View Full Version : motivating a child

03-24-2011, 10:40 PM
I need help with my 7yr old. She doesn't want to do ANYTHING. She spends so much of each day just SITTING, that she is making me crazy. She just sits. I make suggestions, she says "no", and continues sitting. All she wants to do is watch tv or play the computer. They get 1hr of tv to share each afternoon, and each kid gets 30-45min of computer time. School work must be done first, so she'll just scurry through her work, doing the bare minimum, in order to get her screen time. I hate doing it this way, as it's just teaching her to rush through stuff to get the reward..yet if I DON'T do it this way, I have no way of "making" her get her work done!

I'm at a loss for what to do. I've tried to encourage unit studies, she has no interest. We read lots, but she is very resistant to reading on her own...which is nuts, since she has always loved books, from infancy onwards. She sits and pours over books still for a good hour at least each day, yet she won't actually read them...I know that'll come, so I keep holding out hope that once she breaks through the "I can't do it" barrier (she CAN read, but keeps telling me she can't...yet when I "make" her, she easily reads anything I give her!) she'll just start learning and devouring on her own.

anyways, I'm not sure what kind of help I need! make her want to learn?!! can you do that? LOL. When we ask what interests her, she says "nothing". What she wants to be when she grows up? "Stay at home and do nothing like mom"! ARGH!

maybe I'm just venting...anyone have a kiddo like this at age 7, who changed? I want to get her excited about learning, and wanting to learn more, but I'm having a hard time figuring out HOW to get her to do more than the bare minimum...

03-24-2011, 11:24 PM
If it were me, with the screen time, I would switch it up completely. It seems like she's really gotten to you and I'm guessing that the more you butt heads, the worse it'll get. Right now, you're basically hovering over her all day with this carrot of the screen time and she's sitting there resenting you for it. 1.5 hours total of screen time seems fine to me, but it's also not *that* much. I know it seems backwards, so feel free to discard this advice, but I would give her a little extra time - maybe the full hour of control over the TV or an extra half hour total of screen time and maybe let her get it out of the way in the morning or give her control over when it happens. I'm not saying don't limit it, but just take it out of the equation when it comes to how you think about her learning and motivation.

I think to most kids, things like unit studies don't sound any more fun than phonics. At least, to my kids they don't. In the moment, when we're actually doing something (be it phonics or rabbit trails) then they can get into it (or not, depending on the activity, their mood, the alignment of the stars...). I can think of things to suggest - get her together with friends more, get outside in the spring more, strew exciting new art supplies and games in the house. But mostly, I think maybe I would just back off. Keep doing the schoolwork you feel like is the minimum and then let her manage her free time and take it off your plate of worries, if you can, for a little while.

Does she actually just sit and stare into space for hours? That boggles my mind a little. Okay, now I'm off on a different thought in my head... is she depressed?

Okay, I feel like that was all over the place and I have no idea if it was useful at all...

03-24-2011, 11:42 PM
Yeah, my 7 yo would rather play w legos all day. We have no video games from (10:30 - 11:30 depending on the day) until I say school is over (between 2-3:30 depending on the day). His favorite part is when we cuddle in bed and read books together, each of us reading every other page. He will ONLY read video games or websites on his own, not books. He loves Time4Learning, but only does it when i make him. IN fact, its frustrating - he'll put off T4L so long, that I end up having to stop him when he's still willing, so we can go to martail arts or walk the dog. He hates history, hates handwriting, and thats most of what we do right now. Some math games for practice.

he defintiely finds my attention to be the biggest motivator, and he does like science a lot.

Wait, your 7 yo is the oldest of 4? am i seeing that right? wow . . . no clue. What does she do when its not her screen time? and what does she choose to do on the computer, out of curiosity?

03-25-2011, 01:03 AM
I probably won't be much help; we just banned all media that is not school-related in our house. The TV doesn't even come on until the kids are asleep because we've had a very similar problem.
We're doing the opposite of some of the suggestions here. We've been doing a more relaxed thing for a while now, and all that seems t have done is made the kids lazy and uncooperative. So, we're getting back to a more routined schedule with fewer distractions (of the electronic kind - the yard and bikes, sports and such are fine recreational activities, and we're not cutting back our field trips or group activities - just focusing more on academics at home).
Hang in there!!

03-25-2011, 08:18 AM
@ Farrar - I've tried switching it up. If we do tv first thing in the morning, it sets us up for a really bad day. everyone's grumpy, and then I have no "carrot" to dangle, and she just says "no" when I ask her to do schoolwork. I don't know how to deal with that! (which is why I obviously use the bribe of tv!). We have the easiest time schooling if I fill the workbox (and by "fill" I mean 2-3 math sheets, and 2-3 language arts...which if she works cooperatively is done in 30min) and it's done first thing in the morning. I keep trying to just make it routine...
And no, I don't think she's depressed. She says she's "thinking". which is great, but half the time she's just thinking about TV *eyeroll*
Art supplies are always a hit. But she refuses to play games. Totally refuses. All games. Drives me bonkers. I think that's partially because she doesn't want to play games with her little sisters, but they're actually getting really good at following the rules and playing cooperatively!

@ Corrigan - she never really says she hates it. She says she's great at math (she is doing multi-digit addition/subtraction with regrouping, simple fractions, time, money) and finds language arts boring. It's true that she finds it all really easy once she starts, but we still need to go over that stuff. I never make her do just repetitive pages, because I know she's bored REALLY easily, but we still need to introduce and cover all topics...if she didn't say "this is boring, I don't want to do this" 20 times per page, it would all be over SO fast, since I don't make her drill/repeat/etc. She hates spelling, which is obvious by her very pool spelling, LOL. So I've totally dropped any formal spelling, and keep hoping that when she really gets into reading, the spelling will follow.

@ Cara, yes she's the eldest of 4. When it's not screen time, she's either trying to hover over her sister's computer time (which drives her sister crazy), sitting in the rocking chair "thinking", wandering aimlessly, refusing to go outside, eating, trying to weasel extra screen time, etc. She does not play games, or play with toys. She has never played with toys, even as a little one. She creates all kinds of imaginary worlds in her head, but has never acted out imaginary play with toys. And lately all the "imagining" in her head is just tv-show based. When she's online, sometimes she plays really cool games - she loves the "Alfred the hedgehog" mysteries, Magic Tree House game, Electric company, etc. THOSE I have no issue with, and let her play extra of. But then at least half the time she's playing ridiculous things like strawberry shortcake, wubzy, Peep in the big wide world, etc...all WAY below her. I keep trying to make her her OWN bookmarks tab, to only the "higher education" type games, but it's just so easy to click around online that she always ends up back at something really juvenile, and just says "yeah, well I started where you said, but ended up here..."

@ Heather - that's how it goes here too. If I go more relaxed, it ends up just lazy. We have only really been doing more structured schooling since January. I spent the first half of this year trying to be more "unschooly" since she doesn't like to be told what to do. but it really wasn't ging anywhere. I'm just not comfortable with letting her NOT learn math, or NOT learn to read. Maybe I need to get even a little bit MORE structured. I wish I could interest her in a musical instrument or something, which would help with finding her something to enjoy at home...but...she refuses *sigh*
I keep wanting to totally get rid of electronics time, but truthfully, most days, I need it for ME as well. And frequently need it so that baby can finally have a decent nap in the afternoon, etc.

anyways, I'll keep trying things. Please post anything that works as fun motivators for your kiddos, or ideas to try! thanks!

hmmm, sounds like I have absolutely no authority in my home eh?

03-25-2011, 08:56 AM
This isn't advice, but commisseration. My just-turned-seven year old is perfectly capable of reading, too, but just flips through books and reads little bits at random. I think it's an attention span thing. I have him read out loud to me, just to get him to get in the habit of reading books from beginning to end. Could your daughter read aloud to you or to one of her younger siblings? Could you encourage her to write and illustrate one of the stories she's imagining in her head?

03-25-2011, 09:56 AM
Well, you never know what is going to capture someone's imagination. I dont think imaginary play about tv shows is neccesarily bad. She's using the characters she meets on the shows as part fo her creative process. I actually use that sort of thing to my advantage - i buy easy reading books related to my kids favorite shows . . . they are more likely to voluntarily read those books. The only books i've seen my 7 yo read voluntarily are garfield books, and club penguin books.

You might want to try some of the math readers suggested at this website (which I am always recommending): http://www.livingmath.net/Home/tabid/250/language/en-US/Default.aspx I've gotten some from the library, and while he wont read them alone, at least it is some math concepts.

Also, not sure if you are open to this, but you could try khanacademy.org. You can sign your child in using a facebook or google account (but you have to make the account for you, since neither allow kids to have accounts) - and then there is a full math curriculum starting w addition. In the program, if you finish 10 problems correctly, you can move on to the next level. There are instructional videos you can get to from the problems, and you can also ask the system to show you how to solve the problem. It goes from simple addition all the way through calculus, so its totally self-paced. You win badges for completing things. My 7 yo loves watching the videos - and these arent cartoons, they are just a colorful page where he is writing down equations. You never see his face, just the numbers. My 7 yo also loves that you dont have to go in order. Before finishing up the first few addition sections, he moved on to multiplying decimals. HE's not mastering, neccesarily, but he's engaged and I beleive he will blossom in to it when he's ready.

We also use Time4Learning, which is 20/month online school. Some kids just find that way more motivating than worksheets, if you can afford it.

It honestly sounds like your daughter could possibly have very mild autism - my older son has all sorts of dx's and i've kept my younger away from proffesionals because for now, we're doing fine. But never playing w toys can be a sign -it is unsual. But if she's very much in her head like that, it might be good to expose her to more abstract things - she might find them less boring. The nice thing about computer-based learning is that she can set the pace.

And dont be too worried about her playing the 'babyish' games - i've read that often kids need to go back and review skills they already have, to increase their confidence when doing new, more challenging work.

I hope you find a way to work with her that works for you both!

(edited to add - i was a very quiet, imaginative kid who played alone or spent time staring in to space creating daydreams or preferred hanging out w animals. i usually liked doing school work, but sometimes didnt connect to the work the way teachers expected me to)

03-25-2011, 11:02 AM
I agree that imaginary play about screen things (TV shows, video games, etc.) isn't always bad. My kids play a lot of really active games that start based on TV shows (or books, or video games or toy characters...) and go off into imagination land. I think it's kinda great. And I think about my middle school students who found a way into writing through fanfiction. I guess I just don't think it's always bad.

It sounds like the biggest issue is her inability to regulate her screen time or see the boundaries you've set. I would either go whole hog and let her indulge herself with it for a few weeks or I would cut it all off. Or maybe the punishment for asking for more screen time that the allotment is to get none for the day. When my kids whine at me about stuff like that, I send them to their rooms and tell them not to come back until they want to engage in a more friendly way. It's not a punishment per se - if they want to sulk about it in their rooms, they're free to - I'm just also free not to listen to it or let it get to me.

03-25-2011, 12:22 PM
yes, I kind of do that already Farrar. whining for something does not get them what they want.

Khan Academy sounds ineresting. will take a look.
No, I don't think she's mildly autistic...she's incredibly social and outgoing and really doesn't show any such signs...if she were in school I'm sure she'd be labeled ADD though...!

you guys are right...TV stimulating the imagination shouldn't be viewed as all bad. must remind myself that!

03-25-2011, 12:24 PM
and thanks for the Living Math link! checking that out now. I need to do more reading-related learning. I guess that's really "Charlotte Mason"? I have a hard time figuring out where to find the books that are best "living books"...but it's true, she learns a ton from things like that (Magic School Bus, Magic Tree House, etc)