Hi Rene’,

I’m going to try and keep it short, with that being said here goes….

Our daughter is in the 4th grade; She’s a good student but seems to lack the motivation she needs to continue her success from 3rd grade of being an A/B student. The school year started and it was fine but as the days went on we started to notice that she was being forgetful and just plain lazy. She would leave her assignments at school and when asked what happened…she had the DEER IN THE HEAD LIGHTS look (frustrating after some time).

I found out that she is being really social in class and the teacher had to move her to a new seat. She had some tests come up and she didn’t pass a few of them because she didn’t bring her notes and study guide home. This happened a few times and finally after all the threats of taking her stuff, putting her on punishment, taking her time, talks after talks, no visiting friends, and no recreational activities until grades come up…….SHE STILL continues to do what we call “blow us off”!

Recently she had a math test, she brought the study materials home, I helped her study and then gave her time to study on her own….she failed the test-MISERABLY. Now she doesn’t get to go to her friend’s b-day party coming up soon.

I could go on and on but I will stop there. We have tried everything we know to try. Rene’, what do we need to do to motivate her to want to succeed? We’ve told her how important it is, I even do my homework (working on Bachelor‘s Degree) while she’s doing hers. I even show her my grades as I have been on the Dean’s list a few times. What do I do? What do we do?

Confused and Frustrated Mom!

Dear confused and frustrated:

Thanks for writing. As the mother of two, one who is a self-motivator and the other who only moves with fire under his fanny, I totally understand. There are a couple of things that immediately come to mind; the first is making sure you are teaching good study habits. The second would be to rule out any sort of learning disability.

TEACHING GOOD STUDY HABITS:  This all starts with routine. When my kids started coming home with significant amounts of homework, I would set them up in the kitchen with a snack (I know, how June Cleaver of me) and then tell them to do it, assuming they remembered what they had learned in school. The thing I noticed was that Casey was pretty good about that and she would put her head down and get it done. But Cole was a completely different story. The distractions were numerous and he was up and down in his seat, for potty breaks, snack breaks, play-with-the-cat breaks, you name it, he did it. He was also easily frustrated and when that happened oftentimes he would just check out. I would return to the kitchen to find him cleaning his nails with the tip of the ballpoint pen with not a single word on the paper.  We had to make some adjustments where he was concerned. Your daughter sounds a lot like my Cole, in that he needs much more oversight with the homework. If this is the issue, my suggestion would be to sit with her and go over the assignment with her. Then ask her if she understands it. If she does, get her get started but then check in on her in about 5 minutes to make sure she is on track. You might also build in a break between homework assignments.  With Cole, I let him take a breather between school and homework and make sure he has a snack and is ready to concentrate before we tackle the assignments.

RULE OUT A LEARNING DISABILITY: Honestly this is the first thing that came to mind when I read your letter. Much of what I mentioned above with regard to teaching good study habits will also apply here. Have you had your daughter evaluated for ADHD? If not, I would start there. Leaving assignments, living in the moment, not being able to see or plan for the future sound like attention issues. There’s a possibility that she is being more social in class because she does not understand what is going on and is either trying to cope by asking classmates for help, or stalling altogether. Talk to your pediatrician who can then refer you to a specialist. Between the specialist, the teacher and you, your daughter will be able to develop ways of dealing with a learning disability (if in fact she has one) and be on her way to a productive academic career.

Now, one bit of advice for you, mommy. While I know you are working hard to motivate your daughter by showing her how great you are doing by holding it down, going to school and still making the Dean’s list, I’m not sure that will have the desired outcome you are hoping for. Your daughter is 10; she does not have the wealth of life experience that you do and I could see her becoming overwhelmed that you expect her (even if it is unspoken) to be like you. You need to relate to her on a 10-year-old level, with small goals a 10-year-old can relate to. Talk to her about something she can work very hard toward. Does she want a guitar (those are popular in my house)? Then put together a spreadsheet with clearly defined, attainable goals (i.e. you will get a B or above on all your math tests, etc). Print it out, have her sign it, like a contract that she must honor. Remember to keep the parameters simple, clear and concise. I would also lay off the talk about the future as it refers to college and beyond. It’s hard for a 10-year-old to see to the end of next week, much less eight years from now. Work in small chunks of time and see where that gets you.

Good luck, mommy!

Do you have a question for Rene? She has an answer. Click here and fire away!