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Wedding Woes

How to motivate an unmotivated child?

mrsconn23mrsconn23 member
Knottie Warrior 10000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
edited January 2016 in Wedding Woes

Dear Prudence,
When I was young, my parents worked very hard to put their children through college. Now my husband works 70 hours a week as a physician, and I am a part-time nurse. We live in an affluent part of town so our kids can go to the best public schools. My 10-year-old daughter is very intelligent but lazy and unmotivated. She received several F’s on the last report card for not doing her assignments but is not embarrassed at all. When I ask her to do homework or read, she gets angry and stomps off. Her friends have phones and tablets, and my daughter has asked for these items, but I cannot reward laziness. Thus, she is angry. What should I do? Her attitude stinks. I am concerned about her indifference and the effect it will have on her future.

—Concerned Mom

Re: How to motivate an unmotivated child?

  • I'm jealous, yo. Enjoy your day off. 
    image
  • What did Prudie say? I need this advice. 

    Bacon almost refuses to do homework. We take shit away. We reward good homework behavior. She needs someone looking over her shoulder every damn minute to get things done, and it drives us fucking crazy. She's almost 12! 

    But also - well, I don't have to bring work home. DH doesn't bring work home. We go to work, and come home, and that's it. Yes, I can expound on the virtues of self-discipline and how handy it will be if she wants an artistic career, and she's all "Nope. Art doesn't pay." 

    She doesn't get very angry about being grounded or whatever we decide to do to punish. She knows she should do her homework. She understands she'll be in trouble. She just...won't do it without us micro-managing. 

    I actually once said that I'd prefer she be on drugs or something - because at least then, we'd know what to do! (Not really. We're very lucky she's a good kid. This is minor, except that she could someday want to go to college for something really challenging like engineering, and she needs to do the damn homework!) 
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  • Prudie's response:

    I’m concerned about your daughter too, but not for the same reasons you are. I worry you’re ignoring her emotional needs in the present moment for the good intentions of providing her the brightest possible future. I don’t know from your letter if she has a learning disability, if she’s having trouble seeing and needs glasses, if she’s having trouble with a particular teacher, or what else might be going on with her, but she’s clearly struggling. You say she’s bright, but remember that she is 10 years old and doesn’t have the best emotional tools when it comes to asking for help. Consider the possibility that she is not failing her classes to irritate you, but because she is overwhelmed. Your goal should be to find out what it is that she needs and support her, not berate her into compliance. Ask her questions before punishing her. Offer her the opportunity to share what’s going on, rather than make her feel you’re someone she has to hide things from.
    MesmrEwe
  • Bmom- The kiddo is lazy as all get out.  He's also disorganized and forgetful.  The transition to HS and the fact that he really has to study now has been challenging.

    Our school has an app where you get a notification for any grade change.  DH has it on his phone and he's basically 'big brother-ing' the shit out of the kiddo.  We've gone hands-off on the whole homework/studying thing because micro-managing the kiddo leads to drama and fighting and then everyone is mad, but DH pounces as soon as there's a negative grade change, especially due to incomplete or missing work. 
  • I see my future right up here. DS has to be micromanaged, and we give him somewhat of a pass because he's 5 but man I will have to tell him like 45794 times to brush his teeth each night because he just doesn't. His school is big on doing small assignments, but a couple a night. DS just can't do it, it takes him like 45 minutes to do a simple reading exercise because he just forgets what he's doing.
    mrsconn23
  • Yeah, Prudie's advice is not helpful. We've done the whole "Does she seem to have trouble? Let's get her eyes checked." thing, and no, she's fine. Just lazy at home. In class, she's wonderful - she even chose a seat in the front this year to help her pay attention. Her words! 

    I guess we'll just be micromanagers. Which doesn't help her IRL, but oh, well. 
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    mrsconn23
  • *Barbie**Barbie* member
    Knottie Warrior 5000 Comments 500 Love Its Name Dropper
    edited January 2016
    is she putting stuff off because it bores her / because she feels like she already knows the material? that was me through high school. 

    My mom used to hound me about hw/studying (I would usually have my graded hw done by the time I got home, and I almost never studied.) and it really did cause nothing but resentment. 

    if she wants to be an engineer or something in the STEM area, she will eventually need to learn how to study - and i'm sure it would be a lot easier to do so now than during college. at 12, it probably wouldn't hurt her long term to have one class with a less than stellar grade - does she get upset if she doesn't do well in a class or on a test? if so, maybe give micromanaging a break and see if she can figure out how to manage herself. 

    ETA - one other idea - not sure how it works in CO or in a private school - but could you work with her teacher to develop an IEP? Maybe replace some of the homework with a project that she drives because it interests her. E.g. I re-wrote, and directed Romeo and Juliet so that the average 7th grader would understand it, and got out of English and Social Studies for most of the year. I still had to pass the tests, but they even let me skip out on most of my classes to work on it. 
  • Yes, she's bored. With everything except math, since she's doing late 7th-grade math (she's in 6th, so about a year ahead). 

    Getting bad grades doesn't faze her at all. And as soon as she does her homework, she's back into A and B territory - so she clearly knows the material. All of her tests are fine. 

    We both did the same thing in school. We knew the material, and hated homework, and didn't like to be micromanaged. (Well,  I didn't like it, because it was just abuse from my mother; H didn't get managed at all, because his mom didn't know or care.) 

    I could ask about an IEP, but her school places a lot of emphasis on equality - uniforms, no holiday celebrations, no gifted or special-ed programs. They do let kids do work above their grade levels (or, I suppose, below, if necessary), but they arrange it so there are small groups of kids working on the same things in their general classes. (So, like, she works with other kids who are in the same math book, in the math class with kids who aren't.) 

    It's frustrating because I understand why she doesn't do it. It's pointless. So I feel hypocritical harping on it. And probably she'll go to trade or art school, but she is very good in science and math, so I don't want her to limit her choices by being lazy. 

    Also, I say "micromanaging", but that just means checking her planner every day and punishing/rewarding accordingly. Since she needs no such oversight most of the time, it feels intrusive to us - and to her. 
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    MesmrEwe
  • Welcome to my world. Kids have always been lazy, but it seems harder now to motivate. Some kids just don't see the point of it all and will dig their heels in the sand. Sadly, some kids have to be micromanaged throughout middle school and beyond.

    I don't think Bacon would be able to get an IEP for what you listed above, but I also think it's important to get the teacher's prospective on what she is seeing with her at school. It could just be a homework thing or something that they also notice in the classroom too.

    I do think that there is entirely too much homework given in elementary school, though. It does get better in middle school and bad again in high school.

    Hang in there, and let them know in life you have to do things that you are not going to want to do all of the time. That's life. School and homework is her job at the moment, just like you and your husband.

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    baconsmom
  • princessleia22princessleia22 Oceanfront Property in Arizona member
    Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its 1000 Comments First Answer
    baconsmom said:
    Yes, she's bored. With everything except math, since she's doing late 7th-grade math (she's in 6th, so about a year ahead). 

    Getting bad grades doesn't faze her at all. And as soon as she does her homework, she's back into A and B territory - so she clearly knows the material. All of her tests are fine. 

    We both did the same thing in school. We knew the material, and hated homework, and didn't like to be micromanaged. (Well,  I didn't like it, because it was just abuse from my mother; H didn't get managed at all, because his mom didn't know or care.) 

    I could ask about an IEP, but her school places a lot of emphasis on equality - uniforms, no holiday celebrations, no gifted or special-ed programs. They do let kids do work above their grade levels (or, I suppose, below, if necessary), but they arrange it so there are small groups of kids working on the same things in their general classes. (So, like, she works with other kids who are in the same math book, in the math class with kids who aren't.) 

    It's frustrating because I understand why she doesn't do it. It's pointless. So I feel hypocritical harping on it. And probably she'll go to trade or art school, but she is very good in science and math, so I don't want her to limit her choices by being lazy. 

    Also, I say "micromanaging", but that just means checking her planner every day and punishing/rewarding accordingly. Since she needs no such oversight most of the time, it feels intrusive to us - and to her. 
    I was the same way in school.  I knew the material, just from listening in class, and did great on tests, but never did homework.  I graduated high school with a 2.1 GPA... and it was in a high academic school where my GPA ranked me in the bottom 15 students out of nearly 400 in my class.  My senior year, I had met most of my graduating requirements, so I had one english class and the rest were art, drafting, and photography.  So, I had significant improvement in my grades senior year... otherwise my final GPA would have been below 2.0.  And I totally rocked on my SAT & ACT tests.  As a result, I actually got accepted into all 3 colleges I applied to and even got scholarships to 2 of them based on my exam scores.  I love that my parents allowed me to take classes I enjoyed senior year instead of pushing me to do more basic classes.  They figured that if I hated math, I probably wouldn't pursue a career highly based on math.  And that I was more likely to find a career that somehow utilized my art skills.  And all that definitely helped direct me toward my career as an Architect. High School grades aren't everything... worst case scenario, they go to community college to get basics out of the way, which isn't so miserable if you mix the basics in with classes you actually enjoy.

    Now, for possible advice.  My 13-year old nephew was the same way and lazy at school, getting C's & D's, with a few failed classes.  So, his parents took away his video games, phone, etc. but nothing seemed to work.  His grandparents made a contract with him (they actually wrote it up and signed it) that they would pay him for his grades. I think it was $30 for each A, $20 for each B, nothing for C, then he actually had to pay them if he got D's or F's. Then his parents made him buy back his phone & video games from them. He started getting all A's & B's, with the rare C.  He's kept his grades up for 2 years since they started this. He may get games and stuff for christmas or birthday, but he has to use his money to buy any other games or toys throughout the year and spending money if he goes out, so that's more motivation for him to keep that income. Also, out of that money, part of the deal/contract was that he only gets to keep 1/3 of it for spending money, he has to save 1/3 of it for bigger purchases, and he needs to donate 1/3 of it to a charity of his choice. I'm sure not all kids are that money motivated, but it's been working great at keeping him going.

    image 

    baconsmom
  • FWIW, at her age, I sat on my homework (I did a lot of it, but I basically turned zero in) for a year.

    I don't have a reason, other than it annoyed me and I was disorganized and the demand to oranize to thei structure of school annoyed me
    (hush, all of you who think I deserve what I get form my kid)
    baconsmom
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