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Q: My third-grader often claims to have forgotten his homework at school. I think he may be struggling more than he is willing to admit. How I can supplement his learning and strengthen his comprehension and writing skills?
I also want to boost his confidence so that he will be able to speak up when he feels that he needs help. I am desperate and concerned that he may have to repeat third grade. How can I help him?
A: You need to begin by making sure your son's homework gets home. Talk with him about setting up a positive reward system to help him with this, and let him choose a reward for which he is willing to work. Remember that rewards don't have to cost money; your son may want to have a sleepover with friends, join a soccer team, or go on a camping trip. Put a calendar or chart on your refrigerator door and place a check mark or sticker on it for each day your son's homework comes home. Set a reasonable number of days needed to earn a reward; if your son has trouble earning a reward with this system, you may need to try a different reward for which he is more willing to work.
Talk with your son's teacher about your concerns. Make sure that she is aware that your son seems to be struggling and that he may not be speaking up when he needs help. The teacher can direct you to workbooks and other materials that will enable you to reinforce what your son is doing at school. Also talk with the school counselor. She may be able to give your son some individual time to work on his self-esteem and his assertiveness skills.
It's wonderful that you're willing to work so hard to help your son. Keep in mind, though, that children often work better for other people than for their parents. If you find that your work time with your son becomes a battle, look for someone else to help him with his work. There may be a high-school student in your neighborhood who would work with your son, or perhaps there are tutors available through your public library or a church or community center.
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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.