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Motivation

October 10, 2008

Laura’s Blog Entry

Since there was no keeling over and dying as a result of the post on ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), I am taking it as a sign to soldier on with the topic. Thanks so much to everyone who made encouraging comments. It means the world to me. I’ve climbed out from under the bed and I’m ready to share some more thoughts on this.

Over the summer, Neil and I decided that we really had to have it together for 5th grade. School got tougher for Mari last year at the 4th-grade level, and we did some soul searching and brainstorming to come up with what we needed to address.

In the past we had dealt with individual teachers regarding Mari’s challenges, but this year we decided to start at square one and find out the school’s overall policy regarding ADHD students. We found out that the school actually had someone on staff who oversees the ADHD students and helps families to work with teachers on this issue. We didn’t know this. The lesson learned here: Ask!

We were able to have a meeting within the first two weeks of school with the ADHD liaison and Mari’s two teachers. This was amazing. We were able to layout the specific challenges we were having and everyone helped to come up with suggestions and solutions. I know many schools are not equipped to be this helpful, but I highly recommend that parents at least ask the school administrator what options are available.

As a result of this meeting, combined with our experience over the past three years, we have put together some strategies to deal with schoolwork.  I thought I’d share a few of them with you. They might be helpful for any child who is less than excited about sitting down to a large pile of assignments.

Choose a regular location to work. Some kids can plop down anywhere and get to work. Mari is easily distracted, so a routine that involves sitting in the same location each night helps get her brain going in the right direction. Last year she sat in the kitchen because it has an enclosed little alcove. This year she chose to try the dining room. I want her to take responsibility for what she is doing, so we let her try working out there instead. We are pleased that she seems to be OK there and not getting too sidetracked, except when the cat jumps on the table and scatters the papers!

Get duplicate copies of textbooks to keep at home. Mari often would forget what she needed to bring home, so she would be unable to do the homework. It has been a lifesaver to have extra copies of her books.

Teach organization.
Mari is easily overwhelmed by a project, or a list of work to be done. I sit down with her each week and help her break everything down. We break down projects and set short-term goals. We decide what order the work will be done. Sometimes she looks at the list of assignments and cries simply because she can’t just choose something and get started. My goal is that she will be able to look at something and see the smaller elements. Right now she can’t do that.

Provide motivation. Mari earns tickets each day for doing her homework. But she not only has to complete the work, she has to do it with a good attitude. If she whines and cries the whole time, she does not get a ticket. Conversely, if she is especially resistant to a specific assignment and then buckles down and gets it done she might get a second ticket. It’s all about pointing out to her that she is able to do things that she thinks she can’t do. If she earns all her tickets each week then she chooses something fun to do.

You never know what will be a motivation to her, week to week. Here’s one that is usually a winner: Mari loves to go to the pet supply store. For me, that is torture. Don’t get me wrong. I love looking at the kitties up for adoption. But walking up and down every aisle, looking at every dog dish, every accessory for gerbils, every outfit for dogs… torture! But I do it for the sake of the homework.

None of this guarantees success of course, but we are in a much better place than we were three years ago. There are still days with 30 minutes of crying because she doesn’t understand a math problem and can’t calm down enough for Neil to explain it to her. But there are good days too. And the good are starting to outnumber the bad.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 10, 2008 8:57 am

    wow,
    if there were more caring and involved parents like you two out there this country would be a better place to live! your love for mari and want for her success are so evident in your involvement in her learning process. taking the time to research & implement a game plan on her behalf is beyond commendable. you guys rock!!!!
    xo diane

  2. October 10, 2008 9:09 am

    Wow, Diane, thank you. For the sake of full disclosure, you are not seeing our behavior when we are completely frazzled and worn out. It can be pretty ugly. But we are doing the best we can with this and hope maybe our experience can help other struggling parents.

  3. Donell permalink
    October 18, 2008 9:06 pm

    Just wanted to say that i’m glad you’re talking about this… You guys are awesome parents despite all the ups and downs. 🙂 Props man, props!

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