By Dr. Virginia Shiller, Family Psychologist
My daughter has been getting worse and worse at school. I am a stay-at-home mom and her dad is around quite a bit, too. She has been forgetting her homework.
After school the teacher asks her if she has her work and her books with her, and she says yes, even though she doesn't. She is very sneaky. She ends up not completing her homework. Now she is not finishing some work during class time. I am not sure what to do. I have taken play dates away from her and grounded her, and the situation has not improved.
When a little bit of punishment fails to produce positive results, increasing the punishment is likely only to make things worse.
It appears that your daughter may for some reason be motivated not to complete homework. Unless she is highly disorganized, her teacher's reminders should have helped her remember to bring books home.
If she is avoiding homework, the critical question is why. Might there be a learning disability that has not been diagnosed? Children who have specific learning difficulties often would prefer to look lazy or obstinate than to show themselves to be "stupid." Alternatively, might her failure to do homework be evidence that she is responding to stress or distressing events? Might she be being bullied or excluded at school? Could she feel pressure to succeed at a level that is beyond her ability?
Sit down with your daughter and try talking about the problem. A good way to start is by stating that you know that she hates being punished, and that you want to find another way to help her. Ask her simple questions - e.g. what does she like best about school, what is the worst part? What kinds of things do the nice kids do, and what kinds of things do the mean kids do? Is it tough when her older brother always brings home "A" report cards?
Hopefully, your daughter will be able to give you some sense about what might be bothering her. If you're still in the dark after this conversation, try speaking with her teacher, the school guidance counselor or a private therapist to work on figuring out what's getting in the way of your daughter being motivated to be successful at school.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.
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