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When Your Child Isn't Motivated

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My daughter and I discuss school often. She enjoys reading, writing, and has the potential to be an A student. If I'm on her constantly, she does excellent work, but as soon as she is left to manage her routine homework without constant supervision, she begins to slack off, and before I realize there's a progress report in the mail. What can I do to keep her excited about her progress in school?

A: You don't indicate your daughter's age, but it sounds as if she is fourth or fifth grade (or higher). If that is the case, she should be able to manage her homework on her own with some help from you. If she is younger, she probably still needs your supervision to be successful.

Think about possibilities for compromise. Perhaps she could begin her homework on her own and you could check on her every 15 minutes or so to see if she is getting it done. Or perhaps as she completes each assignment, she could give it to you to make sure it is done correctly. In this way you would not have to supervise constantly and she could still feel somewhat independent.

You could also work out a positive reward system for your daughter. If she is in the upper-elementary grades or middle school, let her choose a reward for which she is willing to work. Remember that rewards don't have to cost a lot of money -- your daughter might work toward having a sleepover with two or three friends or going camping with you. Set a number of days of successful homework completion that will earn the reward, and ask your daughter's teacher to let you know each day how it went.

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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


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