home and school. His IEP allows some (minimal) extension of time on projects due if he isn't stable, but I'd rather be using strategies that actually teach him how to do better about it- without stressing out and having a melt-down. It's difficult because on this issue, he just refuses to accept my guidance ahead of time. Then, if it's a project due at school and he only completes "minimally acceptable" because that's all the time he has left, he gets so upset that it isn't good enough, he'll refuse to turn it in or have a melt-down over that.


    Is it more of a typical teen thing than a difficult child thing- like sometimes we feel like we wouldn't mind doing something if we didn't feel like we had to? How do I get him out of this habit?
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2008
  2. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    A lot of difficult children get completely overwhelmed and shut down when they face a big project or a long list of chores to do. I've found breaking the parts down with them helps a lot. I work with my kids to write down a day-by-day plan of what they need to do to get everything accomplished for the big project. I've even found it's too overwhelming for my kids to just say, "Clean your room." We need to make a plan for cleaning it (for example, Monday pick up and put away everything on the floor, Tuesday straighten out closet, Wednesday, go through dresser drawers, etc). And there is a standing rule that the day's work must be done before "screen" (TV, computer, game system) time is accessed.

    I've had to do this with my older daughter's summer reading. I really couldn't just tell her to read her books. We needed to come up with a specific plan for getting it all done.

    Not sure if that's what you're looking for, but it's helped my kids to have organization modeled for them. This is not something they've been able to pick up on their own.

    Good luck.
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2008
  3. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Thanks, SW- it sounds like maybe I'm expecting too much, too fast. I thought maybe he would engage in TEC (CPS) techniques to work on this, but that hasn't been successful. So, I take it I need to keep doing the "planning" portion of this for him??? At what age is it reasonable that they start doing some of this themselves? If I've been "pushing" this before he's ready, do you think that is why he hasn't been willing to really talk about it, while he's willing to do CPS techniques in other areas?
  4. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Any chance the school guidance counsellor or a teacher would be willing to help him plan his work out each week so he stays on target and isn't fighting YOU as much? Or someone else you know?
  5. mstang67chic

    mstang67chic Going Green

    I was thinking along the same lines. Map out a schedule for him for both school work and chores. If he's got a project due in two weeks, the first day, pick a topic. 2nd day, research (book from library or limit of 2 sites), etc. Chores you may need to break down in time increments. 3-3:30 - sweep front porch, 5-5:10 feed/water animals, etc.

    Maybe by seeing a clear schedule in front of him would help him. Everything is broken down and not just in one big lump so to speak. Especially the projects. If he doesn't have one for school, maybe you could get him an assignment book. (day planner for students).

    As for you not doing YOUR share..... maybe make a journal for a few days of exactly what it is you do all day and show him. (8-9 did breakfast dishes, cleaned kitchen, 10-12:30, did laundry and put away, etc.)
  6. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    I've read that it takes the frontal lobes until age 25 to be fully developed. That is the part of the brain largely responsible for planning and organization. If you keep modeling organization and doing planning with (not for) your difficult child, he will eventually catch on. I also agree with Susie about trying to find someone other than you to help out on the school front. Is he eligible for a resource class, where organization and study skills are taught in school? That will be part of my son's IEP when it is written next week.
  7. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Many many adults have trouble with planning large tasks and even their daily lives. Why do you think the PDA was invented? There would be many a businessman who would be totally lost if they could not sync their Outlook and their PDA on a daily or at least weekly basis!

    I would suggest you get him two wall calendars. One for school and one for home. Get the cheapest you can that are meant to sit on desks but have lots of space to write on the days of the week. Use colored markers to mean different things.

    On the school one you could use say red for daily homework, blue for weekly assignments, green for monthly...etc. Under those weekly and monthly assignments, you could separate them out in daily chunks of how to get them done.

    For can set it up the same way.
  8. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    These are good ideas- Janet, your post details this pretty well. Last school year, his case manager had him in a learning strategies class (instead of study hall) toward the end of the school year. He helped a little with organization and planning, although it wasn't written in his IEP. We don't know yet who will be his case manager this year. I don't think it will be a problem to get it in his IEP, it just might be a problem actually getting them to do it at school.

    Thanks, all!!
  9. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts

    We've been working with kt all summer on this. As she is entering HS we told her that she "needed to get her act together" so to speak.

    The first thing we did was buy her a "cool" day timer. PCA, in home therapist, Integrated Listening Systems (ILS) worker & I taught & reminder kt to record her chores, appts, respite weekends, etc, in her day timer. (It helped that she was able to pick it out herself & find just the "right" pen.) She has been religious about using it. kt even recorded her next psychiatrist appointment in her day timer yesterday while we were at the psychiatrist's office. She carries it where ever she goes.

    She uses the notes area for many ideas; she plans to use it for writing out the assignments due. Integrated Listening Systems (ILS) worker is helping her organize the daytimer in such a way that she won't lose track of what is what (especially for school).

    In the meantime, we have always taken chores & other things & broken them down. Reading assignments ~ kt would read 10 minutes at a time. We upped that time by a minute every 2 days during the summer. She now sits down & can read (if she chooses) for an hour at a time.

    Her bedroom started out as picking up dirty socks, then dirty shirts, etc. Now it's picking up dirty clothes, then onto books, making bed,etc. This took the entire summer but it's working.

    I guess what I'm offering is to break any chore, assignment, etc. down into pieces & slowly add time or add'l chores.

    Keep in mind that it took until kt was stablized until we could practice & put this in to place.

    Good luck.
  10. Kjs

    Kjs Guest

    Would that be after they have completed their 25th year?? easy child is 25 and has no organization what so ever!

    School suggested and reluctantly difficult child agreed to be put in a class for 1/2 credit called 'learning stratagies'. This is suppose to help them learn how to organize, take notes and study. Only offered to kids in spec. ed. It is suppose to take the place of gym, and that would have to be made up at a later time.

    I was told in elementary school that when difficult child is presented with a large assignment, project or "to do" list he gets overwhelmed and shuts down. If you break it down and take it one step at a time he is alright.

    I forget that cause I have the same issues with difficult child. I rarely even ask him to do anything because I end up doing it over. When I do ask him he doesn't do it or does it poorly.

    I will need to try some of these suggestions and watch the post for more.
  11. tonime

    tonime toni

    Oh gee--organization! Well, I was never a difficult child and I had issues with this in college! I was an A student--but it happened during my "junior practicum" where I had so much work I could not possibly get it done ahead of time as usual. Long story short--I made it through---(actually dropped out a semester)---BUT I WISH I had a mom like you there to help me.

    Anyway-I am sure you are doing all the calendar things etc. -- guiding him---- my only suggestion is this-- are you praising him step by step? I notice this with my difficult child (and kids in general) sometimes we don't say a word when they are doing something RIGHT-- only when we want to correct them or "guide" them do we speak.

    I read a terrific book called "Transforming the Diffficult Child" and in it the author speaks of giving SPECIFIC praise. For example, " Wow, I see that you picked up the clothes off the floor in your room, it looks a lot neater." This sometimes motivates them to the next step. The trick is to praise NO MATTER how small you think the accomplishment is. You have to start where they are at and SLOWLY lift expectations.
    So, if your difficult child got one thing done on the list (or more than he usually would) comment on that and not the other 9 things he didn't do.
    It sounds easy--it isn't actually easy--but it works. We are so wired to comment the other way.
  12. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Praising- now that is a very good point. I actually even brought this up to the IEP team. We (me at home and them at school) often have more expectations on difficult child in winter quarter when school is trying to teach all the kids everything they need to know for the spring testing and I have been doing this, too, plus I do it when I feel like we are in a time crunch to get things done before vacation, holidays, company coming, etc. On top of it, these are the times that we (I) forget to acknowledge and praise all the small steps he makes. Thank you for the reminder!

    He did do an excellent job cleaning out his closet. It's just that the rest of his bedroom was a disaster and I had wanted a straightened room, even if it didn't end up looking like we'd just done spring cleaning. He got hung up on one small area and over-did that. That's ok- I have to mull over what that means and watch for things like that when he's working on school projects. I did notice last year on an art project, he had about 1/4 completed perfectly, but there was no time left to do anymore.
  13. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    It's called perfectionism and is related to anxiety.
  14. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Yeah, SW- that possibility has been discussed and still is a topic for therapist! That's kind of where we left off at the last IEP meeting!! That could explain why this is worse when there is more pressure (too many thhings to do in a short period of time, for instance), I suppose. But, when I tried to help him plan ahead last year to waard some of this off, he wouldn't let me. It's difficult to "not give him that choice" on this one- when I tried it before it ended up back-firing. I'll have to think of a way to go about it a little differently.

    His allowance is earned and we have a system for him to earn it that includes homework and behavior at school, among other things. It sounds like I need to be specific about tieing project work into this. (ie- 1/4 of projects need to be complete by end of this day; 1/2 needs to be complete by end of week). Last year, the goal was to get him to make an effort at all, so it was listed "work on project."
  15. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Klmno, boy, does that all sound familiar!
    We stumbled upon something when we stripped difficult child's rm. He was actually calmer, and after that, when we said "Clean your rm," we said, "Take all your dirty socks and throw them in the laundry, and put your action figures in that box."
    It made such a huge diff.
    You've gotten some great ideas here!
  16. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    It woudl be better to have (or make) a very large calendar than to have 2 separate calendars. We learned this in a corporate organization seminar I took a few years ago. If you have 2 calendars it is VERY EASY to forget something because it is on one and not on the other.
  17. skeeter

    skeeter New Member

    first - there is no magic "bullet", and what works today may not tomorrow.

    I've been dealing with this all of NL's 17 years.

    We've found several things help. Agree with sitting down and breaking the long term projects into managable "chunks". NL gets overwhelmed if faced with something huge and basically does nothing but spin his wheels.

    We also cannot say "clean your room". We need to break that down into "pick up your dirty laundry and come tell me when you are done". Then "take your dirty laundry and put it in the washer and come tell me when you are done". Then "sweep your rug in your room and come tell me when you are done". See the pattern?

    For school, we tried planners - he forgot to write things down. We tried a voice recorder, he lost it. He does his homework and somehow "forgets" to hand it in. It's mind boggling. I just have to continually do verbal reminders and hope he "gets" it.
    I also make sure at least once a week he empties his back pack and organizes it. I'd love to do his locker, too, but haven't figured out a way to do that with my work schedule.

    Good luck.
  18. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I keep seeing this question on this site - "how old does he need to be before I can expect..."

    The big answer is - you have a difficult child. Throw away the calendar, ignore the year on his birth certificate. He will be ready when he is ready. If then. "Normal" does not apply.

    But neither do you have to give up. However, PLEASE don't try to discipline a child for something he is already motivated to do, but clearly cannot. It's like spanking a baby for not walking.

    We've already been through this with difficult child 1 and are finding similar techniques helping difficult child 3 where the boys overlap in problems, and developing new techniques where we find difficult child 3 to have different problems. difficult child 3 is actually better than his brother, at organisation.

    Strong suggestion - DO NOT EXPECT THE SCHOOL TO FIX THIS. This was an area where the school had such strong expectations that their "support" actually made the problems worse - we realised that difficult child 1 needed a higher level or organisation within the school (ie we needed teachers to talk to each other about him) than actually existed.

    You have to accept tat YOU are needed to help him with this. I see it as part of my job as parent, to support my child and help him learn (through long-term support) to s-l-o-w-l-y manage his affairs. Be prepared/resigned to ALWAYS need to help him, even when he's 40. That way, ANY progress is rewarding for both of you.

    What helped -

    1) the calendar suggestion of Janet's. Although I agree, if you can find a way to make it work, use one calendar instead of 2. It really will depend on what you feel you and he can handle.

    2) Colour-code his school subjects. We bought coloured contact adhesive and used it to cover difficult child 1's school folders/books. For assigned text books we got permission but used a patch of coloured contact on the spine of the book so it could always be removed later. There are ways, including using disposable clear plastic covers for books, which you can find ways to colour. We then bought matching coloured Post-It notes and highlight pens as well as a school diary.

    3) This applies to the previous two points - DO NOT EXPECT difficult child TO USE THESE THINGS. He probably wants to get things right but hasn't a clue where to start. And you can't explain it to him and then expect him to be able to do it. No, YOU must do the organisation for him, at least for the next few YEARS. Ignore his age. Ignore people (friends, relatives, teachers) who tell you to stop coddling him, he should be old enough. Yes, he should be. But he isn't. So there.

    4) How to organise him - BREAK DOWN EACH TASK. Set a mini-deadline well ahead of your real deadline, for each small stage. Got an essay to write? Set a deadline for getting books out of the library. Set another deadline for having all information gathered and research done. Sit with him and do a mind-map. Learn how to mind-map - you need to teach him and drill it into his skull. It will be the only way he can write a good essay, because if his organisation is so bad, this will also mean his thoughts and ideas are equally disorganised.
    Colour code each step for each subject. YOU write them in on the due date on his calendar [difficult child 1 used to get his homework assignments from the teacher and write them into his diary - on the date they were given. This meant that when he turned to the due date, nothing was written there so he thought nothing was due].

    Ways to break down tasks - be specific. And provide a written list. A chalkboard is good, because he can rub them off as they're done and see the list shrinking. Examples of "be specific" - tell him to bring his dirty washing to the laundry and put it into the laundry tub. Even more specific - specify WHICH clothes.

    5) Be prepared to walk with him as he does it. Yes, it would be faster if you did it for him, but then he wouldn't learn. SO for a while, you will have to focus intensively on him which means letting a lot of other things go.

    6) SLOWLY teach him life skills. Get him to help you cook, to begin with. Give him some choice in WHAT to cook. We're just discovering the Nintendo DS Cooking Guide - it's brilliant for kids like this and is getting difficult child 3 into the kitchen to cook (a skill he needs). It is not yet available in the US - a couple of months, we've been told. Watch for it as a parent investment in your child.

    7) Do not get angry with him. Be patient. If you see him getting angry with himself, teach him how to relax and breathe deeply. After all, as his parent you've probably had a lot of practice!

    8) Check his medication dosage. We found that difficult child 3 was much worse, then realised his stims hadn't been increased for years and he was now much older and much bigger - with the increase, he is also now much more capable.

    There is more, but this should be a start. I've run out of time for now - I have organised difficult child 3 to use this computer to get some schoolwork done.

    For a bit more, I posted on another thread (bran155, her daughter being stood up by her boyfriend and being a problem) about how to set house rules in place. These can also be really useful in teaching organisation skills to difficult children. Try and merge the two, but modify it to your own house functioning and your child's difficulties.

    You can help, you can support, you do not need to be used and a doormat. There is a difference. Currently, I view myself as difficult child 1's personal trainer and organiser. He is now 24 and getting married in a few months. His fiancee is going to need help; she already realises she is going to have to support and organise him. I've already explained to him that he will need to be providing her with something she can't get elsewhere, to make all her efforts on him worth her trouble. He must be an equal in their partnership, even as they handle their different roles.

    Life is what happens to him now. How he copes will depend on how well I've done my job up until now.

  19. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    I was re-reading the responses now that we're back from vacation and preparing for school on Tuesday.

    Thanks everyone- these are great! We used a large calendar/planner for charting chores and earned money last school year- I will pick one up today to use for that plus incorporating the breakdown of school assignments. I think it will have a better chance for success if I start doing that from the first day of school and tie it to our system of his allowance, which is already effective.
  20. amazeofgrace

    amazeofgrace New Member

    I wish I had suggestions, difficult child I (17) is still a mess when it somes to planning of completing anything. He is unmotivated, always late and rages if you try to nudge, push or shove him along. I know many a teacher has pulled her hair out trying to get him together, and many more will, is my guess.