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JessBurs

Motivating kids when they just decide they don't feel like doing school that day

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I seem to have this problem more often with my 7 year old, but she sometimes just decides she doesn't want to do something and just straight out refuses to do it.

It comes out in a "I caaaaaaaaaaaaan't" whine along with 'flopping'--- melodramatically laying down on the floor or putting her head on the table, etc.

Mind you, this is all stuff she can, in fact, do. Most often it happens with math-- stuff we have gone over, stuff she did perfectly fine the day before. It is typically in response to something she finds tedious. For example, she is working on going from feet to inches and back again for length. She knows there are 12 inches in a foot and knows how to do the math, but find these conversions annoying after the 'fun' of doing the centimeters to meters and thus the flopping commences.

How do you balance pulling out your hair, just putting away the book (so you don't pull your hair out or lose your temper), but also not 'rewarding' them for just refusing to do the work by letting them just skip that subject today. I find myself keenly aware that just not feeling like doing a subject would certainly not fly in a traditional school setting.

Tips/advice/btdt?

Thanks!

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We agreed that if they could tell me the answer at a glance and explain the solution then we'd move on and not revisit.  We can practice penmanship elsewhere. 

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I haven't figured out the solution myself, but sometimes making them run laps around the house or on the treadmill for 5 or 10 minutes helps. 

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Tedium usually goes better with something fun to look forward to. Maybe Math can precede her favorite subject? Or be rewarded with something she likes to do when she's finished? One thing I also did when my boys were in third and fourth was to make a whine jar. I sat down with them and said as Mom, I was happy to listen at length to four whines a day. I would not respond, simply listen. When they completed the whine, they could hand me their token and I'd put it in the jar. They were welcome to whine more than four per day per child, but if they did, I felt that I should be paid. We discussed fair payment for the whine, and they chose baseboards. A whine after they used the four up would be payable by 15 minutes of baseboard cleaning.

I think I might have gotten my baseboards cleaned twice that year per boy. But it wouldn't have worked without their buy-in, and it helped them see visually how they were feeling that day about work. Sometimes we just have bad days. That's okay. We get our feelings out, and we get up and go on. Probably what helped me the most was being able to let go of the feeling that they were complaining "about" me when they whined. It made me much more relaxed, because they were now complaining to me, and all was well. Might not work for everybody, but it was something that helped us through the rough years where stuff was either hard or just plain dull when practice was needed.

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I found I needed to gauge the individual situation (and the particular student's personality) and respond accordingly. (Think: does this child have a short attention span, so the longer math session needs to be broken into 2 shorter sessions with a 5 minute break between? Is math happening mid-morning when the child might benefit from a snack? Does the child need more variety? etc.) Sometimes making a slight adjustment up front to how you do the math, or how long the session runs can eliminate reaching the whining stage.

A shotgun scattering (lol) of ideas:

- if child understands the concept, just do every other problem, or circle selected problems for the child to do
- switch to oral responses; or doing it on the whiteboard; or child dictates the steps to you and you write it out
- instead of writing it out, child teaches/demonstrates the problem on the whiteboard to a class of selected stuffed animals
- child needs variety: alternate math programs: 3x/week do the spine math, and 2x week do a very different supplement
- brain fuel: before it hits the whining stage, plan on stopping part way through for a 5 minute snack break (include some protein in the snack)
- or, before even starting the math, set out a small bowl of pretzels or cheese cubes or other favorite finger food, and she gets to eat one after each problem is done
- if your student is bored and likes a challenge, what if you added a zero to the end of the numbers used in the problem, making them much bigger numbers to work with
- ONLY if your student thrives on competition, "race" doing each problem (and make sure you make occasional errors, and go just slow enough so student wins a majority of times)
- non-engagement/finish later: "oh, I can see how exhausted you are. Time to lay down on your bed and take a nap until you're strong enough to finish up."
- humor: flop on the floor with head on table next to her and wail: "Meeeee tooooooooo! We'll just have to finish as limp jellyfish." Then with head on table, arm limp and pencil sagging and being as jellyfish as possible, work out the math problem. (Have fun with it and switch it up to different things -- robot, parrot, monkey, etc.)

Edited by Lori D.
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Just as a suggestion, I've learned with my ds not to let it show that something is getting to me, even if it means faking it. So if the kid says he doesn't want to do something, then "Me either!" and shut the book and go do something harder.

My ds needs to have power and he has communication issues. So if a young dc is communicating boredom inappropriately, that's not shocking. We can read to the other side of it, as Lori says, find out what's really going on, and help them get where they need to be. I also think fighting over an assignment is seldom warranted. "You don't want to do this now? No problem, we'll go do this other thing and come back to it later." You can always come back to it another way or a little later, after a cone or something. You might decide to be flexible and get the assignment done using a real life scenario or a manipulative or a game instead of sticking to the tedious task. The trick is to stay in control while giving THEM control. 

I'm finding this book on the topic useful                                              The Motivation Breakthrough: 6 Secrets to Turning On the Tuned-Out Child                                     

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Sometimes I let them skip to the end of topic quiz, the deal is if they get it all correct then we'll move on.

I had one child who was literally bored to tears at that age, moving ahead helped a lot.

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We use a lot of Lori's suggestions at home, but sometimes it is helpful to stop and ask yourself what lesson you're working on.  There are times I quietly make myself a cup of tea and offer encouragement because the lesson I want to focus on is NOT the assignment, but tenacity or diligence.  It comes up more as they get older, but learning to work through the boring parts so they can do the fun parts is also something I want them to know is worthy and valuable.  For example, my youngest hit a rough part with his instrument lessons.  Instead of the difficult piece, he moved back to working on technique exercises, which were not as interesting or fun.  But two weeks later, with his technique better, he was able to play the difficult piece without nearly as much trouble.
I think you have to stop and ask sometimes what the point of the assignment is and use that to guide your own actions and response to the child.

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I just informed my kids that they wouldn’t do anything that they wanted to do—as in screens, outings, lunch, whatever—until whatever it was was done.

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On 4/24/2019 at 11:20 AM, JessBurs said:

 For example, she is working on going from feet to inches and back again for length. 

 

To be fair, that's pretty freaking tedious. I never had my kids do pages of that kind of problem at a time - once they could do it successfully, we moved on and just inserted a couple of those problems on occasion. Or waited for it to show up again the next year. 

When my kids didn't want to do something (or a whole bunch of something), I always hit the pause button and looked at it again. I asked myself two questions: Why is this included in the curriculum, and do those reasons match my educational philosophy? In this case, the first answer would be that inches to feet conversions are covered at great length in 2nd-grade curriculum because it always has been and because it's going to show up on standardized testing. The second answer is no, it doesn't fit my educational philosophy and I see no benefit to it. So, easy choice, we skipped lots of it. 

It doesn't sound like she doesn't want to do school on certain days, it sounds more like she doesn't want to do certain things. Things that are melting her brain with boredom. If she did it perfectly well yesterday and you have every confidence she could also do it perfectly well today . . . is it serving a purpose to do it? When possible, I would offer her the choice of moving on to something else. Kids are capable of understanding that different rules apply in different settings. Unless you're planning to put her in a traditional school setting very soon, I wouldn't worry one bit about how they do things. You do you. 

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Sometimes when I knew my kids were reaching their limit, I'd make a deal with them.  (This is regarding math.)  I'd tell them to just do odd numbers, or maybe I'd even just pick one or two problems in each relevant section, for example.  It they got them all correct, then they were done for the day with math.   Or, I'd tell them that they could decide when they wanted to do it that day;  they just had to get it done by such-and-such a time.

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Maybe it's time for everyone to not do school.

I don't motivate my dc to do anything. We either do it or we don't do it. If I think it's that important, we do it right now. If the dc are really dawdling or complaining, then I try to figure out what the problem is, and we either put the books away and go goof off or I tell them to suck it up buttercup.

Edited by Ellie
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I was just cooking and thought about this thread and laughed. 

When I was in elementary school many eons ago, we spent a lot of time on measurements, including quarts, pints, cups, ounces, tablespoons. And I use them pretty often in real life when cooking . . . but what do I do every time I cook? I look at the magnet on my fridge which converts them all for me. 

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Me, I’d skip these problems as soon as the kid gets the idea. Maybe I’d do the conversions once in a while when walking around, as a verbal drill.

I wouldn’t give in the day of, though, as not to set a bad precedent. But I’d review our program and adjust accordingly for the next day. The fewer clashes like this we have, the better, and the intrinsic motivation of finding a subject interesting is way more effective than fear of punishment.

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Seven looked a bit like that at my house.

Keeping the lesson short helped a lot. Long lessons look intimidating even when the material is not difficult. Drawing a line across and saying, "We're only doing this part today" makes it better even if the part we're doing has the trickier problems. We do about 210-225 school days in order to keep each day short (looking at 213 for this year, barring illness between now and the end of June).

Compared to a B&M school, homeschooling is probably more intense for a kid. You are the ONLY one getting called on. Off-task? You get caught every time. No down time while everybody else finishes the page. No walking down the hall to specials. It saves time, but also may make the work more tiring.

Some other things I've done from time to time:

  • Making the school day start with something fun, such as a Song of the Week.
  • Starting with a walk outside, after which we launch directly into school.
  • In the face of total school refusal (which fortunately happened only a few times, but I'm pretty sure it was in second grade), printing out a PS enrollment form to make it clear that we are going to abide by compulsory education laws. (My state says that the parent SHALL CAUSE the child aged 7-15 to attend school. I announced that if you hit ten unexcused absences, you are truant from my homeschool and you will go to your assigned school, which is all day plus homework.)
  • Having an outing planned after lunch, contingent on having school work completed.
  • Friday is candy day -- pull out some gummy bunnies or chocolate chips, and you get one after finishing each subject.

 

Edited by whitehawk
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On 4/25/2019 at 1:50 AM, JessBurs said:

I seem to have this problem more often with my 7 year old, but she sometimes just decides she doesn't want to do something and just straight out refuses to do it.

It comes out in a "I caaaaaaaaaaaaan't" whine along with 'flopping'--- melodramatically laying down on the floor or putting her head on the table, etc.

Mind you, this is all stuff she can, in fact, do. Most often it happens with math-- stuff we have gone over, stuff she did perfectly fine the day before. It is typically in response to something she finds tedious. For example, she is working on going from feet to inches and back again for length. She knows there are 12 inches in a foot and knows how to do the math, but find these conversions annoying after the 'fun' of doing the centimeters to meters and thus the flopping commences.

How do you balance pulling out your hair, just putting away the book (so you don't pull your hair out or lose your temper), but also not 'rewarding' them for just refusing to do the work by letting them just skip that subject today. I find myself keenly aware that just not feeling like doing a subject would certainly not fly in a traditional school setting.

Tips/advice/btdt?

Thanks!

Lol well I suggest you all just switch to metric and you won’t have to worry about it 😆

just kidding!

I agree with the “it varies” answer.  If kid is acting tired I may say “if you’re too tired to do the work you better go to sleep” (my kids think sleep is terrible so mostly they do the work).  If I think it’s too hard it’s time to do manipulatives or something to help.  If I think it’s too easy we might do every second problem or I might have them do it verbally while I write down their answers.

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On 4/27/2019 at 9:42 AM, katilac said:

I was just cooking and thought about this thread and laughed. 

When I was in elementary school many eons ago, we spent a lot of time on measurements, including quarts, pints, cups, ounces, tablespoons. And I use them pretty often in real life when cooking . . . but what do I do every time I cook? I look at the magnet on my fridge which converts them all for me. 

I know right!  I always ask Siri.  Not because I can’t do the math but I have literally no desire to!

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