My 10-year-old son is having increasing difficulties keeping focus in school. The teacher brought it to our attention about 3 months ago. He has always taken a little longer to get homework and things done but has been able to keep up. It has been getting worse and now his grades are dropping. We took away electronics, tv, and put him on a good diet, as recommended in your book "The Diseasing of America's Children." We sat him down and told him he needs to learn to control his daydreaming and not let his thoughts drift when in school. He has tried but is getting frustrated and his grades are still not good and he seems to be shutting down. He is intelligent, well mannered, has good behavior, and otherwise is a happy child. We are adamantly against medication and do not want an ADHD label. What can we do to get our child to learn to stay focused? Thank you.
I see you are a first time writer to Parent Guru so welcome!
To begin with when it comes to homework/schoolwork the parent's primary role is one of consultant rather than participant. The mistake many parent's make today is to participate daily in the doing of their child's homework. This practice only serves to enable the child to become highly dependent on their continued presence and help, It only makes sense that the more responsibility the parent assumes for homework, the less the child will assume. Also, the more help the parent provides, the more the child will acquire a feeling of helplessness. Parent-participants, are well-intentioned, but in reality they are actually addicted to being overly involved in their children's lives. It is reasonable for parents to offer assistance, but these interventions are brief, and often refer the child back to the teacher, which reinforces the teacher's role as final authority where schoolwork is involved.
Pick up a copy of JR's 'Ending The Homework Hassle" where he spells out the ABC's of effective homework management, e.g., 'A' stands for All by myself in a private/personal space, 'B' stands for parent Back off, if necessary help is brief and encouraging, "C' stands for Call it quits at a reasonable hour, teaching time management. The more responsible a child is for their school performance the better the child does in school.
Sometimes all children need an added motivation and it sounds like your son may require a little wake up call. It's important to understand that if your son fails to complete his homework/schoolwork that he is the one who should be upset and inconvenienced not you. Stop trying to understand why he's not performing up to his ability in school and make it a problem for him, "The more we talk the less people listen to us", and this fact is especially true when it comes to children. Chapter 3 of the above mentioned book provides an example of a Daily School Report which will be a great tool for working with the teacher to ensure that your son gets back on track. Remember that the goal of discipline is to stop the misbehavior from reoccurring, therefore the punishment should never fit the crime, i.e., if a misbehavior merits a 2 (on a scale of 1 to 10), the punishment should be a 7. That will increase the likelihood that the behavior won't grow from a 2 to 7. When your son's poor school performance becomes a serious problem for him (significantly lower quality of life), it is then and only then that he will be motivated to change.
Hang in there and let us know how it goes.
David J Martin
Certified Leadership Parent Coach
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