You Only Have One Job
My husband and I have always emphasized to our children the importance of education. We teach that pursuing academic achievement is the “only job” they have while living in our house. We always operate under the assumption that each of our children are intrinsically motivated to learn and do their very best in school. Well, at least I thought that was the case.
My oldest son has a physical disability. Therefore, he receives exceptional education services at school for his disability as well as for academics. When he was in the 6th grade, his grades were average. Clearly, we wanted better, but we knew he was trying his hardest.
7th grade rolled around and I began to notice that my son’s grades were slipping. After receiving his disappointing 1st nine week report card, I figured it was time for us to have a “come to Jesus” meeting. We’re in the kitchen talking and sipping on bottled water, and I began to probe into what may have been causing a decline in my son’s academic performance. My son takes a sip of his water ever so arrogantly, looks at me and says, “There’s nothing wrong. There’s nothing going on. I just plan on riding out my IEP.” Friends, I think for a brief moment, I blacked out from choking on my sip of water. Did my son just say that he was going to “ride his IEP out”? Did my son basically tell me that he didn’t care about school and he knew he was going to be passed along because he had an IEP? I immediately got angry, but then I started laughing. I just knew my son was joking. He wasn’t laughing. This boy was dead serious. This can’t be good.
I Didn’t See It Coming
My son wasn’t motivated to learn. He never was. Even when I taught him in 5th grade, he played the game to keep me at bay. What do I do?
Needless to say, I began to worry. I began to worry about his future. Better yet, I worried because my son was not worried about his future. It took me a minute to collect my thoughts. Then it was time to take action. Not sure what the action would be. I just knew I had to do something.
What Are the Signs of an Unmotivated Child?
My first mistake was not paying attention to the red flags that were waving in my face. When I read this article by Rodriguez Moneo from Cognifit, it was clear I ignored the signs of my own unmotivated child.
- Preference of one over another-choosing to watch TV rather than completing homework
- Latency-the amount of time it takes to create a response over stimulation; if it takes forever for your child to complete a school assignment, a lack of motivation is evident
- Effort-a lack of determined attempts to complete an assignment indicates an unmotivated child
- Persistence-motivated kids take longer to complete and do well on a task; the sooner a child gives up, the less motivated they are
- Expressive indicators of emotions-emotional expressions indicate pleasure or displeasure that an action causes; paying attention to a child’s expressions can provide a good indicator of motivation
What Do We Do Now?
I have to be honest and tell you, friends, that I did not have a plan of attack on how I would get my son motivated to learn. It was never difficult to motivate my students, but when I have my parent “hat” on, some situations aren’t always rosy when dealing with your own children. Scholastic offers some great ideas on how to motivate students. Although, the strategies focus on ages 8-10, I have found that all school-aged children can benefit from their suggestions. The strategies from Empowering Parents.com are applicable to children of all ages as well. My husband and I still use many of the strategies from the Empowering Parents site because at the time, our son was unmotivated and stubborn. Our favorite strategy is “Incorporate the ‘When You’ Rule”. Let me tell you why.
By George, I Think He’s Got It!
As I mentioned before, my son became stubborn, and to a degree, arrogant about his lack of motivation. He did nothing about his missing assignments, his failing grades, or his incomplete work. My oldest boy was just coasting along with “C’s” and “F’s”. However, he was clever enough to never technically fail a course. As a result, he did not fail 7th grade.
At the beginning of my son’s 8th grade year, my husband and I began to see a repeat of the same behavior. This time, I decided that I was not going to get bent out of shape with his lackadaisical attitude. I created a plan to inspire my son. It happened at his IEP meeting. The teachers and case manager took turns sharing with me and my husband everything my son could do, but would not do. I straightened my posture in my seat, put a smile on my face, and began to speak slowly and clearly, so that no one would misunderstand a word.
My son learned that day that because he was an exceptional education student, he earns an additional three years of schooling if needed. He also learned that I would be providing him a disservice if I allowed him to enter high school unprepared. My son also learned that if need be, he would repeat the 8th grade and continue to attend the same middle school, along with his brother, a rising 6th grader. Thus, the strategy was implemented. “When you” decide to show some effort this year, we will discuss you going to the 9th grade. Miraculously, my oldest son became motivated to learn. I knew he always had it in him.