How do you deal with your children’s attitudes when they say "I don’t want to" or "I don’t feel like it" when it comes to their schoolwork? How do you deal with their attitudes when it is because they are struggling with the work? What do you do to help them when they are struggling with the work? And for those of you with perfect children who never have a bad attitude, what factory did you buy them at?
When my kids say that they don't want to do their work, there is always an underlying cause. Is it because they need a short break? Is the work too difficult? Is it boring or mundane? Do they need to be challenged more? How much time have they spent sitting? Do they want to go ride their bikes?.... the list goes on, but there is always a reason. Generally speaking, I know my kids quite well and can pinpoint quickly why they don't want to work. Sometimes it's a reflection of me and my lack of creativity to make a lesson more interesting. But, like us adults, sometimes it's just plain laziness, and the work has to be done somehow, so I will insist that they do it. We talk about how long it might take to complete and then break it down into chunks so that it seems more manageable in their minds. I will often give an incentive to motivate them like a walk to the park, a small treat, permission to watch a short cartoon... I find that when they know a reward is in sight, they work much better! My daughter, especially, struggles frequently with her work and I have found what works best for her is to validate the way she is feeling and let her have a cry, which is usually the indicator to me that she is struggling. I'll tell her, "I know this work is hard, but most things are when you're first learning how to do them." Then we will look at some of her other work that she once thought was difficult, but is now easy. When she sees that, she gets a little boost of motivation to press on. Again, I need to look at myself to see if I have not explained things well enough, in a way my kids can understand. That might mean explaining it 3 different ways, because each of my kids learns so differently from the others. I also encourage them by telling them what they can do well. And I have them think of at least one thing themselves that they like to do and can do well. Last, but not least, we pray that God would open their minds to understand and to not be afraid to try. Then, I will have a private conversation with my husband when he gets home and ask him to tell about something that he did at work that day that was hard. Then at dinner he will talk about whatever that problem was and his uncertainty as he began the job, but after trying he was able to complete the task. It's important for the kids to see that adults struggle too.
Well, if/when I have taken time with the Lord for myself earlier that day, or at the very least recently, I am more prone to answer effectively as I should. That approach is to step back and look at the real 'why'. This 'why' can be on many levels, it may be emotional (neglect or otherwise), physical (plain tired, not enough fresh air, exercise or inadequate breakfast...they might need some brain food) or even spiritual. The kids may not have had enough of my time, or I have been too easily just giving them their tasks and walking away. To them, their work may seemingly be meaningless to me too. So, if I am able to stand back and look at the why, rather than attack them in anger and say, "Just do it, because I said so. You must honour me, and work as unto the Lord.", it almost always has better results. ... As in James it says, we all stumble in many ways. So I need to help my children, with the Lord's help along our home schooling journey. There will be good days and trying days, but all in all, I need to be honest; to listen to them, listen to the Lord and willing to change, if need be.
This year I began to get my daughter involved in the planning so she gets to pick activities and assignments that interest her. This has helped to eliminate a lot of the complaining and feet dragging. When she is struggling with the work we break it down into smaller chunks and then do a little in the morning and a little in the afternoon for a few days until it clicks. If it is proving to be upsetting for both of us we drop it and I wait until she shows signs of being interested/ready later (may be the following year). There is no point in forcing something she may not be developmentally ready for.
I think the hardest part sometimes is figuring out why they are giving us a rough time. Are they tired? Frustrated? Needing to move around? Or just more interested in going to play? Once I know which I can deal with it better. I find a timer is very helpful when my boys are struggling, as it lets them see I am only going to make them work this hard for a set period of time, not for hours. I also find giving them a list of their assignments for the day helps as then they can see when they will be done.
- When I'm responding to "I don't want to" or " I don't feel like it", sometimes I just say, "Okay, let's do something else today." I also wouldn't want to be responded to rigidly if I had concerns about a project I was working on with, "Too bad, you just have to get it done!" Other times, I'd ask what's bothering them about the subject, or task at hand. I ask for feedback, like, "Do you have an idea of how you would like to tackle this?"
- I definitely try not to major on the subject that is a struggle. I read in a learning styles book what life might be like for us if we were asked to do the thing we liked least 80% of our time! It seems counter intuitive to allow our children this sort of room because in order to do this, our fear has to be released that our student will "never accomplish this task if he/she doesn't work on it daily." That doesn't mean I ignore the subject, but I have found that when a subject is given a rest for a time, even a few months or more, the brain tends to work on making more connections, and when the subject is approached again, it has become much easier, simply due to brain maturation.Also, when subjects become a struggle, I enjoy playing "game" versions of these subjects, or just any favourite board/card game to help the student switch gears into enjoyment and laughter and it helps me to have fun and stay light hearted as well. It's amazing what a sports break does too, or a walk to observe nature to create wonder and relaxation in the student. Also, I review past learning style quizzes to see if they need an update. Perhaps the way I am presenting the material is just not "clicking" with my student. I try to switch to another method/style, add more interest, etc. Lastly, when I see that my child really is capable to complete a subject, but finds it challenging, I keep encouraging with, "I know you can do it!"
- When we look around at other kids, sometimes we do feel like their parents bought them at the "Perfect Factory", but a little logical thought reminds us that no one is that perfect no matter what it looks like!
From the March 2009 NLHS newsletter
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