marvinljohn asks:

My 9 year old son is not interested in doing any work in class. When repeatedly prompted he completes the work successfully. Any suggestions?

When he finally agrees to work he makes good grades so we know he has an understanding of the work. I'm trying to find out how to motivate him to actively participate in his class work at school. He has been placed on a work contract as yesterday which basically means any unfinished class work will be brought home and completed. This is in addition to his regular homework.
In Topics: Helping my child with school work and home work
> 60 days ago



Hand in Hand
Sep 15, 2011
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What the Expert Says:

Hi Marvinijohn,

What a good question. Your son is very lucky to have a parent who is looking for ways to help him be successful in school.

When children are caught in a behavior that makes them rigidly opposed to something ordinary and everyday, like putting on clothes, or shampooing their hair, or doing their school work, pushing them to do that one simple thing becomes a highly charged emotional event. As parents we might feel like we're in a power struggle, and that for the child's own good, we must "win." We don't know exactly what each child feels during these Waterloos, but we do learn that if we force a child to perform the dreaded task, he'll have passionate feelings, express those feelings fully, and the next time we approach that task, his reaction is stronger than before. Forcing him doesn't loosen the opposition. It tightens it.

So the strategy we recommend as a first step is this: if you can't fight 'em, playfully join 'em! Go ahead and adopt your child's attitudes toward school work, playfully, and with relish. You be the person who is openly annoyed by worksheets or math problems or writing cursive. You make faces. You say, "Yuck!" and stick out your tongue. You pick up the offending homework and drop it on someone else. If you're flamboyant, you fling a piece of homework across the room.

Chances are, your child will laugh heartily at your good-humored show of revulsion, and beg you to continue. As you play at the one with the silly school work aversions, your child's laughter will, over time, have a healing effect. The laugher releases some of the tension that has nailed his aversion in place. He's off the hook as "the one with the problem." He's not being singled out as wrong. Instead, you are silly and you and he together spend time in good humor, on the subject of school work, as a team. The school work(or brushing teeth, or putting on clothes, or having a shampoo) loses the focus, and that focus turns to the relationship between the two of you as you lightheartedly play the troubled one. Your child feels delighted that school has become less serious, and the laughter relaxes and encourages him.

Many ten-minute laughter sessions add up to a child's sense that all is well. His fears diminish, silly time by silly time, and at some point, hopefully soon, he'll be more open to trying his had at his work, or answering questions in class, or zipping through his homework.

I'll attach some links below to give you examples of how this can work and I hope you will let us know how it goes while you try to lighten the situation and help your son feel how very much you are on his side.

Julianne Idleman
Hand in Hand Parenting
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