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help me make Mondays better with a passive-aggressive kid


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Mondays are always awful.  My lone homeschooled kid (8 yo) is always pokey and uncooperative on Mondays.  He’s passive-aggressively uncooperative in general, but definitely worse on Mondays.  Anyone have a way to make Mondays go better?  

Also, if anyone has found a good way to get cooperation from a passive-aggressive kid...he does things like randomly answer questions with “Potato”, or instead of telling me what one dollar plus three dimes is, will say, “More than a dollar.” He knows the answer, apparently it’s just more fun to not give it.  He does some version if this all day long but especially during school time.

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Oh, the Mondays!  Both my boys really struggled.  Number one thing that helped is me just expecting it to be hard for them. I am less frustrated when I don't have a high expectation.

I would also ignore passive aggressive and find a way not to engage verbally with it.  But I would expect compliance.  One thing I did at that age, with that type of behavior is to buy a candle with a 7-8 hour burn time.  I would light it at the beginning of the work period and blow it out if whatever behavior I was trying to exterminate happened.  So, in your case, I would say, "Mondays are hard, I know.  It's hard to get back to work and it feels funny or easier to you to say "potato" as an answer.  You know I don't like that and it isn't helpful for your learning, either.  So, I have this candle.  It will burn for 7 hours.  It stays lit as long as the answers you give are helpful, clear and serious. You know what I expect.  I will decide if I need to blow out the candle.  After it is blown out, it stays out until (next Monday, tomorrow, etc.)  I will not answer you if you argue withe me.  When the candle burns down you may (get a new toy, have an extra hour of screen time, whatever your family uses)."  Then you do it.

I have also put 10 chocolate chips in front of a child and said, "If you can get through this lesson without xyz, you get the chocolate chips.  For every time you do something like  say potato (or whatever) I will eat one.  You get what remains.  I am the ultimate decider.  If you argue at all, I will eat them all (or eat another one)"

The key is to be consistent, don't argue about it. Follow through.  Also, admit that Mondays kind of suck, but we all have to find ways to cope.  Your ds's coping skill is not working well for your family.  You might also want to brainstorm some better coping skills with him (separate from introducing candles or choc chips.)

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Mondays have to be tough on him, as everyone else "does their special thing" -- i.e. , goes away to school -- and he's stuck home alone to do school.

Could you switch things around and start off Mondays with a "bang" so he's excited and looking forward into starting his new school week, and can feel pride that he has his own "special thing" that the others don't get *because* he homeschooling?

How about Monday's start off with:
-  a kit or hands-on project or activity/demo from Science, or Art
- together play an educational game or two
- together watch an educational video and talk about it, or follow up with a short children's nonfiction book on the same topic
- do a nature walk and collect leaves or rocks or other items
- read-aloud a chapter out of an especially exciting (to him) book

Also, starting the morning with some strenuous physical exercise can burn off that excess energy used on grumping about everything. 😉 -- So, trampoline jumping, jump roping, running, brisk walking, biking, etc. If there's access to a bigger swimming pool, swimming laps is great. Aerobics or dancing to music, or the X-box + dance mat + "Dance Dance Revolution" game.

Another option might be as simple as having him drop one subject per day. Either let him pick which to drop (and then Tues. there are 4 choices to pick from, etc., until by the end of the week each of 5 subjects has been dropped once for the week), or write each subject on a slip of paper and he draws one out of the jar and that gets dropped for the day. That moves each of your 5 major subjects to just 4x/week, but it can give the student a sense of not being so overwhelmed, and a little bit of control if they get to drop one subject for the day.

[and yes, if helping him have his own special Monday morning thing doesn't work, then @freesia's "suck it buttercup" techniques might have to be the next option... 😉 ]

Edited by Lori D.
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We have luck starting with activity or something the kid really likes.  Right now our routine is math(something he loves) followed by 30-45 minutes walking/biking/skating and then a few stretches/strength exercises.  Being out of the house is key to be able to transition to a structured school day right now.  If we do an activity, he's more likely to patiently tackle writing next.  If not, he's apt to complain.

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Another thing I did is move some subjects off Monday.  For example, we do grammar 3 times a week, never on Monday.  I might skip spelling on Monday or handwriting.  Basically, any subject you don't have to do each day or only do a few days a week, move it off Monday. That gives you more time to be leisurely and a mom with less stress tends to transfer to less difficult child behavior.

And I do like @Lori D.'s ideas and agree they would be the first place to start 🙂

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I would separate this into a few issues. 

First of all, is this purely a Monday thing, or does it happen all the time? If it's purely a Monday thing, I'd start giving easier work on Mondays, and adjusting your expectations downwards, and otherwise accommodating this. Face it: Mondays are hard on all of us! 

But if these attitudes manifest throughout the week and are only WORSE on Mondays, then I would probably conclude that you've inadvertently gotten into a "power struggle" pattern, and I would work on ending that pattern. Basically, I'd figure out the "rules of engagement" for working with you, and I'd impose unemotional consequences for breaking them. (What those consequences should be really depends on the kid, I'm sure -- but the point is that they are automatic and don't involve any anger or frustration. They are matter-of-fact.) 

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5 hours ago, freesia said:

 

I have also put 10 chocolate chips in front of a child and said, "If you can get through this lesson without xyz, you get the chocolate chips.  For every time you do something like  say potato (or whatever) I will eat one.  You get what remains.  I am the ultimate decider.  If you argue at all, I will eat them all (or eat another one)"

The key is to be consistent, don't argue about it. Follow through.  Also, admit that Mondays kind of suck, but we all have to find ways to cope.  Your ds's coping skill is not working well for your family.  You might also want to brainstorm some better coping skills with him (separate from introducing candles or choc chips.)

I have a suspicion @freesia is looking for a way to eat more chocolate and call it "parenting."  

Just kidding, I thought this was a great idea.  I love the candle, it seems more solemn than just a timer.  

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10 minutes ago, daijobu said:

I have a suspicion @freesia is looking for a way to eat more chocolate and call it "parenting."  

Just kidding, I thought this was a great idea.  I love the candle, it seems more solemn than just a timer.  

Uh.. yeah. I mean I figured I needed the chocolate if I had to deal with attitude!

The candle works like a charm. It’s so visual and sensory. I only used it once with any child, but it really worked. 

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, Lori D. said:

Mondays have to be tough on him, as everyone else "does their special thing" -- i.e. , goes away to school -- and he's stuck home alone to do school.

Could you switch things around and start off Mondays with a "bang" so he's excited and looking forward into starting his new school week, and can feel pride that he has his own "special thing" that the others don't get *because* he homeschooling?

How about Monday's start off with:
-  a kit or hands-on project or activity/demo from Science, or Art
- together play an educational game or two
- together watch an educational video and talk about it, or follow up with a short children's nonfiction book on the same topic
- do a nature walk and collect leaves or rocks or other items
- read-aloud a chapter out of an especially exciting (to him) book

Also, starting the morning with some strenuous physical exercise can burn off that excess energy used on grumping about everything. 😉 -- So, trampoline jumping, jump roping, running, brisk walking, biking, etc. If there's access to a bigger swimming pool, swimming laps is great. Aerobics or dancing to music, or the X-box + dance mat + "Dance Dance Revolution" game.

Another option might be as simple as having him drop one subject per day. Either let him pick which to drop (and then Tues. there are 4 choices to pick from, etc., until by the end of the week each of 5 subjects has been dropped once for the week), or write each subject on a slip of paper and he draws one out of the jar and that gets dropped for the day. That moves each of your 5 major subjects to just 4x/week, but it can give the student a sense of not being so overwhelmed, and a little bit of control if they get to drop one subject for the day.

[and yes, if helping him have his own special Monday morning thing doesn't work, then @freesia's "suck it buttercup" techniques might have to be the next option... 😉 ]

I don’t think it has anything to do with his siblings being in school as Mondays were awful for all the boys when they were all homeschooling.    We do school four days a week already, but I could offer to let him pick one of his lesser “subjects” (math flashcards, copywork, memory work) to drop on Mondays.  His school day only about 1.5 hrs a day anyway so it’s not like he’s overloaded with work.  Exercise might help also if I can get him to do it.  Maybe I can come up with an easy obstacle course for him and his little brothers to do in the mornings.  They’d probably all like that.

Edited by caedmyn
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7 hours ago, freesia said:

Oh, the Mondays!  Both my boys really struggled.  Number one thing that helped is me just expecting it to be hard for them. I am less frustrated when I don't have a high expectation.

I would also ignore passive aggressive and find a way not to engage verbally with it.  But I would expect compliance.  One thing I did at that age, with that type of behavior is to buy a candle with a 7-8 hour burn time.  I would light it at the beginning of the work period and blow it out if whatever behavior I was trying to exterminate happened.  So, in your case, I would say, "Mondays are hard, I know.  It's hard to get back to work and it feels funny or easier to you to say "potato" as an answer.  You know I don't like that and it isn't helpful for your learning, either.  So, I have this candle.  It will burn for 7 hours.  It stays lit as long as the answers you give are helpful, clear and serious. You know what I expect.  I will decide if I need to blow out the candle.  After it is blown out, it stays out until (next Monday, tomorrow, etc.)  I will not answer you if you argue withe me.  When the candle burns down you may (get a new toy, have an extra hour of screen time, whatever your family uses)."  Then you do it.

I have also put 10 chocolate chips in front of a child and said, "If you can get through this lesson without xyz, you get the chocolate chips.  For every time you do something like  say potato (or whatever) I will eat one.  You get what remains.  I am the ultimate decider.  If you argue at all, I will eat them all (or eat another one)"

The key is to be consistent, don't argue about it. Follow through.  Also, admit that Mondays kind of suck, but we all have to find ways to cope.  Your ds's coping skill is not working well for your family.  You might also want to brainstorm some better coping skills with him (separate from introducing candles or choc chips.)

I think he’d respond well to chocolate chips so I’ll try that with him.  Maybe I can offer him one for each thing he gets done before we officially start school also.  He can get done quickly when he buckles down and does his work, but when he doesn’t care to work it’s a tiring battle to get him to stay in his seat and work.

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16 minutes ago, caedmyn said:

I don’t think it has anything to do with his siblings being in school as Mondays were awful for all the boys when they were all homeschooling.    We do school four days a week already, but I could offer to let him pick one of his lesser “subjects” (math flashcards, copywork, memory work) to drop on Mondays.  His school day only about 1.5 hrs a day anyway so it’s not like he’s overloaded with work.  Exercise might help also if I can get him to do it.  Maybe I can come up with an easy obstacle course for him and his little brothers to do in the mornings.  They’d probably all like that.

BEST of luck! 😄

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Has he been watching "Odd Squad" on PBS?  The "potato" thing is something one of the characters does that annoys the other kids on the show. While there's some off-the-wall humor and a little (very light) K-3 math, if he's picking up the annoying behavior more than math, he loses that privilege.

 

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8 hours ago, theelfqueen said:

I need more solutions in my homeschool that start with "grab 10 chocolate chips"

(Kind of off topic, but when we are in the middle of a subject that feels like a slog--in my house usually spelling--and I can tell the child is feeling discouraged or I am feeling out of sorts, I have been known to grab chocolate chips and give some to the child and some to me as sort of a change the way things are going type of thing.  I know this totally makes it seem like all we do around here is eat chocolate chips LOL. Really, I don't do it that often, that's the magic of it.  I also don't tie food as a reward as my go to motivator.  There is more power in the every once in a while reward.)

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1 minute ago, freesia said:

(Kind of off topic, but when we are in the middle of a subject that feels like a slog--in my house usually spelling--and I can tell the child is feeling discouraged or I am feeling out of sorts, I have been known to grab chocolate chips and give some to the child and some to me as sort of a change the way things are going type of thing.  I know this totally makes it seem like all we do around here is eat chocolate chips LOL. Really, I don't do it that often, that's the magic of it.  I also don't tie food as a reward as my go to motivator.  There is more power in the every once in a while reward.)

Ok, I do kind of have a few chocolate chips every day myself......

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You know, I know he's only 8, but sometimes with this situation it can be nice -- if at all possible with this child -- to give the child his subjects in a basket or milk crate with a list of assignments and try to have him work independently. It goes without saying that this method only works when there are some awesome rewards for getting work done before a certain time and consistent consequences (especially reinforced by Dad playing the heavy) for not doing so. But the main benefit is that sometimes there just starts to develop this bad atmosphere between mom and boy, with the boy resenting having to "play school" with fake mom teacher and be the performing monkey, with mom saying "what's the answer" and "now listen to me teach" and it's all resented. I was in those circumstances with an 8 yo boy and it just got a lot better when he was responsible for his own work and just called me in for help. In those cases, I would use language like "hmm, that's tricky. Let's see if we can figure this out together." That validates the struggle and is less "teacher-y" and more fellow learner. If he ever reverted to the "potato" or random number answer, I'd just walk away and tell him I will help him when he's ready. It did take some tweaking of the rewards and consequences to get it right, but it really improved the atmosphere.

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I try to have a fun science demo waiting on the counter each Monday morning. Kids walk in and see it...instant good attitude. It might be something as simple as a density bead bottle, but it's something "discovery." They love it.

Chocolate always helps, too. For me, mostly.

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12 hours ago, Alice Lamb said:

Has he been watching "Odd Squad" on PBS?  The "potato" thing is something one of the characters does that annoys the other kids on the show. While there's some off-the-wall humor and a little (very light) K-3 math, if he's picking up the annoying behavior more than math, he loses that privilege.

 

Yes, they watch that all the time!  Now that I know where he’s getting it from I’ll have a talk with him about it.

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6 hours ago, Emily ZL said:

You know, I know he's only 8, but sometimes with this situation it can be nice -- if at all possible with this child -- to give the child his subjects in a basket or milk crate with a list of assignments and try to have him work independently. It goes without saying that this method only works when there are some awesome rewards for getting work done before a certain time and consistent consequences (especially reinforced by Dad playing the heavy) for not doing so. But the main benefit is that sometimes there just starts to develop this bad atmosphere between mom and boy, with the boy resenting having to "play school" with fake mom teacher and be the performing monkey, with mom saying "what's the answer" and "now listen to me teach" and it's all resented. I was in those circumstances with an 8 yo boy and it just got a lot better when he was responsible for his own work and just called me in for help. In those cases, I would use language like "hmm, that's tricky. Let's see if we can figure this out together." That validates the struggle and is less "teacher-y" and more fellow learner. If he ever reverted to the "potato" or random number answer, I'd just walk away and tell him I will help him when he's ready. It did take some tweaking of the rewards and consequences to get it right, but it really improved the atmosphere.

This worked well for one of his brothers.  This child can’t really read though (dyslexic, doing tutoring, just taking him forever) so he can’t do much independently.  Even for math I have to stay close to read the instructions to him.

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Does he like Star Wars / Mandalorian?  We  sometimes have “Monday with Mando” where his Lego minifigure may join us at the table to observe school and occasionally answer questions or explain math problems.    
 

(this only came to exist with my youngest child. My first child had a very serious, more energetic version of me teaching him.  Now I just throw up my hands and do whatever works - like Mando school. Sigh. )

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3 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

Man, you make me worried about what I'll be like with any further kids. I'm already exhausted 😂

Here's what I found: The most important things happen. You end up trading energy, enthusiasm, and creativity for wisdom, patience, and experience.

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2 minutes ago, fairfarmhand said:

Here's what I found: The most important things happen. You end up trading energy, enthusiasm, and creativity for wisdom, patience, and experience.

Fingers crossed that's how it goes for me. I have some relatives who have reached very advanced years without an iota of wisdom or patience, so I know it's not inevitable 😉 . 

Edited by Not_a_Number
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7 minutes ago, fairfarmhand said:

Here's what I found: The most important things happen. You end up trading energy, enthusiasm, and creativity for wisdom, patience, and experience.

Yes!

@Not_a_Number I am way more laid back with my last for sure!  She is still getting a strong education, but it is filled with more joy and margin.  I can think of good things my first got that she didn't (particularly when she was young), but there are things I've learned and maturity I've gained that really benefit her.  I know it's not a given--but if you want it to be, it can happen.  Let yourself grow and mellow.

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With both of my kids the only thing that has helped Monday is doing a warm-up bit of school work on Sunday. The days off over the weekend drop the routine and they have to get their brains back in gear that this is the plan and what we're doing.

It can be brief, but 30-45 minutes, maybe more as they get older, of school work, something you hand them to do telling them it's school. 

And I'm saying it's the only thing, because it wasn't that I wasn't fun enough, wasn't allowing enough choice, whatever whatever whatever. It was a transition issue. Once on the path of "off for the weekend" it's really hard to get back into work mode. So we have to smooth that transition by doing a bit of work Sunday evening. 

So don't guilt trip yourself about being fun or whatever if that's not the real problem. 

Edited by PeterPan
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