November 21, 2008,
S.M. asks from Medford, OR on November 19, 2008
10 Year Old Son Being Lazy with School Work
I have been battling my son's lazy streak since he started school. I just had a parent teacher conference with his teacher this morning. He has been missing recess and not doing his math problems in a timely fashion. I am at a loss. Since 1st grade my son has had an uncanny ablity to stay in his seat, not be disruptive, but not get his work done. He can sit for HOURS and still not get his work done that should only take 15-20 minutes.
We just moved to a new school, which he has had to do far more frequently than I would have liked. This last move was hard on him because he made some close freinds at the last school. We only moved across town, so I made sure that we have his friends phone numbers from the old school and he's even gone to play dates with his friends. I feel his recent slacking off has a little bit to do with the move, but not THAT much, as he's been doing this at EVERY school, and in EVERY grade he's been in. He also won't ask for help when he doesn't understand a problem or question.
We have tried taking away his toys, grounding him from TV and Computer time, sitting with him to keep him focused, rewards, and using timers. His teachers have to keep on him to do his work in class, and keeps him in from recess several times a week to get him to finish his work, and he often still brings it home and sits for hours not getting it done. Nothing we have tried works!
He does not have ADD/ADHD as he can focus when he wants to. Even more frustraiting is that he is a SMART kid. He has the best vocabulary in his class. He is at grade level for all his state testing. The work is easy for him if he would just do it!
So What Happened?™
Thanks for all of your suggestions. I appreciate the concern of all of you for my son. He is a great kid and deserves the best.
Addressing some of your concerns:
1.Moving- We moved from a 2 bedroom condo where he had to share a room with his step-sister on weekends, to a 3 bedroom house with a yard. He was asked directly if he wanted to move or not. He made the decision that he wanted his own room, even if it meant changing schools. If he had not wanted to do it we would not have moved. This move would have been needed in the next 2 years, as I don't want my oposite sex kids sharing a room with the onset of puberty when privacy is a necessity.
This move has also put us into a much more affordable area of town for when we are able to buy a house in 5 years. We do not plan to move until we are ready to buy, and we will not buy in an area outside of his current school district. I am not planning to move him again, baring any catistrophic events. I don't take uprooting my son lightly. I have encouraged him not to shut himself off from his new class mates. He has already made a few friends.
2. Medical issues- I do not believe my son has a medical problem. His eyes have been tested and we have been told he has better eye sight than he should for a child his age. (He was actually mad he didn't need glasses!) Even when he looks distracted, he can tell you exactly what is going on in class. There is a family history of "lazy" school work. This includes me, my brother and my father. None of us have ADD/ADHD or other medical conditions that caused the behavior. We were bored. He understands the work he is doing. He himself said his homework is "boring". I have talked to him about that and told him if he would just get it done, he would have more time for fun things (like recess with friends and time with mom).
3. My work schedule- I work 40 hrs a week on salary, rarely with any overtime. My schedule is very predictable and stable. I disscussed with my son about spending time with me. The main bar to him getting to spend more time with me has been his not getting his home work done. I explained the only time I have with him is in the morning when I drive him to school, evenings, and on weekends. That I look forward to that time with him. I told him that it is no fun for me when he spends his entire evening in his room doing his homework and that I would like to spend more time with him. He seemed to respond to this as well.
4. Extra curricular activities- My son participates in rec. soccer in the fall and spring. He is also a cub scout. Money has been tight this winter with my husband being off work, so we have not been able to enroll him in any winter activities other than cub scouts. He has the same homework issues even when he is busy.
5. Taking away privledges- He has an attitude once something gets taken, that it wasn't all that important anyway, and it doesn't really affect him. So I am looking for another way. Punitive reactions don't seem to be working.
We are implementing a new homework policy. He has 2 hrs to do his homework before I get home. When I get home, I will sit down with him for an hour to go over his work and help him with anything he is struggling with. For every day he gets his homework completed by the time I get home, he will earn a star. When he gets 14 stars, he will earn a toy that he has been asking for. He has expressed some eagerness to this idea.
I am also going to talk to his teacher about having him do some more challenging tasks in class. I will update in a few weeks to let you know how he's doing.
B.O. answers from Portland on November 19, 2008
I just wanted to say that I think it is horrible he is having recess taken away. Exercise is so important to all levels of development. I would personally ask the teacher to stop doing that. Have you tried sitting down and doing the homework with him, step by step? That might be all he needs, a one on one tutor. Good luck!
K.D. answers from Portland on November 20, 2008
I am not saying that this is the case but I wanted to clarify a statement you made regarding ADD/ADHD.
Just because a child can focus when he/she wants DOES NOT mean he/she does not have ADD/ADHD. As a matter of fact children who can "hyper" focus on something they love-- tune everything in the world out-- yet seem "unwilling" to pay attention otherwise are classic ADD candidates. Unfortunately, the ability to focus like that often leads to misdiagnosis. This is especially true of ADD, as it doesn't manifest itself in disruptive behavior but rather in staring off in space quiet behavior.
Again, I am not suggesting this is your son's issue. I just didn't want you to dismiss it out of hand and possibly miss a tool that could help your guy.
By the way, I highly reccommend the suggestion that his tasks be broken up in to smaller chunks. I also reccommend that as he completes each "chunk" he check in with the teacher/parent for some quick positive feed back and motivation for the next "chunk." Start with the pieces small and build them up as he gets confidence. This struggle has been happening for a long time now so be patient. He probably views himself as lazy or unfocused and it will take a while to reverse this notion.
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K.T. answers from Portland on November 19, 2008
I'm a fourh grade teacher...I specialize in 9 and 10 year olds. As a teacher taking recess from a student is a consequence that I use daily for those who forget homework/ assignments, etc. When I've had students who just can't get all the work done there are several things I've done. Surely if the teacher brought it up to you, he/she is tired of what your son isn't doing. You are obviously frustrated as well. The first thing I would suggest is to ask for extended time. In my room we have a daily assignment, but it's not due until the next day. The majority (often all) of my students finish within the time in class, bu they know that they have until the next day to complete it and turn it in. That's not to say they can sit and do nothing instead of work, but it allows for slow, thoughtful work. If that doesn't work, why can't he have shortened assignments. That's not to say the expectations are lowered, bu that you're after the quality of work, not the quantity of work. Instead of doing an assignment of 20 problems, and getting totally frustrated, why not just do 10 problems. As a teacher, I can tell in 10 problems if a child understands the concept or not. I don't need 20 problems that are a full-on stuggle to see if a child knows it or not. I usually assign the even #s or the odd #s. Obviously the consequences you and the teacher are handing out aren't working or motivating. Try positive reinforement. He EARNS things for completing his work...and I'm not talking monetary things. My students love going to work for a teacher in the younger grades, or work with a student in a younger grade. The little kids love having big kids come read to them. Maybe your son could earn minutes of free time in the library (where he's supervised by someone other than the teacher). It's also really easy for me to offer a student and buddy a "lunch in the classroom" day here and there. Maybe once a month or so? Does the teacher do book orders? Maybe you could pick out items he likes, set a goal for him, and he could earn a book order item 1x month. I'd be happy to give you more suggestions. I'd just call the teacher and ask for some accommodations to be made. You can always work up the number of problems he needs to complete once he's found success with shorter assignments.
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W.C. answers from Seattle on November 20, 2008
I am an ex teacher of gifted young children. I am not saying your child is gifted. But he does fit the profile of a child that is more bored with the content of the class and in danger of acting out soon as he gets older, rather than spending time in learning.
I think he needs to be tested to see how high he preforms on his academic/intelligence tests.
And then be placed or given appropriate work for his level of achievement.
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H.B. answers from Eugene on November 20, 2008
He may be bored - some kids needs something to stimulate their productivity.
I was lazy with school work too - but loved to take tests.
Look into some alternative learning programs or tutors. Think about what made you passionate in earning your degrees - it may be as simple as making an association with the subject.
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A.T. answers from Portland on November 21, 2008
Is he not being challenged enough? Does he need to be evaluated for TAG?
K.M. answers from Richland on November 20, 2008
1st of all, all the moving IS most of the problem. Making new friends in school is not easy, not fun, & down right depressing. I was there. Started 9th grade not knowing a single person. We moved when I was in pre-school, kindergarten, 3rd grade, 5th grade, & 9th grade...
2nd, get him to talk to a counselor, not the school one. That made it worse for me, to be pulled out of class to go talk to the counselor. The other kids were relentless in teasing.
3rd, he's having a hard time making and keeping friends, or afraid to make friends because he thinks you might move again. Get him involved in extra curricular activities? Church youth group, sports, ymca, Boys N Girls club,...something and try to be involved in it with him.
He may be being teased or bullied. Find out. I don't know why you have to keep moving, but if you can make it work & not move until he graduates high school, I think would make things better IN YOUR SONS MIND.
With working full time, being the main income for your family, how much time do you get to spend with your son? Maybe he is lonely and wants your attention?
J.T. answers from Portland on November 20, 2008
This can't be easy for you. Please consider that this latest move has been more difficult for your son than the others, or, more likely, the cumulative effect of all the moves is rearing its ugly head. I think your son needs a break. He needs someone to be patient and understanding. I would think the last thing he needs is the pressure of getting all of his homework done on top of everything else. He's at a very challenging age for himself. His life is in flux, and he's probably very frustrated and missing his friends. Perhaps he may even have a bit of depression. Please try to get his teacher to consider a flexible homework load for him until he is better adjusted to his new school. As difficult as this is for you, it's all that much more difficult for your little boy. Keep it positive with rewards for little steps, rather than penalties. I bet he'll come around, but he needs your help and understanding to get through a rough period. Remember, kids don't have the mental development to deal with major life changes that adults have. It's up to us to guide them with love and patience. I wish you luck and your son happiness.
P.C. answers from Corvallis on November 20, 2008
I have a son who is on the autistic spectrum who has great difficulty simply "getting started" on tasks. It often requires us to help him in his transition from whatever he is doing to simply begin. Transitions are difficult in general, but getting started seems most difficult of all.
I have concerns about keeping a ten year old in from recess on a regular basis. I don't believe punishment is a very good motivator for children and it seems clear that this behavior has been going on for your son's entire school history. That would imply that this isn't a willful behavior choice so much as a personal struggle or trait, and I think it is important to try to figure out the reason behind it.
With Aspergers, you can have a child with incredible focus but only on subjects of personal interest. In the case of my son, he is incredibly bored with school and doesn't feel challenged. But it is bigger than that. He has internal struggles with time management, organization, perfectionism and social anxiety which can often lead to an impression of laziness when in fact he is struggling and feeling overwhelmed.
Our son is on an I.E.P. and one of his modifications is to allow him to turn in LESS work. If he shows mastery of a concept in a few problems, the teachers accept that number of problems and do not punish him for not completing all that was assigned.
Children do not enjoy failure and they don't usually persist in non-successful behaviors if they can help it. I hope you can figure out what your son is experiencing internally when he begins to "shut down" with his assignments. He may actually be feelling overwhelmed. He needs someone to understand his experience so you can better help him to navigate through his difficulties with what is being required of him.
Good luck with this. It took us a very long time to figure out why our son was struggling.