In Problem Child: There’s One In Every Family, I gave a little background into some of the problems we have with Number 4. They boil down to: 1) Immaturity; 2) Lack of Motivation. In this post, I’d like to show our problem solving attempts. In other words, I’ll recount what ultimately has made a difference in our every day interactions, and over the long haul.
Disclaimer: This is going to get wordy. My kid is like the Borg, you only get the results you want a few times before No.4 adapts and the tactic is no longer effective. For this reason, we’ve tried a boat load of problem solving. Those seven tactics that have made a lasting difference, I’ve listed below.
“Fairness” is important to Number 4.
He will take any consequences for his undesirable behavior I can deviously think up, as long as he thinks he deserves it. If he is wrongfully accused, he will fight and rage against being yelled at or punished. I have been forced into the habit of calmly asking multiple witnesses for a clear picture of the situation. Automatically assuming that No.4 is at fault often means getting off on the wrong foot; even if he was responsible, he had a “good” reason for doing what he did.
Get all of the facts before reacting. Remember that you are in a relationship with your child, and that means attempting to understand your child’s unique thought process.
One of the tactics we’ve used to get No.4 to do his homework involves immediate rewards. I let him ring a hotel bell, take a lap around the backyard, or eat a chip, etc. as soon as he finished one question on his homework sheet. This is a tedious way to get anyone to work in normal circumstances, but it was necessary to keep the flow going.
Unfortunately, these tactics couldn’t be employed at school. Rewards offered at school for completed work (even 75% of work… standards drop when this guy is involved) would only work until the first time the teacher was too busy to reward him.
Take an overwhelming homework load one step at a time with immediate rewards. It’s uncomfortable to work with your boss looking over your shoulder at the office, that’s why they invented donuts.
Generally, my husband or I would have to sit next to No.4; constantly chiding him to complete the current question, then move on to the next question. One of us could work on dinner or with another child’s homework, but someone always had to be on No.4 Duty or he would become distracted by anything else going on in the room.
Help your child focus on the work. Gentle reminders and vague threats (yin and yang) can limit the time spent on distractions that naturally occur in the area.
Many lectures on attitude have been made. I’m sure this guy could write a book filled with all the lectures he’s received from parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, Godmother, teachers… you know, if he ever decided to write without being forced.
We try to help him keep a positive attitude toward school. He gets stressed and frustrated because teachers come down on him, and the other students have learned his reputation. When it became a struggle to get him out of bed in the morning last year, I knew we had to improve his attitude towards school. I made him write one good thing that happened at school that day in his daily agenda (school planner/ communication journal). Oh, it took him all night to think of something he enjoyed other than lunch, but gradually, he began to see that the school day wasn’t all bad.
6th Grade English Worksheet: Describe yourself using three words.
Number 4: Lazy
Help your child find positive moments in his/her day that can be recurring enjoyments at school. We all have to find good reasons to get out of bed in the morning.
We didn’t want him to feel rewarded for not working in class. The natural consequences of incomplete class work were that he had to complete it at home. He only received partial credit (if he got any credit at all) when he turned the work into his teacher the next day, but he still did the work. The hope was that he would decide to work in class, where he would get full credit and not lose that time at home. The other advantage was that we knew he was understanding the work, even if he didn’t seem to be paying attention in class.
Another consequence: Extra chore(s). I could have done the chore myself, but I couldn’t because I was glued to my child.
Don’t attempt to shield your child from natural consequences. We all learn from pain; allow the pain of disappointment to be a tool your child can learn to avoid.
Encouraging Mature Behavior
Perhaps the biggest gains (recently) have come from encouraging No.4 to act like a Big Brother. For organization, we usually throw the four younger boys into the same group. We treat them the same as far as expectations go.
Putting No.4 on the same level as his big sisters (versus the same level as his little brothers), makes him feel older. This feeling encourages him to think and act more maturely.
Putting him in charge of certain activities or chores: “It’s your job to make sure your little brothers don’t make a mess in the living room while y’all watch a movie. That means if they do make a mess, then you have to help clean it.”
Altering our buying patterns, so that No.4 gets a slightly more mature version of the product: While the smaller boys received the latest character undies, No.4 received solid-colored boxer briefs.
Encourage your child to grow and mature mentally. Point out the differences of “babies” to toddlers, Middle Schoolers to Elementary Schoolers, etc. Kids want to be BIG. Letting them know that you trust them to go an extra few inches can be a big deal.
Problem solving is something all adults do as often as breathing. Parents must change tactics from one child to the next, and sometimes one day to the next. We ask our older kids to problem solve their problems with us. We will ask their opinion, even if we don’t think they can add much to the conversation. Teaching kids problem solving strategies puts them on the road to independence… instead asking you to solve their problems from the other side of your shower door.