What can I do to slow down my fourth grader, who is rushing through her learning assignments?

"Help... I am desperate. I am a teacher and have no students who rush through their work quicker than my own child. She is in fourth grade and has always had an issue with rushing through her work. I have always had high expectations and we discuss her need to be done a lot and how it hurts her. I have even made her re-do work and do extra work created by me to reinforce that it is not okay for her to be the first done. Her need to rush is now causing her grades to fall. It is frustrating because she is capable, but does not give it her all. What else can I do?"

Asked by Leeann in commenting on the article, "Does Your Child Rush Through Assignments? Here's Help!":
In Topics: Helping my child with school work and home work
> 60 days ago



Apr 10, 2010
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What the Expert Says:

Based on your own teaching experience, the article in the magazine, the one answer to your question, and other advice you may be receiving, I think the starting point is to begin to assess the function of your child's behavior.  Once you have a concept of her "purpose," you will be better able to think about solutions.

Let's consider possible functions of her behavior (FBA):

1.) Is she trying to live up to your "high expectations? Trying to impress her mother who is a teacher? Could she be concerned that you think your students are smarter?
2.) Is she rushing through her work to show she is the best student?
3.)Is she rushing through her work  to oppose your advice that it is not okay to be the first one done?
4.)Is her continuing rushing through her work creating a secondary gain by her receiving much extra attention from you in the form of extra work you give her and extra time you spend with her?
5.) Is she rushing through her work to get out to play, watch tv, do independent reading, or some other preferred activity?
6.) Is she rushing through work as an avoidance of work she does not thoroughly comprehend?
7.) Is there an anxiety or stress issue underlying her behavior that may need to be addressed?
8.) Is this a social issue?  Is she competing with other students in her class?
Well, this gives a variety of choices, and the answer might be in combination, or something you think of that I did not. But this is the way to start thinking, so that you pose your own thinking as a theory, and then look for the evidence.

Here's how you do the research to get to the function of the behavior.  Some of this you probably have done, and you can use your existing information.
1. Interview your child gently and kindly.  Examples: "Why do you try to do your work fast,honey?" "What do you think about when you are doing your work?"
"Who else in your class gets done quickly?"
2. Talk to her teacher.  Find out how she is in class in general.  Is her participation also speedy?  Does she try to be the first to answer?
3. Find out more about her social life?  Ask her how she is getting along with friends.  Ask the teacher how she is socially in school.
4. Pay attention to any stress signs she shows in her sleep habits, eating, playing with others, comments she makes about her life. Ask her if she is worried about anything.
5. Talk to others who are close to her, in school and in private life, and ask if they notice anything.
6. Take a careful mental inventory of her/your domestic situation. Is there anything that could be causing stress and causing her to speed up?  Could she be seeing you or another family member rushing to accomplish tasks?  She might be learning a coping style.

Depending on what you come up with re: the FBA, you will then formulate solutions.
A few Ideas:

1. If you determine that your expectations are set very high for her, consider revising.  
2. If you determine she wants extra attention, devise a plan for giving special attention after she has worked for an amount of time that is more realistic.
Gear the attention to what she would enjoy. It could be more work, or some other activity.
3. If you assess a social or emotional issue is happening, then you may want to talk to the school guidance counselor or even get outside professional advice.
4. If you come to the conclusion that she is trying to prove something about her Self or her smarts, you may want to think about whether there is a negative message that she has internalized and strategize about ways to "deprogram" that.
5. If you find that you yourself are rushing to get things done, (which might be typical for a working Mom) then consider a different way of doing for yourself.
Modeling is a key for teaching kids how to cope.
6. Try to find ways to reward her for taking her time. Affirm that it is okay to get things wrong and that fastest is not the most important.  Make up stories.
Read the "Tortoise and the Hare."  Find other books with this theme.

Whatever you come up with, be consistent, and bear in mind that as a teacher, you may be putting yourself under pressure to have your own child do things just the "right" way. Kevin_edu has some good ideas about rewards and consistency, and energy channeling.
It is always a good behavioral technique to reward the behavior you want to elicit and encourage. Your child may be getting some needed attention from you with the work you design for her.  Give yourself time for the research and time for the solution, and please relieve yourself from overworrying. Corrections may take time, but they are possible, especially when you lay the foundations for understanding the issues.

Bette J. Freedson, LCSW, LICSW, CGP

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Additional Answers (1)

kevin_edu writes:
It seems like you've tried everything to get your child to slow down her approach to school work. Don't despair. It seems like you have been wielding the stick, but have you tried enticing her with rewards for good grades and high-quality work? Rewards and goals are much more powerful (and generally more effective) than punishment and failure.

It's important that you are consistent with your approach so your child clearly understands the consequence/rewards that can result from the quality of her school work.

Also, if your child has a hobby that she is passionate about you could experiment with letting her spend more time on her hobby if she improves her grades (but start small, with a specific assignment). If not, find a hobby your child enjoys and let her channel her energy into that; she may just need a productive outlet.

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