By Allison Gardenswartz, Consulting Educator
Help! My child refuses to complete any class work. The teacher gives him plenty of time to complete his work in class. At the end of the day, she fills out what he is missing and sends it home with him with a note telling us he did not accomplish anything today.
She tells us that when she asks him to complete a task (any task) he moves with very deliberate slowness, and it sometimes takes him up to five minutes just to move across the classroom from one spot to another.
The other day, she kept him in at lunch to have him write one definition for one vocabulary word. He was unable to complete it in the 40 minutes she allotted him.
He is capable and able to complete this work, and he does not have a learning disability.
He can do it at home for us, but it takes him forever if we are not standing over him every second. When we stand with him, he is done in 15 minutes without our assistance, only our watchful eyes. We think it is laziness.
His teacher says if something isn't done about it immediately he will have to repeat the third grade. He is failing in four out of six subjects. Help! We need to motivate him before it's too late.
I have several suggestions for you. Initially, I think you should talk with your son and ask him if he can explain why he struggles to complete the tasks.
Does he lose focus? Sometimes setting up a reminder cue can be helpful - tie a colored string around his wrist and when he sees it tell him he should ask himself if he is on task.
A behavior-modification system set up with small, specific positive rewards for daily tasks completed could be very helpful. You can then add on larger rewards weekly for consistent completion of work. For example, if class work is completed at school on Monday, then your son gets a reward after school - a treat or extra playtime or whatever you decide on. Then, if it continues throughout the week, the rewards are greater - three days of consistent completion of class work gets a bigger prize, and the whole week an even bigger one. You can sit with your son and discuss the rewards so that he is a part of choosing them.
Additionally, a timer is a great tool to use with children who procrastinate. Allot a specific amount of time for a given assignment - perhaps 20 minutes for a math sheet that you think should take 10 minutes. Set the timer and have him start working. Let him know at 10 minutes that he should be half-way done with the task and then stop him at the ring of the timer. Make it into a game in which he is trying to beat the timer, and ultimately beat his own times and improve. Again, offer rewards: stickers, pencils, extra playtime, computer time. Rewards have to be dependent upon the likes of the child.
Finally, if you find that despite a reward system, a reminder system and tools to help your son stay on task, he is still struggling to stay focused and complete his work, then you should pursue the issue with a medical professional, such as a psychologist, to determine if there is something more going on.
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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